1. Who is Felicity Castagna?
I'm very lucky because I get to be a lot of things that I love. I was a high school teacher for several years but now I work on writing and educational programs throughout western Sydney and beyond I've worked for organisations such as Powerhouse Youth Theatre, SWEATSHOP, the Priority Schools Program, Arts Access, BYDS, the KSP Writers Centre and the NSW Writers' Centre.
I also teach writing at The University of Western Sydney where I'm a doctoral candidate with the Writing and Society Research Centre. When I'm not teaching, I'm editing books or I'm working on my own writing. I'm mostly a short story writer so I write for magazines, literary journals and radio. If you want to know more about me check out my website felicitycastagna.com
2. What has she been doing?
Lots and lots of everything. I'm busy working on the final drafts for my second book, The Incredible Here and Now(Giramondo), which is being released in September. I'm really excited about this one because it's a young adult's book set in my favourite neighbourhood, Parramatta. I'm also about to travel to the Emerging Writers' Festival in Melbourne in order to take part in a performance of Western Sydney stories called Sweatshop Stories, which is directed by Michael Mohammed Ahmad.
On 19 May 2013 I'll be facilitating a panel and book launch called So You Want to be a Writer? at Information and Cultural Exchange (ICE) in Parramatta. The panel involves lots of people who will give great advice on how to get your writing career started such as Shiela Pham from the ABC and the literary agent Sophie Hamley. The afternoon also involves the launch of a free ebook of resources for Western Sydney writers, called S.o You Want to be a Writer?.
3. How do you approach writing a book about publishing writing?
Basically, the problem I kept seeing is this: Western Sydney writers are clearly underrepresented in Australian publishing, literary festivals, mentorship, residency and fellowship programs. It can't be because of a lack of drive or talent because anyone who's ever been around Western Sydney writers knows we've got bucket loads of both. So one of the reasons has to be an inadequate knowledge of application processes, opportunities, funding and publishing outlets.
Artists in the West aren't always 'in the loop' like inner-city artists. With both this ebook and the information panel I hope to even out the playing-field by bringing that information straight to the west in an accessible, clear and comprehendible format aimed specifically at the needs of western Sydney writers.
4. What have you learned along the journey of getting this project up?
I think one of the things I'm always learning with projects like this is that you learn a lot by listening to people. Most of the best changes or additions to the book along the way have come out of conversations or suggestions by locals who wanted the book to include information on things I might never have thought of otherwise.
The other thing is that, like every project, this could go on forever and, in fact, I hope it does. When I gave early drafts of the book to local writers there were so many great suggestions they made and so many additional people they suggested I contact but I didn't have the time or resources to include absolutely everything. I'm hoping that I'll therefore be able to turn this into a much longer term project where I update and add additional resources to the book every couple of years and also I'd like to get a website/ Facebook page going where local people can share information with each other.
5. What do you hope to offer people who use your e-book?
I think one of the biggest things I'm hoping to offer people is the knowledge that there are many ways of publishing other than writing and publishing a whole book. I think people both inside and outside of the West aren't always aware that there are so many magazines, journals and websites that also provide a space to publish your work and that many book publishers, in fact, expect you to have built a resume before submitting an entire book to them.
I think the other thing I'm particularly keen to show people is that there are a lot of fellowship, mentorship and residency opportunities out there for emerging writers and that applying for them is not as hard as you think.
So You Want to be a Writer is available for free download from 19 May 2013 at soyouwantobeawriter.net.au. For more info on Sydney Writer's Festival (20-26 May) visit swf.org.au.