Presenters at Grassroots

Grassroots 2020 Writers and Authors

Grassroots is all about writers helping writers. These wonderful local regional writers and authors have offered to share their knowledge and experience with you. Review the presenters, review the program and make your selection to get the most out of the weekend for your writing. We are all at different points on the road and some of these people may be ahead of or behind you. One things they all have in common – reaching out their hand to help.

Barbara Orlowska-Westwood

Barbara Orlowska-Westwood

Born in Poland I arrived in Australia in 1979. As a physician, I worked in my profession in both countries. In my retirement, I enjoy writing poetry and prose. My work has won a number of awards and I am published in Australia, Poland, and America. A chapbook of my poetry Firing Neurons was published by PressPress (2010). My short stories collection Hippocratic Oath was shortlisted in Varuna’s Publisher Introduction Program (PIP 2015). Currently, I am working on a bigger collection of my poems and a part of my memoirs.

Poetic Pursuits Panelist

Local poet Barbara joins Bessie Jennings and Tom McIlveen in a Conversation Panel facilitated by Lorraine Penn exploring the concepts, conventions, and practice of poetry. Expect some spirited discussion and to hear wonderful poetic lines.


Allan Pogonowski

Allan Pogonowski

Born in Sydney, Australia during the 1950s Allan’s technical bent led to a career in engineering and web design. As an observer of people, he likes to write romantic poems and delve into human relationships through speculative fiction. Allan’s love affair with technical training taught him a solid familiarity with WORD’s capabilities. He knows a great manuscript can come from using WORD well. Easy, if you know how …

Creating with MS WORD

The session will cover using MS Word as a word processor, not a typewriter. This includes setting up fonts, paragraphs, page layouts, headings, Table of Contents, etc. Each participant must have a working copy of Word already installed on their fully-charged laptop or tablet as this is a workshop session. Preferred application version is 2003 or later.


Bessie Jennings

Born Wauchope, 1930; educated in Sydney’s western suburbs, trained and worked as an infants’ teacher.
Married & widowed 3 times; lived in a bush shack, in a banana packing shed, etc. Raised 4 children. Retired in Port Macquarie, joined Australian Bush Poetry Association, successfully entering written and performance competitions. Self-published 8 books of verse. Trained and worked as a Parent Educator (with NSW Dept of Health), later as a Lifeline Counsellor; gained Diploma of Relationship Counselling. In Port Macquarie-Hastings U3A, convened classes in creative writing from its inception until Dec 2019.

Poetic Pursuits Panelist

Local poet Bessie joins Tom McIlveen and Barbara Orlowska Westwood in a Conversation Panel facilitated by Lorraine Penn exploring the concepts, conventions, and practice of poetry with three local poets. Expect some spirited discussion and to hear wonderful poetic lines.


Brenda Davies

Brenda Davies

Brenda is a qualified teacher with a BA in Communication (Theatre/Media), an MA in Communication (Playwriting) and many years teaching experience. For the last six years, she has taught Playwriting with the University of the Third Age on the Sunshine Coast, before moving to Port Macquarie. Brenda has wide experience of theatre, having written, directed and produced with various companies over many years. Her experience and training in all aspects of Theatre give her insight into what makes a play work. She shares her skills in practical exercises, leading students to an understanding of how to write a good play.

A Simple Guide to Writing a Great Play – in Two Parts

A two-part interactive workshop. Attend both parts as they are different. Brenda will present a quick and practical guide for beginner playwrights wanting to write a short play. We’ll look at structure, content and how to find a great starting point. Lots of exercises and handouts to take away.

SAT 1.30pm + SUN 11am

Desley Polmear

Desley lives near Port Macquarie, NSW. She involves herself in the artistic culture in her local area. Her passions are the arts, theatre, music, cinema, writing and travel. She has submitted many short stories in Anthologies.

Desley’s latest book, Shattered, which is set locally, is her 6th book and it follows on from her bestselling murder mystery trilogy. ‘Unlocked Secrets’ – ‘Just Before Midnight’ and ‘Payback.’ Desley runs workshops on the art of fiction writing and gives talks on radio, libraries, and Grassroots writer’s festivals.

Ideas for Your Novel & Rules of Writing

Open discussions with the beginning or seasoned group about story ideas. Where do we find them? What are the writing rules for fiction? Participants will leave with handouts and a short story.


Desley is also a panelist in On the Publishing Spectrum on Saturday at 9am.

