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Centre for Stories

Short Talks – Rosemary Stevens

"I see stories as a lifeline connecting us to each other and ourselves. In order to tell our story, we have to shape it in some way, linking one thread to the next."

August 17, 2019

So many good people interact with us online and walk through our doors at the Centre for Stories, and so we’re pretty proud of the little community we’ve grown. Collaborations often turn into comradeships and patrons become friends. Short Talks is a series of interviews highlighting the remarkable people who have connected with us at the Centre for Stories. Some are writers, poets, and storytellers, and others are arts workers, community leaders, and small business owners.

We invite you to get to know our friends a little more.

Rosemary Stevens is hosting a 7-week course on life writing at the Centre starting on the 14th of September. For more information, click here.

What brings you to the Centre for Stories – what are your motivations or ambitions for your visit here?

I feel honoured to be presenting Life Writing at the Centre for Stories again. My key aims are to help writers access hidden or forgotten memories, find their voice and recognise the patterns that make meaning of events. I am fascinated by the way these elements work together and how each story takes on its own unique flavour. An equally important focus is to create a safe and supportive environment that encourages this, all of which resonates with the centre’s mission to provide a forum for individual and collective voices and reinvigorate the art of storytelling.

What will you take away from your experience here?

I love working with others to unfold their story and always come away with gratitude for the opportunity. Many of the experiences and images stay with me, and I savour the deep connections fostered through the sharing of personal stories.

A portrait of Rosemary Stevens

What does storytelling mean to you – and why is it important?

I see stories as a lifeline connecting us to each other and ourselves. In order to tell our story, we have to shape it in some way, linking one thread to the next. This helps us understand what matters, how it feels and what it means, fluid elements that shift in the retelling. But we can’t do this without an audience. It’s a two-way process; when we open ourselves to someone else’s story, we complete the circle, acknowledging their unique experience and seeing ourselves reflected there. Whether through the written or spoken word, together we bear witness; a dynamic in which both parties are changed.

Your upcoming workshop at the centre will focus on life writing. What would you say about non-fiction, and life writing in particular, compared to other genres?

Creative Nonfiction is my favourite true story method, and therefore the focus of this course. It is also one of the most popular styles for memoir, combining creative writing techniques with fact-based detail and research. Whether you are writing your own story, a biography or family history, storytelling skills applied to real-life events will bring the story to life as vividly as any novel. This is the approach I’ll be taking at the Centre for Stories.

Your writing has been published both within Australia and internationally. What is one piece of advice you would give to emerging writers who are looking to do the same?

My advice is to forget about outcomes, including publishing, when you begin on a piece of writing. The initial idea that gets me started, for example, invariably changes, raising uncertainty about the direction and purpose of the piece, and at times even the genre. I can’t say I’m comfortable with the process, but have learned to value this edge of uncertainty that keeps me involved and alert to new discoveries. Once you have something that feels ‘true’ to your voice and the story itself, you’ll then be in a position to assess which publishers feel right, and have the confidence to approach them.

Rosemary Stevens has a doctorate in creative arts from Curtin University, where she teaches creative and professional writing. She enjoys running memoir, fiction and travel writing workshops in the community, and previously worked as a travel writer in S.E. Asia, and in London for an international publisher and literary agency. Her fiction and non-fiction works have been published throughout Australasia.

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