Hunter Story Creators on the radio

At a suburban house in Newcastle, the Hunter Story Creators welcomed Anthony Scully with open arms. His enthusiasm and genuine passion for meeting people and sharing their stories is inspiring. Here’s what he created!

Jessie Ansons

Our lovely writers group have been lucky enough to have a short radio documentary made about us by ABC Open Producer Anthony Scully.

Anthony came along to the Hunter Story Creators group last night and asked questions about writing, writing groups and sharing successes (yes, there was champagne). Anthony has been an incredible supporter of our writers group since the beginning, and he plays a key role in getting local stories heard from all across the Hunter.

It aired this morning at 9:50am, and you can listen to the full SoundCloud piece here:

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The Newcastle Writers Festival 2016


Square event image PINK NWF 2016 - v0.1.jpg

Mental note to self … Keep 1st-3rd April completely free to indulge in the NWF16!

This is the 4th year of the NWF thanks to organiser Rosmarie Milsom. Each year it gets bigger and better spanning over 3 days. There’s something for everyone; successful and established authors such as Carmel Bird, Tim Flannery, Michael Sala, local authors Zeny Giles and Magelena Ball and local writers groups just to name a few events. Check out the program here .

I’m part of the Hunter Story Creators. We’re a small successful writing group in Newcastle who are keen to share some writing tips that have helped us develop our winning and published short stories. I’ll be joined by Diana Threlfo, Anna Lundmark and host Jessie Ansons. We would love to see you at our event! You can find the details here.


Hunter Story Creators website launched!

I’ve come to realise more and more the importance of belonging to a writers group. Apart from having a laugh, sharing stories and ideas, each of us are able to contribute valuable life/writing skills to help each other develop our stories. During our discussions and critiquing sessions we agonise over words (hence the amount of time it took to name the group), find missing links, make connections, fire off neurons and create stories. We’d like to share some of our tips so if you’re interested come along to our session at the Newcastle Writers Festival to ‘Make your writing pop!’ Hope to see you there.

Jessie Ansons

I’ve been part of a writing group for a few years now and, despite being very creative with our writing, we’d struggled coming up with something to call our group.

sIMG_20140619_202023.jpg Our writers group critiquing stories for an upcoming competition

Until now! Yes, we finally committed half an hour to brainstorm some ideas and after considering everything from the ‘Newcastle Writing Collective’ to the ‘Hunter’s Story Gatherers’ we have decided on a name:


The name represents our across-the-Hunter location (not just Newcastle, our members are from Lake Macquarie and the Upper Hunter too), the idea that we don’t write books we tell stories, and that over anything else, we create.

Along with our new name, we have launched a website, where we will re-blog posts from our own websites and let you know about upcoming events and presentations.

To visit our new site, go to

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In Your Wake by Anna Lundmark

I had the privilege of hearing 22, 500 word short stories read out by experienced readers at the Grieve Live Read. I’m pleased to say that so many of my writing group members made it into the book, Anna Lundmark, Diana Threlfo, Dee Taylor and John Gallop. Congratulations! The book is well worth a read.

The Writers' Life

grieveSometimes you come across a short story that is so well-crafted, so packed with emotion, so brilliantly layered, and so creatively imagined it haunts you. Anna Lundmark’s astonishingly short 500 word story, In Your Wake, in the 2015 Grieve anthology from the Hunter Writers’ Centre is such a story.

The ruling metaphor is a hole that appears at her character’s front door. It acts as barrier for people coming to her house. She is always falling into it. All the attempts to fill it in fail. The images are of soil, plants and earth subsiding. The hole is her grief. Deeply hidden under the surface, unspoken and never directly related to, is the haunting connection between the hole and her loved one’s grave.

