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The Coffs Harbour Writers’ Group is celebrating their 25th anniversary with a Gala Night and the launch of an anthology book. The group’s President, Ninnette Van Zyl, tells us more …

The Coffs Harbour Writers’ Group history:

From a small beginning, like that of an acorn, it took root and flourished. There are times when members swell and wane, but always a strong core of writers keep the group healthy in producing books and plays. Many noted authors have conducted workshops, as in Les Murray, Marele Day, John Hall, to name a few.

Workshops have also been conducted by members to keep up interest, motivation and inspiration. During the 25 years there have been many successes and awards claimed by members. Most of all, it maintains a friendship and encouragement for writers who simply wish to write.

What is your role with the group?

My role within the group is President. This entails seeing that every member has the right to express an opinion. As chairperson, it is my responsibility to see members give a good critique on the writings – and to make sure it does not become a debating clash when opinions differ. At times ruffled feathers have to be smoothed, but generally members are very good with each other. And we do have fun.

The group hosts regular meetings. What do they entail?

Regular meetings are held the first Thursday in the month, from February to November. December we get together for a Christmas party. The meeting opens with business, minutes, Treasury report, and correspondence and any other relevant information. Readings then take place and suggestions given on work. The meeting is a 2-hour affair. We are very grateful for the sponsorship of Coffs Ex-Service Club, that provides a room for our monthly meetings. After our meeting, there’s an open invitation to have lunch together and time for a social chat.

The third Thursday in the month, the group usually meet in a member’s home for a more relaxed social time. Members are then permitted to read from a source other than their own.

How does the group help people with their writing?

We aim to help writers, no matter at what level. We do not wish to intimidate new writers. As long as a writer wishes to express in a story, or poetic form, they are welcome – just have a passion for writing. A number of new folk simply listen and learn before diving in to write. If a member needs individual attention to their work, they only need to ask – particularly if they are entering their work into a competition.

Each month a picture is put into the newsletter to inspire a short story, caption, or poem. From time to time, workshops are arranged to help improve one’s writing and interest.

What are some of the achievements of group members?

Some great achievements have been claimed. Awards for plays, winners, or high distinction in writing competitions. The Marjorie Barnard Award was won in 1995. Self-published books have been successful and sold very well. SNIPPETS, a little booklet, ran quarterly for four years, comprised of members’ written work. The booklet went to Canberra State Library and NSW State Library, as well as being distributed to local libraries and outlets. These were free of charge.

This year, five playwrights have written a play, INVISIBLE WOMAN, which will be performed at the Jetty Theatre in October. This is produced by Shirley Barnett CHATS Productions Inc. During the years, other plays have been written and performed. I had my play The Crimson Teapot performed at the Coffs Ex Service Club for three nights and then at Dorrigo theatre. Our Polish member, Basia Meder, has won the coveted award TRAVEL BOOK OF THE YEAR in Poland this year and is presently on lecture tours. Her book will be sold in English at the end of this year. Winning is a bonus, but it is using the muscle of craft writing that is most important and satisfying to the member for even having tried.

The group is celebrating its 25th year in September with the launch of an anthology book, ‘Pens of Purpose’?

Pens of Purpose Anthology. This is produced to show the variety of expression that each writer has – their unique voice in writing. It has been a real team effort of dedicated writers to producing the anthology. Two editors spent many hours editing and proofreading and finally in its presentation.

Jenny Nisbet, artist, illustrated the front cover, giving her free service to the group. Months and hours have gone into making the anthology as presentable as possible. Shirley Barnett will be launching the anthology at the Gala Night, Friday 23 September at 5.30pm at the Regional Art Gallery.

Tell us more about the Gala event at the Regional Gallery.

The Gala Night will open with a glass of wine and nibbles and light entertainment. Some writing from the anthology book will be read out. The books will also be on sale. Some invitations will be sent out to those who have assisted us in this event. We look forward to a relaxed night, with the public being made more aware of Coffs Harbour Writers’ Group.

How do people join or find out more about the group?

As our group gets more exposure through publicity and a website that is being explored, it is hoped to attract more writers. There is plenty of room for expansion. Our No.1 Newsletter was started on 4 September 1989 and has been produced every month to the present edition, No. 242  September 2011. Over the years, the Newsletter has advertised workshops, seminars, writing competitions and reported on events that were of interest to members. In recent years it has published members’ poetry, book reviews and articles on literature in general.

Meetings are at the Coffs Ex Service Club first Thursday in the month, 10am to noon. Lorraine can be contacted on

phone. 6653 3256 or Ninette 6652 1898.

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