A Brief History
A Brief History of Camden Writers
This short essay has been compiled to tell the story of the foundation of the Camden Writers and Scribblers which later became known as The Camden Writers Inc. Many new members would probably not know these details.
In around 1995 three people who liked writing, decided to form a small group and called themselves Camden Writers and Scribblers. Those involved were Rick Tonkin, Grace Sewell and Norm Neil. They met in a small room in the Camden Baptist Church in South Camden. Over time new members joined the group and the venue changed to ‘The Undercroft’ which is the basement of the Camden Civic Centre. Eventually the group moved to Narellan Library and after some shuffling between rooms to cope with the increased members, eventually settled in the Redgum Room. The group received from Council, the unofficial title as ‘Friends of the Library’. Because of this title, we received free use of the room.
Many people came to the group and departed once they had ‘got what they wanted’ ie, someone to edit their writings and publish their work, for free! This led to a ruling that people had to remain a member for at least 12 months before we would contemplate any major editing or publishing of their work.
The group met twice a month, wrote their stories, read them out to the group, received critiques and were given help if they contemplated publishing. As a group they occasionally went on excursions to historic sites (a small bus was provided by Camden Council with a volunteer driver), had an annual dinner and a break-up party. Between 1995 and 2003 three anthologies were set-up, printed, bound and published commercially. Since then 16 anthologies have been produced, with only the last few being commercially printed. All issues have been edited and set up by the group.
All activities were low-key. We considered seeking a Council Small Grant in 2015 but as we were not incorporated we had to be auspicated by another organisation that was incorporated. This we did and were successful in gaining the grant to publish one issue of the anthology.
Council encouraged us to become incorporated which we did as there were a couple of benefits. The main one was that should we be sued for any reason, the most we had to pay out was our annual membership fee which was (and still is) $2-00 P.A. The balance of our annual payment is for running expenses.
Our main running expense is Public Liability Insurance which is required under the Associations Incorporations Act 2009. If we were unincorporated, every member could be liable to foot the bill for any litigation, even to having to sell our homes! All executive members would be considered as directors of the ‘company’ and would have other requirements to undertake notably possible jail for non-payment of court imposed fines.
The downside of being incorporated is that executive positions had to be made which means elections and sending to the Department of Fair Trading a copy of our AGM and financial statement to prove that we are a non-profit making concern. The positives outweighed the negatives.
Grace ably ran the group for many years. Norm Neil moved to Sydney and a few years later Rick Tonkin died. About ten years ago Grace’s eyesight began to fail and she asked me to look after the group. I wrote letters for her (above her name) and took over the finances. There was no committee, anything that needed decisions was by consent of the whole group.
After incorporation in 2016 the first president was Sandra Hayman. She held the position for a short time but due to personal difficulties, Sandra resigned and left the group. The presidency fell into my lap. Peter Kiff was secretary at that time but his health deteriorated and he also left the group. Susannah Thompson was secretary for a term and at the next election, Jose’ Nodar became secretary. Jose’ was a keen worker and moved the Writers into cyberspace. After much work by Jose’, the Writers were awarded two Council grants, one in 2020 and one in 2021. The first was to try out ebooks, buy a computer, set up a web site and advertise.
The second, still current, is to produce two audio books, one in 2021 and one in 2022. In addition funds are available to have published authors visit us to talk about their successes. We may have to wait until the New Year to allow Covid to run its course before we have the visits. Our second audio book (the first in 2020 was a trial) is under production with Mr David Franklin, an Australian actor and read-over person helping out. The first response to Jose’s advertising for a reader were ten overseas people but we felt that Australian money from an Australian Council for Australian writers should be given to an Australian. Further enquiries led to David.
At the start of the Covid pandemic it was felt that the group could maintain current executive and committee positions for an extra year. As the pandemic had now moved well into another year, an election should be held. At this point Jose’ resigned and left the group. The future of our internet adventure now lies in the hands of the new executive and committee. Financially the ebook was not a success having sold only a few copies. Likewise the audio book we produced in 2020. Its success now depends on the attempts this and next year.
Efforts by our now retired Secretary, Jose’, have gained us four sponsors for 2021. They are The Hearing Aid Clinic in Argyle Street Camden, Michelle Roffe Funeral Services in Hill Street Camden, NSW Security Protection in Edensor Park and Mr Mitchell Blake of Campbelltown.
What has the group produced over the last 26 years? In written terms, 19 anthologies, one magazine, four family histories, about 25 children’s books and four books of short stories. In addition members have had stories in the NSW Government’s ‘Seniors Stories’ publication, articles in newspapers, write-ups in newspapers and success in competitions and eisteddfods. We produced ebooks in 2018, 2019 and 2020 and an audio book in 2020. Talks have been given to Lions, Probis and Fairfield Council’s Bonnyrigg Library branch. Three displays have been given at Council events.
During Covid the group has been sending out a Newsletter ably organised by Ken Morrell and homework assignments conducted by Susan Schrader. We thank both of these folk for their efforts.
Not bad for a small group.
Evan Lepherd. 28th September, 2021