Frank Urban

Frank Urban

Author Ned’s Navy published by Airlife UK 1998, Somme ANZAC Digger 2000, Mapmaker 2008, Mungo (Cape Slavery 1700s) 2016. Born 1930 in Johannesburg; educated Christian Brothers Pretoria; Naval Cadet Simonstown 1945; BSc Survey Witwatersrand 1951; Land Surveyor Rhodesia 1950s; married Patricia 1955; BSc Aerial Mapping Netherlands 1962; Chief Topographer Rhodesia 1960s; Assistant Director Mapping Sydney 1970s; Director Central Mapping Authority NSW Bathurst 1980s; Cattle, Timber grower Comboyne 1990s; [email protected]

Writing The Facts

Using the book, “Gunboats to Gumtrees – an eccentric English writing family”, Frank will explore the challenges of writing factually.


Greg Barron

Travel, culture, conflict, and Australian history are all passionate interests of Greg. He has lived in North America, New South Wales and in and around Katherine, Northern Territory. He once crossed Arnhem Land on foot and has a passion for the Top End landscape.

Greg writes historical yarns for the popular Facebook page ‘Stories of Oz’ and articles for both web and print media. His publishing credits include a thriller
series with HarperCollins, and several self-published history-based novels,
including the very popular Whistler’s Bones, the story of drover and adventurer Charlie Gaunt.

A Sense of Place: Location and Settings

Writers at all levels will get something out of this session on locations and settings. It will cover choosing the right setting for a story, description, research techniques, and bringing the location to life. It should lead to an improved understanding of just how important the setting is in fiction, and how to make yours stand out.

SATURDAY 10.45am

Hayley Lawrence

Born in Sydney in 1982, Hayley made a sea change to Port Macquarie in 2005 as a newly graduated lawyer. Hayley’s debut YA novel, Inside the Tiger, about a privileged girl who writes to a death row prisoner, was published by Penguin Random House in 2018. It was the recipient of two Varuna fellowships (2016-2017), shortlisted for the Vogel Prize (2017), received a residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Ireland (2018), was a CBCA Notable book (2019) and was longlisted for the Davitt Crime Award (2019). Hayley gives regular creative writing talks to school groups. She presented at Litfest2444 in June 2019, is presenting at the KSP Writers’ Centre in Perth as writer-in-residence in Jan 2020 and will be appearing on a panel at the Newcastle Writers’ Festival in April, along with workshopping at Litfest2444 in June 2020. Her second YA novel Ruby Tuesday has been contracted by Penguin Random House for publication in September 2020, and was selected for a 2019 Mentorship Residency through the Byron Writers’ Festival.

Keynote Address

Hear from this inspiring published author as she ignites our enthusiasm for the weekend events, and our writing!.

FRIDAY 5.15pm


Freeing Your Creativity

This interactive workshop with activities to unlock the free play part of your brain. Group activities and individual story-building exercises – learn how to tap into your creative flow, overcome writer’s block or lack of ideas and most of all, have fun with the written word. Suitable for all abilities and ages, from new writers to seasoned writers.



The Art of Writing Gripping Stories

Learn what it takes to write a book from initial idea through to completion. This workshop covers plotting, the three-act structure, how to avoid ‘the saggy middle’ in a novel, and how to find a publisher once you’ve finished that masterpiece. Suitable for new and emerging writers.

SUNDAY 1.30pm

Kim Hodges

Kim Hodges lives on the NSW north coast and immerses herself in its beauty. Raised in Coolah, a small remote town in Central NSW, (population 900), she has lived in Sydney and the UK. In her mid forties, she began writing her memoir for her children but soon realised her story was unique and could resonate with many people. Kim has been employed in many professional roles: university tutor and lecturer, a consultant in curriculum development and policy.  She recently published her second memoir. Both memoirs are honest, raw and engaging.

The Road to Publishing

In this session, Kim will provide first-hand experience while outlining the six publishing houses as well as exploring the independent publishers.  In doing so you will find out about their submission criteria and be able to write a synopsis for submission of your work. An active workshop which will enable the group to give feedback on your draft submission.


Kim is also a panelist for “On The Publishing Spectrum” at 9am Saturday

Leonie Henschke

Leonie Henschke is a freelance journalist and writer with a background in newspapers and magazines and book publishing in Australia and Great Britain as Managing Editor of Angus and Robertson Publishers. Most recently she was Managing Director of the University of New England’s international corporate training arm, UNE Partnerships in Armidale.

Now living on the beautiful north coast at Sawtell she continues to write and teach writing and publishing and has become very involved in community cultural activities through her love of books, art, film and any artistic expression. When not writing herself she undertakes workshops for writers, manuscript assessments and guidance for writers on publishing options. Her favourite journalism is still human interest and personal profile stories and she likes to delve deeply into character and motives in her own writing.

