Passing the Vice President’s Baton: Peninsula Writers’ Club

At Peninsula Writers’ Club’s 2022/23 AGM last weekend, I stepped down from the Executive Committee after five wonderful years as Vice President. With 2024 heralding new book and publishing deadlines, along with a teen in high school, and work and family commitments, the time was right to give this wonderful opportunity to someone else.

Our President, Andrea Rowe, also stepped down for similar reasons, paving the way for a new President to lead the Club. We both recognise the importance of new committee members for the health and vitality of the Club, and we feel so grateful to the 2024 Committee for volunteering their considerable time, resources, skills, expertise, and energy. Peninsula Writers’ Club is in excellent hands!

I have included my outgoing VP speech below, as it encapsulates everything I want to say about the Club I helped found as a not-for-profit organisation in 2019, which has gone on to become one of the nation’s most respected writing clubs for its remarkable program of professional events, workshops, masterclasses, and thriving member base. I’m so very proud of all we’ve achieved…

When I was reflecting on what I wanted to talk about today, the underlying theme that kept running through my head was gratitude. PWC came along for me at a time when I’d moved to the Peninsula from interstate, and was actively seeking a new writing community. There’s much truth to the old adage that writing is the loneliest of the arts, and for me, connecting with likeminded people has always been a big part of my literary life.

The very capable Sheena.

And so it was with gratitude that I turned up to my first writer’s club meeting in 2015. It was with appreciation that I accepted the role of Vice President when we turned NFP in 2019, and it is with the sincerest of thanks that I now step down from committee life after five wonderful years, and pass the VP baton to the very capable Sheena.  

Continuing with this theme of gratitude, I want to thank the current committee for their passion and commitment to PWC. You’ve been such fun to work with and, while we’re certainly capable of rolling our sleeves up and getting the job done, we’ve also had lots of laughs along the way. I’ve learned much from each of you, and I’m so proud to call you my friends.

‘Typo’ the Story Slam’ trophy. Carolyn just loves him!

Carolyn, I so admire your fastidious attention to detail. There’s no one quite like you when it comes to crossing i’s and dotting t’s. Your focus and ability to look at things with an analytical eye has led to many efficient new procedures and systems. You give generously of your time, and have such genuine care for our Club. You’ve been a fabulous Treasurer and I know Rob is going have a smooth handover thanks to your impressive record keeping. You’re going to make a wonderful president. You know you have our full support…and sooner or later, Typo will win you over too. Thank you, Carolyn – you’re an absolute force and I’m so excited for you and the Club.

Karen, our Secretary, who fills our cups with so much more than good minute taking, marvellous membership management, and magnificent earrings. Karen is the one of the most thoughtful people I know with a generous heart that was no doubt shaped long before her background in volunteer management. You’re quick with a laugh, and even quicker with a hug. Thank you for bringing your infectious laugh and emotional intelligence to the committee – you’re such a gift.

Muriel, our Wellbeing Ambassador, MC extraordinaire, and all round committee farm calmer when we’re being drama llamas. Thank you for your wise observations and insights, and for bringing fresh perspective to different, and sometime difficult, situations. Thank you also for your wicked jokes and cheeky sense of humour. You bring balance to the business, and prosecco to the planning, and you’re such a blessing.

Rob, our most recent committee recruit, who’s proven to be such an asset already. Now, just like Liam Neeson, Rob has a very particular set of skills. Not only does he make the best zucchini slice on the Peninsula, he’s also an enthusiastic ideas man. Rob, your contributions to the committee are refreshing in not only your delivery but in your considered evaluation. Your enquiring mind has encouraged committee to look at things through a different filter. Perhaps it’s because you’re a multi-talented film creative who’s comfortable on both sides of the camera…either way, Rob, your presence is certainly a present.

And that brings us to Andrea.

It came as no surprise when Andrea announced she was stepping away from committee life. She’s had an incredible couple of years with her writing career – success which has seen her win national awards, sign new contracts, and embrace career-shaping opportunities. The last two years have been a wild ride of book touring, school visits, and festival appearances, and next year will bring more of the same.

Personally, it’s been such a joy to watch Andrea’s star rise and rise. I know how hard she’s worked for this. As creatives, we all know there’s no such thing as an overnight success – it’s the culmination of years of skills development, determination, resilience and opportunity recognition.

