Interview - Irina Dunn

Interview: Irina Dunn, Executive Director, NSW Writers' Centre:
August 2003

Irina Dunn of the NSW Writer's Centre, does an interview with Greg Tingle, who incidentally is also a member of the Writer's Centre.

We explore of the world of writing, from a leading authority.

Our readers will no doubt be inspired to write their next piece, after reading this interesting and educational interview.

What is your background, and that of the NSW Writers' Centre?

The NSW Writers' Centre was inaugurated in 1991 as a resource and information centre for writers. It now has about 3,200 members and is the largest writing organisation in Australia.

Irina Dunn became Executive Director of the Centre in December 1991. She is the author of The Writer's Guide : a Companion to Writing for Pleasure or Publication (Allen & Unwin 2nd ed 2002), which was shortlisted for the Australian Publishers¹ Association National Education Awards in 2003. She has an English Honours Degree from the University of Sydney, and a Graduate Diploma in Russian from Macquarie University. She has worked variously as a tutor in the English Department at Sydney University, as a journalist, book editor, film-maker, school and TAFE teacher and university lecturer. She and two co-authors won a prize for her text A Natural Legacy: Ecology in Australia, which she co-wrote and co-edited with two scientists, and received an international prize for her documentary "Fighting for Peace". She represented NSW as an Independent Senator from 1988 to 1990. Irina was born in Shanghai China, and is of Russian, Irish, Portuguese and Chinese background. She has conducted several cultural tours to Russia, the Baltic States, Mongolia and China.

What are your aims and objectives?

1. To promote writing-based culture and the rights and interests of writers.
2. To act as an information and liaison centre for writers, literary agents, publishers, writing organisations and educational institutions throughout New South Wales in pursuit of these aims.
3. To manage a centre for the promotion of writing in New South Wales by hosting readings, book launches, workshops, seminars, festivals and other related activities and also to collaborate in Association with other organisations to present such activities and events.
4. To seek the co-operation of other writers¹ centres and organisations in NSW, interstate and abroad so as to facilitate the exchange of literary culture and activity.
5. To provide information about writing and writers to the public through the dissemination of information about services which may be provided by writers, and through the publication of a regular magazine providing information about the Centre.
6. To provide meeting spaces for writers¹ groups and literary organisations.
7. To provide a resource centre for writers which offers a library of resource materials, as well as training opportunities, use of equipment, publishing expertise and advice on professional development.
8. To encourage the promotion of Australian books and literary magazines.
9. To engage in any business transactions and activities which directly or indirectly benefit the Centre.
10. To do all things necessary to ensure the continuing operation of the Centre.

Should writing be for self or for the benefit of others?

Writing springs from a deep need to express oneself and to communicate with others, so in that sense it might be said to be a mutually beneficial relationship with rewards for both writers and readers.

Can a love of writing be developed and nurtured?

There is no doubt that a love of reading can be developed and nurtured from childhood, but whether a love of writing can be nurtured is another matter. Individuals probably come to writing by themselves when they feel an inescapable urge to express themselves in writing.

What is the best approach, and some of the steps you need to take, to write an autobiography?

The best approach to writing an autobiography is to develop a voice that is uniquely your own so that readers will engage with your story.

What are some of the main achievements of the NSW Writers' Centre?

The NSW Writers' Centre has assisted many writers to develop their writing skills and to find appropriate publishing outlets. The congratulations page of the monthly magazine is a testament to the successes of members who were previously lacking in confidence and who doubted that they would ever make it to publication.

What spectrum do the members of the centre cover? (diversity of backgrounds)

The remarkable thing about writers is that they come from every part of society, from every part of the professional, political and social spectrum, and from every ethnic, religious and racial category. The ages of our members varies from 9 years to 90 years, with the bulk of our members between 25 and 65.

What are the highlights of the Writer's Centre calendar year?

The NSW Writers' Centre runs several festivals each year which attract large numbers of people to the Centre. These are dedicated festivals aimed at showcasing the particular genre or subject of the festival.

The festivals are:

AUTUMN WRITING FESTIVAL 1st or 2nd weekend in March
A weekend of readings, panel session, book launches and author talks by new and emerging writers in the beautiful heritage grounds of the NSW Writers' Centre. Bar open all weekend and plenty of parking available.

Held in conjunction with Selwa Anthony Literary Agency, this is a weekend of readings, panel session, book launches and author talks from Australia's most popular writers in the beautiful heritage grounds of the NSW Writers' Centre. Bar open all weekend and plenty of parking available.

SCI-FI AND FANTASY FESTIVAL 2nd weekend in September
A weekend of panel sessions, readings and talks by Australia's best sci-fi and fantasy writers.

A weekend of readings, panel session, book launches and author talks from Australia's culturally diverse writing community held in conjunction with the Australian Publishers' Bookshow which features Australia's independent publishers and self-publishers in the beautiful heritage grounds of the NSW Writers' Centre. Bar open all weekend and plenty of parking available.

What are the benefits of membership?

The benefits of being a member of the NSW Writers' Centre are that you have access to resources and information that are of critical importance to a writer and could not be obtained easily by an individual working alone. Moreover, you have contact with a community of writers who understand your enterprise and are sympathetic to the work writers do and the isolation of being a writer. There are also significant discounts for members (workshops, seminars, bookshops, etc).

Who are your main supporters?

Our members are writers who are interested in improving their craft skills and who are looking for appropriate publishing outlets for their work.

What's your motto?

How about "Doing the write thing!"

How have technologies like the internet helped and hindered you and your members?

Our members have been enormously benefited by the internet which helps them make and maintain contact with other writers and writing organisations, as well as research their interests in a comprehensive global fashion.

What other important information should our readers know?

Your readers should call us on (02) 9555 9757 to get a complimentary copy of our monthly magazine Newswrite as well as check out our website



NSW Writers' Centre