The final image of a plank laid across the hole is insightfully nuanced and wrought with meaning. For any writer of short short stories In Your…

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Newcastle Writers Festival 20-22 March

Newcastle is about to experience a long weekend full of talented and emerging writers. I personally can’t wait to be there and present with members of my writing group Aidan Walsh, Jessie Ansons and Margaret Jackson. Will will be taking you on a journey from Hobby to Publication and having some fun along the way. Look out for our session The Next Level, it’s free and we would love to see you there.
Regards, Maree

The Writers' Life

nwf2015-programcover-smlThis year’s lineup at the 2015 Newcastle Writers Festival at Newcastle City Hall will thrill any book lover. A taste of the talent: Helen Garner, Marion Halligan, Favel Parrett, Bob Brown, Michael Robotham, Les Murray, and proudly standing alongside them are locals Claire Dunn, Wendy James, Ed Wright, Jean Kent, Michael Sala, Judy Johnson…

The OPENING NIGHT EVENT is hosted by Caroline Baum. Helen Garner, Jessica Rudd and Michael Robotham will talk about the fascinating topic The Book that Changed Me. This already has me trying to decide which book I’d pick.

The full programme is online at Newcastle Writers Festival.

For anyone wanting to send their writing further than their bottom drawer The Next Level: How to take your writing from hobby to publication – Sunday 22 3pm – shouldn’t be missed. With awards in major competitions and work in a variety of online and print markets…

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Community Spirit

Community Spirit – A Valuable Resource

So often we hear about people wanting to grow and develop in their lives. As we get older we may be looking to make sense or meaning from our experiences and knowledge that we’ve accumulated along the way. A time for consolidation perhaps?

When I was younger I loved a good party, who didn’t? It was all about meeting friends, travelling, finding yourself, being an individual and leading a great fun life. But most of us can’t party forever and did I ever really find myself? Probably not!

In fact I’m still evolving. I know it sounds cliche, but it’s true for me. The more I know the more I realise I don’t know. So I keep wanting to know more.

When I started volunteering for a charity organisation called Families Supporting Families (FSF) in 2007 I seriously thought I would not have the time to fit voluntary work into my life. I had a husband, children, friends and work and remnants of a social life. But interestingly enough my volunteer role gave me energy, vitality and a new view of the world.

I realised that by connecting and engaging with people, offering kindness, compassion and hope, I experienced a  fulfilment that had previously been missing. I came to realise that ordinary people can do extraordinary things. I realised that you don’t have to be rich, or a powerful politician to improve quality of life for individuals, families and communities, and in our case (FSF) we didn’t really need  a lot of money to help people. Just generosity and commitment from other community members to make a difference.

Interestingly enough, local business and professionals made that commitment to FSF with little or no monetary gain for themselves. We had little to offer in return apart from the opportunity to help families of children with disabilities. We were humbled by their commitment and sense of social justice to aid our endeavour to promote social inclusion, acceptance and validation within our local community and build community capacity.

My story below, recently published on ABCopen, Open Drum, highlights the personal, professional and community benefits of volunteer work within a local community.

I believe that by nurturing our families and communities we are creating a precious resource that will develop and continue to grow for generations to come. Government’s may change, and money may come and go, but a community rich in spirit will live on.

I recommend you check out other stories as well at ABC Open and Open Drum at the site below as they acknowledge the extraordinary lives and voices of ordinary people within Australia that may not otherwise be heard.

A party animal at heart

By Maree Gallop · 3 min read · From Open Drum
VOLUNTEERING: What are the incentives and the roadblocks?
One of my university lecturers once posed the question, “Are you a political animal?” I deliberated briefly over the question and then thought, “Nah, I’m more of a party animal!”

But in 2007, when a friend asked me to help out on the committee of a charity organisation, I took off my party glasses and joined Families Supporting Families (FSF). It’s an organization run completely by volunteers, mostly parents of children with disabilities. I dared to peer through a different set of glasses, with multi focal lenses, and stepped into an extraordinary world.

My first introduction was to attend a Carer’s Café, an informal free coffee morning for parents and carers. I listened to stories, shared stories, cried, and laughed until I cried. And I made friends.

But over a period of time the number of people attending the Carer’s Cafés dwindled. So our Coordinator called the committee to a strategic planning meeting and asked the question, “What do our members want?”

We brainstormed and came up with four strong recurring themes: help, mateship, hope and a place to belong. We used these themes to develop our unique philosophy. We also identified gaps in service delivery and observed that quality information and learning experiences, that were available to professionals, were not as available to the people who needed them the most – the parents and carers. We recognised that access and affordability were significant barriers to resources in our community.

After theorising for a while I believed that if we were to fulfil our philosophy we would need to build a bridge – a big one! So I gave myself the title of Community Connections person and went about taking on the challenge of meeting our core values.

