Disability Project – Writer in Residence

By Sarah Tooth

An important part of SAWC’s mission is to help build a diverse literary culture, and to support voices that may not often be heard in the mainstream. To that end, we work hard to develop and support writers from a range of backgrounds, particularly those who may face barriers to cultural participation.

For many years, SA Writers Centre has provided support for writers with a disability. Five years ago, this support was consolidated into a Writer in Residence Project, thanks to the wonderful Richard Llewellyn Arts and Disability Trust (RLADT), managed by Arts SA.

This funding allows SAWC to employ a writer one day a week to support writers achieve their writing goals. It’s a free program open to all who identify as having a disability. Writers come from a range of sources, through our own membership, but also referred through our relationships with organisations in the sector, such as DIRC .

Sharon Kernot has been the Writer in Residence for the past three years. Sharon’s primary role is that of mentor – to read, edit and critique writing across a range of genres. She provides advice on writing craft, but also on opportunities and competitions, publishing and promotions and other writerly needs. She also assists writers with applications for the RLADT grants for individuals, and we have a very good success rate with these applications.

The program also supports writing groups, such as ‘Creatability’ poetry group, and hosts guest speakers and provides free workshop and training sessions. Importantly, it also provides networking and community building opportunities. Each year we hold a public literary reading for members of the disability project, enabling writers to showcase their works to a wider audience. Through our networks writers are also invited to read at other venues, such as libraries and on radio.

The program is testament to the impact a relatively small amount of money can have in supporting writers who face barriers in accessing the opportunities that others take for granted. This is the cornerstone of the program, and we have seen multiple publication outcomes, from magazines and journals, through memoirs and anthologies of poetry published by traditional publishers, through to a myriad of self-publishing and online writing projects.

SAWC has full disabled access, a Hi Hearing system, and access to Voice Recognition Software. We are currently looking to develop online delivery of the program, hoping particularly to engage young writers with a disability, through the provision of support, workshops and virtual writers in residence.

For many years, SA has been the only state to run a program for writers with a disability. We were very pleased to support Writers Victoria develop their Writability project, launched late last year, and we look forward to other states following in coming years.

If you are interested in learning more about the program please contact us for details.


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