Local creative - Zena Shapter
Our next local creative is Zena Shapter.
Zena writes ‘from a flying city hidden by a thundercloud’. As well as being an award-winning author, Zena supports other creatives pursue their passions by sharing her knowledge about writing and publishing through talks, seminars, workshops, one-on-one mentoring, editing and book creation services.
With the assistance of a Creative Community Support Grant, Zena has also produced a series of online writing and publishing courses.
Zena is author of 'Towards White' (IFWG 2017) and co-author of 'Into Tordon' (MidnightSun 2016). She’s won over a dozen national writing competitions – including a Ditmar Award, Glen Miles Short Story Prize, and Australasian Horror Writers’ Association Award for Short Fiction.
Find Zena online at zenashapter.com or on all the major social media platforms as @ZenaShapter
Tell us about your writing practice and connection to the creative ‘scene’ on the Northern Beaches?
My writing practice centres mainly on the creation of short stories and novels, some set in the here and now, others roam the rich fields of speculative fiction, but all of them weaving an exploration through the innate flaws of human nature. The dungeons we make for ourselves, the desperation that drives us to see ourselves truly, the constant change that unpins our very survival – I am fascinated by it all! My writing practice also involves running my Creative Support business, which I’ve run locally since 2003, and acting in the community as an inclusive creativity advocate…
I was sixteen when I established my first writers’ group, acknowledging the isolation writers endure when creating in solitude. Writing sanctuaries are precious places. People also need people. I have worked at fostering connections between writers ever since, founding and establishing the award-winning Northern Beaches Writers’ Group in 2009, local community collaborative projects such as the 2014 ‘Write Your Story’ project and, since 2018, the ‘Art & Words Project’, both of which involve the creative collaboration of multiple writers, poets and artists.
In a nutshell, what has been the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on your creative practice and business?
Creatively I lost book contract opportunities with publishers closing their doors to weather the storm. Workshops and talks were cancelled at libraries, colleges, schools, groups and conferences, and there were no grants or government allowances to cover the resulting loss in income. Business opportunities were also reduced through my inability to meet clients through workshops, talks or community events; as were collaborative opportunities. I love collaborating with creatives in other artistic disciplines to create multi-layered works! Luckily my community work continued through adapting to online delivery, and my regular clients used the pandemic to develop their creative projects and engage my professional services.
How has the Creative Community Support Grant funding helped you adapt, and enable you to keep working in this challenging environment for creatives?
The funding enabled me to recreate a writing workshop environment on my website! With professional ‘LMS’ software, I am now able to offer digital on-demand courses in: ‘Writing Technique’, ‘The Structure of Character’, ‘Author & Book Promotion’, ‘Self-Publish a Book’, ‘Write Your Life Story’ and ‘Science Fiction & Fantasy Worlds’, as well as a ‘Mentoring Hour’ for those who need it. There are courses for young writers too (with support from the Create NSW Creative Kids Program), which can also be taken by adults: ‘Poetry & Song Lyrics’, ‘Smart Story Structure’, ‘Speculative Stories’ and ‘Heroes & Villains’.
Has the community been as agile as you’d hoped in engaging with your virtual writing workshops?
The online courses are amazing – they’re exactly what I would have loved to study when I was starting out. In fact, that’s how I present all my workshops: what would I have loved to know ‘back then’? Those who have taken the courses agree, and they love the flexibility of online learning.
However, because the courses are such a new initiative, not many people know about them yet. So, if you’re reading this and know anyone interested in writing or publishing, please take a look at my courses and share the link around! The courses do provide excellent and alternate ways of getting creative and learning, offering accessible/flexible workshops to further anyone’s writing skills (irrespective of age or level) and extending their passion for creativity! The courses are linked on my website
You’re the founder of the Northern Beaches Writers’ Group who meet monthly. How have you met the challenge of still connecting during the COVID pandemic?
Thanks to online video conferencing, we were able to continue our meetings to critique each other’s work. The natural flow of technique discussions was difficult to replicate, challenging my role as leader, but at least we were still sharing our work and staying connected. After meetings, however, we would usually socialise over a cuppa to bond and talk about the publishing industry and opportunities, and that element has been sorely missed. We’re looking forward to returning to face-to-face.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years-time as a creative practitioner / writer?
More books published! That is my primary goal right now. I don’t know exactly how that’s going to eventuate due to setbacks caused by the pandemic, but when you’re a creative you kinda have no choice but to keep going – creativity is in our blood, it’s who we are, and it’s all we can be.
All images courtesy Zena Shapter.