And it’s thanks to this mindset that we’re all in this room today – a thriving, flourishing Club with a rolling program of professional level events and workshops, a sponsored writing residency prize, and – a gift to the whole of the Peninsula –  The Mornington Peninsula Shire Mayor’s Writing Awards.

We have a few special guests and new members joining us today who might not be familiar with PWC’s history, so I’ll give you a quick history lesson. Now I am partial to a bit of rhyming verse and when I was first thinking about this speech, I thought it might be fun to use that form, but I decided it didn’t quite convey the merit and weight Andrea’s contributions deserved. It was shaping up, however, like this…

In a tiny southern coastal town, we’ll call St Andrew’s Beach

Aspiring author, Andrea, was plotting how to breach

The barrier of distance when it came to writing life,

Melbourne was too far from home, the city traffic rife.

“There has to be a better way,” she muttered to Book Chook

“How can local writers prosper, when we’re always overlooked?

I know our Scribe Tribe’s out there, and our writing hearts beat strong,

But the city’s not the only place where writing clubs belong.”

Meet ‘Book Chook’
This dear little soul sits in Andrea’s office offering quiet clucks of support and inspiration

And so it was one fateful day, Andrea met with her friend Nikki

Their conversation stretched beyond a cuppa and a bicky!

For Nikki too confessed she felt the time was surely nigh

To give the legion writers of the Ninch a place to unify.

That was a very brief flashback to 2015 when a chance conversation between Andrea and fellow writer, Nikki Fisher, lamented the fact that, for the literary inclined, workshops, masterclasses, and skills development opportunities, meant a lengthy commute to the city.

Their ‘what if?’ moment, turned into something bigger, and their ‘build it and they will come’ mindset was the foundation for the first ever Peninsula Writers’ Club meeting – a small supper-style affair at Bistro Elba in Sorrento. Regional writers continued to emerge from their garrets in droves, and today we have a Club that has evolved into an organisation that not only delivers a full program of events and opportunities, it has enriched and enabled the lives of so many.

Andrea, we celebrate you for your tireless efforts and advocacy, and the sheer volume of voluntary time and resources you’ve donated to Peninsula Writers’ Club and the Mayor’s Writing Awards over the years. We recognise your determination and drive, and respect your seemingly inexhaustible energy. You know, with Andrea’s formidable ability to make things happen, it can be easy to forget that, like all of us, she has a life beyond and behind the screen. The legacy she leaves us with was forged from a place of busy family navigation, work juggling, health curve balls, and riding the great highs and lows the rollercoaster of life throws at us. I know I speak on behalf of both committee and members when I say, “Thank you, Andrea. You are so appreciated.

And it is with this appreciation in mind, the committee decided that one of the easiest and best ways we could honour you was by making you a life time member of Peninsula Writers’ Club. Please accept this plaque on our behalf and know that you can now never escape us! You’re here for life!

What would our Club be without our members?

As I step down from the role of Vice President over the last five years, it is all of you I want to thank for your confidence and belief in me to help steer your Club, and deliver a program of events that continues to evolve based on what you’ve stated will best serve your writing aspirations.

Of everything we’ve achieved in this respect, one of the most rewarding things for me has been watching new friendships blossom among our members. These friendships come with so many multifaceted benefits. I’m talking book launches, book clubs, writing buddies, breakaway writing groups, beta readers, resource sharing, coffee catch ups, writing retreats, mentor moments, dinner dates, pub crawls, book fairs, writing festivals, literary luncheons, poetry slams, spoken words – the list goes on.

There are so many ways we’ve connected outside of Peninsula Writers’ Club’s official parameters, and so many meaningful friendships have been forged.

What a wonderful thing that is. Writing is the loneliest of arts, they say? Not true when you’re part of Peninsula Writers’ Club.

Thanks again, everyone. I’m looking forward to more fun and friendship with you all in 2024 and beyond.

My time as VP has been enriching in so many ways. I’ve learned so much, grown so much, met the most wonderful people and gained lifelong friends.

I got to share this ride with one of the most trailblazing women I know – the unstoppable force that is Andrea Rowe, someone I’m continually in awe of and inspired by. Thanks for the opportunities you’ve given me and so many other writers, Andrea.
‘Wing Woman’, out! <3