Final Report 2016

Overview

Write Along The Highway (WATH) is a festival of writing events hosted by a collective of Western Australian libraries who have united to celebrate National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Together we support and promote the local literary industry by encouraging community and professional development of our writers residing in Western Australia. WATH presents a series of write-ins, author talks, workshops, and events throughout October, November and December. Bringing writers together to write, to create, to learn, and to grow.

Information Sessions

Rebecca Laffar-Smith facilitated four information sessions in October at participating libraries. Rebecca gave an informative talk about how the project works and how interested people could benefit from participating. Participants were invited to ask questions of both organisers and NaNoWriMo veterans. They were also given an opportunity to network with fellow writers and find out more about upcoming events spanning the Write Along The Highway calendar.
Total Attendance: Exact numbers unknown – full stats not collected (3 sessions – Kwinana, Riverton, Thornlie, and Fremantle – 1 cancelled ‘low bookings/repeat venue’)

Kick-Off Party

On the 1st of November, the NaNoWriMo portion of the writers’ festival kicked off with a well-attended Kick-Off Party. The party involved a primary focus on writing with all attendees expected to bring their NaNoWriMo project on the night and work toward establishing a good foundation of words. The event was facilitated and catered by volunteer, Rebecca Laffar-Smith with food platters, cake, and sweets. We give thanks to the City of Fremantle who donated the Town Hall Reception Room venue and also catered sandwiches.
Total Attendance: 46

Expos

We hosted the Gosnells Writers Circle Self-Publishing Expo in November. The Gosnells Writers Circle presented a series of stalls for one-on-one Q&A and networking opportunities however the feedback from this event reflected significant issues in the organisation, promotion, and set up of this event, which directly affected attendance, and may significantly influence decisions to run this again in future.
Total Attendance: Approx. 46 (1 expo)

Write-Ins

Participating libraries made welcoming spaces available for ‘write-in’ sessions throughout November. Spaces provided comfortable seating, tables, access to power, and refreshments to allow for comfortable writing sessions and conversation. Writing tends to be a solitary gig and the ‘write-ins’ give motivation, community, support, and dedicated time to help participants achieve their goals.
Total Attendance: Exact numbers unknown – full stats not collected (12 sessions)

Workshops

The majority of Workshops were held in October to help writers prepare for NaNoWriMo. In October the workshops focused on the craft of writing particularly with regard to plot and character development to allow writers to develop their ideas. This year we branched into some children’s writing, memoir, and graphic novel explorations of fiction that were well received.
Total Attendance: Exact numbers unknown – full stats not collected (9 workshops)

Author Talks

The majority of Author Talks were held in November with a primary focus on encouraging and motivating writers to get the words written. Some events had exceptional attendance with a clear sign that these opportunities to hear from emerging and established authors appeals to both writers and the wider audience of readers and fans. Speaker experiences were also very positive.
Total Attendance: Exact numbers unknown – full stats not collected (12 talks – 1 cancelled(illness))

Write Night

On Thursday November 24th we held our major event for Write Along The Highway. Write Night 2016 was a three-hour event that consisted of writing challenges, games, and a panel of literary experts as well as prizes and goodies for all participants. It was generally agreed by those in attendance that the narrow confines of three hours was more constricting on the structure and that the 6pm to 10pm timeslot of past Write Nights is preferred. We give thanks to the City of South Perth for donating the venue for the night and thanks to our sponsors for donations of prizes and goodies. We were very pleased with attendance numbers this year, Write Night has always been very warmly received with wonderful feedback, but we will again consider changes that could lead to even better attendance in future years.
Total Attendance: Exact numbers unknown – full stats not collected

More statistical data

The collection of contact information and attendance confirmation was more sporadic at all events this year. Without a project coordinator compiling that information it is difficult to measure the full potential for growth of the database. There was however, increasing interest in the festival with new members joining the mailing list or Facebook group almost doubling.
Facebook Group Members: 269 (+135)
WATH Mailing List: 110 (+44)

WATH shares a connection with the international National Novel Writing Month program and as such connects with participating members registered to NaNoWriMo.
W.A. NaNoWriMo 2016 Users:
Perth South: 216 writing 4,365,980 words in November.
Perth North: 191 writing 3,592,404 words in November.
Rockingham/Mandurah: 31 writing 670,728 words in November.
Margaret River: 2 writing 10,265 words in November
TOTAL = 440 writing 8,639,377 words in November.

