Post-COVID Postcards: Wish You Were Here!
When the going gets tough humanity tends to turn to our great writers to lift us up. In an interview with The Paris Review E.B. White (essayist and author of Charlotte’s Web) reflected on the author’s role in society as one that “should tend to lift people up… Writers do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape it.”
A brief glance at history and its close relationship with literature proves White’s point. The Russian revolutionists were fuelled by the words of Marx, Tolstoy, and Gorky; Latin-America turned to the magic-realists; the American Civil Rights movement leant upon the writings of Baldwin, Angelou, and Neale Hurston. So who will the great minds that lift us out of our COVID-quagmire be? Associate Professor Kim Wilkins and Dr Helen Marshall of UQ believe Queensland’s youth are up to the challenge.
Wish You Were Here! Postcards from Future Queensland is an online workshop that’s putting the pen in the hands of its participants. Running from the 22nd of April to the 9th of September, the UQ writing faculty will be holding fortnightly tutorials and challenges that help Queensland writers to hone their craft and encourage them to carve out a space for optimistic thinking in the current landscape.
The workshops, structured around writing postcard length prose, will focus on different elements of the craft. “We have some on world-building and imagining future technologies, but others are about imagining place in the future, characterisation, even thought,” says Dr Helen Marshall. The best entires will be posted online and published in a chapbook produced by UQ’s student-led publisher, Corella Press.
Dr Marshall was inspired to start the project after running writing sessions with her young nieces over webcam, something to keep idle minds busy as schools made way for online learning. It’s become a kind of “wellbeing exercise,” she says; an activity to engage the mind, save us from ISO-blues, and, most importantly, lift the spirits.
“Creativity and resilience,” is Dr Marshall’s response when asked what she hopes participants will gain from the experience. “We’re looking at it as a way for people to both be able to develop their skills while they’re studying at home, and to imagine a brighter and more hopeful future after the lockdowns.”
Wish You Were Here! is open to anybody who calls Queensland home. “So far we’ve had submissions from primary school students, high school students, and university students,” says Dr Marshall. “Charlotte from Kelvin Grove wonders how her friends have changed, while Harper from Wilston and Zoe from Paddington both reflect on what it means to just hug someone. Georgia, a primary school student from Carina, is dreaming of a giant post-COVID pavlova her whole community can share.”
Dr Marshall herself is no stranger to the crossroads of writing, widespread illnesses, and semi-apocalyptic worlds. Her most recent novel, The Migration, explores the idea of disease and devastation as vectors for change. The most positive shift she’s seen in our own society so far is communication. “I think our lives had kind of moved us away from that, but I know (weirdly) since we’ve been in lockdown I’ve been in contact with my family far more than I was before, I’ve been in contact with my friends far more than I was… that’s something I’d like to take forward into the future. I’d like to keep that connection.”
Head to the website to join Dr Marshall, her team and the brilliant young writers in lifting the spirits of Queensland with postcards from a brighter future.
What: Online writing workshops and challenges
When: Fortnightly from April 22 to September 9
Featured image by Onlineprinters on Unsplash, others supplied.