I liaised with a local family counsellor and on a shoestring budget I organised our first workshop. He guided us in a discussion about relationships and how to keep “it” together. Sixteen people turned up and we provided a forum for people to network over morning tea plus we facilitated a workshop for learning. The feedback was encouraging, so I continued liaising and organizing events, one per school term with the help of local sponsors. These soon became known as our Carer’s Café Plus … Morning tea with the extras. Connecting plus learning. We succeeded in providing a safe environment conducive to reciprocal learning at no expense to the carer.

Our Carer’s Café’s Plus… has evolved over the years as we continue to ask the members what they want. Through evaluation forms at each event, I’m able to collect valuable quantitative and qualitative data to plan future events, meet specific needs and share comments and hope. Our events vary in topic and number of attendees. Our largest being 105 people and smallest being six. But the numbers are not what are important to us. It’s our vision and fundamental goal to promote inclusion, acceptance, value, respect and a sense of belonging. To me it’s just as important to help one person as 100.

Last October I presented my first mental health workshop for mental health month, specific to the needs of families of children with disabilities. I felt privileged and humbled by the acceptance, openness and eagerness of the participants and the positive feedback I received. So mental health month is definitely on the Carer’s Café Plus… calendar again this year.

As a nurse working in the mental health profession I’ve learned from my volunteer role that promoting effective mental wellbeing involves getting a good grasp of the world that people live in. Listening to their stories respectfully, without judgement, and celebrating their successes and uniqueness. This is imperative to decrease the inequalities, social isolation and feelings of invalidation that families often experience.

Our philosophy guides our voluntary work and in 2012 it led us all the way to Parliament House where we received the NSW Carers Award and $2000 for excellence in the group category. I’m proud to be part of the team recognised for making a significant positive impact in our local community and thrilled that politics finally came to the party!

Published 2 days ago. Newcastle NSW 2300

Friday Fictioneers

Well, it’s been a while, but I’m finally back with a 100 word story for Friday Fictioneers. It’s quite a challenge to construct a story within 100 words, but here goes! Thanks to Rochelle Wissoff-Fields for the photo prompt and being such a wonderful host.


Copyright; Rochell- Wisoff-Fields

Sunshine through Shadows

I stood in the criss-cross shadow on my balcony and dared to peer across the lawn toward Matilda’s house. The chimney had been smokeless for three days now.

A shiver chilled me when I looked at the empty picnic table under the long cold shadow. So I closed my eyes to recall Matilda’s spritely laugh; as fresh as sticky orange juice that ran down our childhood chins.

I leaned against the solid pillar and realised Matilda’s door had been left open. It had always been open. I stepped out of the shadow, into the sunlight and swear I smelt oranges.

Friday Fictioneers

It’s Friday Fictioneers again with host Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. A story in 100 words! Here’s mine.


Copyright, photo: Claire Fuller

Local Knowledge

There’s some nasty sharp edged stones on the Oodnadatta Track. They can ruin ya trip.

‘Did ya deflate the tyres Pete?’ I said.

‘Not yet.’

‘Do ya think we should ask a local? They orta know.’ I said.

Pete pulled into the only mechanic in town. He lifted his cap and scratched his head.

‘Long way from home?’

‘Yeah. What tyre pressure do you recommend?’ Pete said.


I went to look for the dunny out the back. I stopped in me tracks when I saw a mountain of flat tyres.

‘Ahh Pete,’ I said. ‘Betta make it 18!’

Friday Fictioneers

It’s time for Friday Fictioneers again. The challenge is a story in 100 words relating to the photo prompt, hosted by Rochelle Wissoff-Fields and enjoyed by many writers from around the globe.

It’s still October, (Mental Health Awareness Month in Australia) so my story has a mental health flavour to it again this week. I hope you enjoy it.


Copyright – The Reclining Gentleman

“Water off a duck’s back.”

For most of my schooling years I sat at a desk by myself; an island amid a sea of children. I endured remarks like ‘retard’ and ‘weirdo’.

I appealed to the teacher for wisdom.

“Like water off a duck’s back,” I heard her mutter to another teacher.

This led me to the duck pond. I’ve been feeding and studying the ducks for years now. Last week I applied for the perfect job; Researcher of Ducks! It seems my knowledge is actually valuable and highly sought after.

Finally I can feel the water running off my back.