Over the course of November, participants of NaNoWriMo take on the challenge to write 50,000 words. Those who achieve this feat are declared ‘winners’.
Perth South NaNoWriMo winners: 41 (41 of 216 with more than 50,000 words)
Perth South NaNoWriMo winners: 44 (44 of 191 with more than 50,000 words)
TOTAL = 85 writers in Western Australia created 50,000 words or more in 30 days!

This year we forced all website visits to redirect to the Facebook group

What worked – comments

  • The Kick Off Party in Fremantle proved to be a very popular event. We were maxing out the capacity of the space and needing more room, including tables, chairs, and power. The catering was a big hit and the relaxed atmosphere created a fabulous space for people to really get stuck into their stories.
  • Two hours are a good duration for Write ins.
  • Tables set for 4-6 participants facing each other proved to be a good setup for Write Ins
  • Sending out a “what to expect” email prior to events has proven very powerful; remind writers that write ins are an opportunity to add new words to their own stories and that they should bring a work-in-progress with them for that purpose is a good idea; as is reminding them to bring their writing tools (computer or pen and paper)

What we can improve on – comments

  • The Gosnells Writers Expo was less well attended this year and felt less organised. Important to ensure these kinds of events are well promoted and perhaps work with external coordinating groups to ensure events they incorporate in the program are of the same high standard as events put on by our library staff.
  • It’s really important to have someone “hosting” the write in; this can be a local member of the writing community to can arrive before the event begins and leave after but who can act as welcoming party for newcomers. Someone who is a writer is best suited, but a library staff member who keeps watch over the group can do in a pinch. The important thing is to ensure people feel welcomed into the space, have their questions answered, and aren’t left to wander around feeling lost and confused.
  • It’s really important that we get promotion happening sooner! Promotions didn’t really start until late September with first events in October so attendance was generally lower. Would be best to have promotions well under way by August.
  • Adapt venues based on booking numbers; some events that proved to have smaller numbers also needed to have smaller venues (or more intimately arranged spaces), other events that were very popular were turning away due to capacity limits.
  • The absence of the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale from the line up this year was sadly missed. They played a key role in organising sponsorship and nurturing community. We hope they’ll be better positioned to be involved again in future years.
  • This year the project coordinator stepped down from having such a fundamental role in the organising, promotion, and management of this years festival. While she was still on hand in the first months to bring together the committee and as a representative during the festival months, the actual event organisation and planning was left to the remaining committee members. Having this lack of a dynamic hub did seem to impact the festival results as a whole with attendance being lower, total events being less varied or as well targeted to the long-fiction writing market the festival has traditionally supported, and being less prominently marketed and promoted with promotion beginning quite late. It was wonderful to see that even without a coordinator the diverse local government areas could work together to build a program, but it does seem there are clear advantages to having an independent project coordinator to help ensure the program runs smoothly and comes together in a timely fashion with careful attention to how all the individual parts fit as a greater whole.

Sponsors

Fremantle Press
Gestalt
Margaret River Press
Collins Booksellers
Aulexic

Organising Committee

Rebecca Laffar-Smith Project Coordinator (On complete leave from April-September; only partial involvement as representative and spokesperson through September-December)
Leanne Fitzgerald City of Armadale
Claire Tomlin City of Armadale
Ken Allen City of Fremantle
Steve McQuade City of Fremantle
Tamara Lampard City of South Perth
Britt Ingerson City of Victoria Park
Sian Brown & Ripeka Hitaua City of Gosnells
Stephanie Mandyczewsky City of Kwinana
Sarah McQuade City of Canning
Linda Dobson City of Canning