Memoir and Life

A hands-on workshop to develop skills to scope, writes, edit and publish a memoir. Comprehensive notes and checklist will give you practical tools to take away. We can cope with all levels from those who have a memoir fully scoped to those just starting with a nugget of an idea. Having lived a life or observed or researched someone else’s will be enough!

SATURDAY 10.45am

Lorraine Penn

Lorraine relocated to Coffs Harbour from Sydney 2008. Her background includes thirty years experience in senior positions being responsible for developing business opportunities for small to large organisations.

2009 Lorraine joined Coffs Harbour Writers’ Group.  Nominated President for 5 years, obtained incorporated association status in 2016.  Designed and administrator for the group’s website. Project managed two Grassroots Writers’ Weekend Events (2015 & 2019), including facilitator and panel member.

Her experience with blogging extends over several years, including cross continent blog, administrator for community social blog and her own blog.

Your Blogging Platform

Differences between various blog sites that are available and test out submitting stories on relevant writers sites. Outcomes: to be able to choose which site best suits their requirements.


Lorraine will also facilitate the “Poetic Pursuits Panel” on Sunday at 11am

Melanie Wass Grassroots

Melanie Wass

A writer, author, speaker, mentor and trainer, Melanie has lots of experience discovering how to get out of her own way and create compelling characters. She teaches creative writing in the community and pens short stories / cozy crime using a nom de plume. These put her many academic qualifications to good use while she saves energy for a PhD. Melanie wasn’t born clutching a pencil in her fist but she has always written – from angst-driven teenage poetry to commercial non-fiction. Find her at

Get Out of Your Own Way and Write

The biggest obstacle to starting or finishing your writing is you. By the end of this session, you’ll be much clearer on what hampers you and how you can develop strategies to improve your writing practice, your craft and your output. Lively discussion with active problem solving will see you leave with a plan to be much more productive, happier writer.

FRIDAY 3.30pm


Creating Compelling Characters

A reader can’t engage with paper-thin parodies of characters. Readers want compelling characters with all the crazy quirks that we real people have. Move beyond shallow character profiles. Find out about the 7 key patterns of character development to bring your characters living and breathing on the page. Compelling characters not only add depth to your story and engage readers more – they give you tons of story ideas in themselves. Tip: Great characters move your plot forward more easily.


Michael Burlace

Michael is a newspaper and website sub-editor and a writing coach with a passion for words, knowledge and understanding.

He is working on an international political thriller where the ethics of business meet the tools of war as nations tussle for the ultimate weapon, artificial intelligence.

The novel “solves” a mystery that has fascinated and confused humans for far too long. And is the solution really the answer?

Explode Your Book

This is for writers ready to see what makes their novel tick – or doesn’t. You will need to at least skim Jill Chamberlain’s Nutshell Technique ($16 Amazon) to get a sense of her key elements. We’ll work through those elements and you’ll get a fresh view of your novel.

SUNDAY 1.30pm

Michael will also facilitate the panel “On the Publishing Spectrum” Saturday 9am

Rita Spencer

Rita has a degree in English language, is the internationally published author of two works of non-fiction and a contributor to another. She has recently written and self-published her family history in the genre of creative non-fiction. 

In the publishing industry Rita worked with authors and had input into suitable manuscripts for publication.  Later, working as a section editor at Family Circle magazine involved commissioning fiction, other editing work, and writing. Rita offers manuscript evaluation, developmental and copyediting services as well as small, regular groups for non-fiction writers.

Editing: The Serious Writers Best Friend

Discover what book editors do and why even the most respected and best-selling authors still work with one.  Be confident before you self-publish or seek out a publisher – ensure your work reaches its full potential by clarifying what type of editorial assistance would work best for you.


Tamara McWilliam

Tamara lives on the beautiful Mid North Coast of Australia with her husband and two teenage children. Tamara is an Author, a Naturopath, Hairdresser and owns a Tapas Bar with her family called Elk on 38. 
Tamara’s writing journey began in 2015. Stepping completely out of her comfort zone, Tamara started writing a fiction novel that had absolutely nothing to do with health, hair or Tapas bars. It was then ‘The Willow Tree Series’ came to life. Within eighteen months the series of five novels was written and self-published. 
Tamara has since gone on to write a novel ‘Beneath the Snow of Gnojnik,’ based on a true story that has been published through a publishing company in England and another three-book series called ‘The Mosconi series’.

Marketing and Publishing

Based on her own experience and knowledge, Tamara will demonstrate the advantages to being self-published. Cover details like managing statistics, watching market trends and creating business plans.  We will also look at social media marketing, how to market yourself as an author as well as your books and finding your reader target market.

FRIDAY 3.30pm

Terese Elowyn Hope

Terese suffers from a severe addiction to reading which was a fabulous excuse to complete a Bachelor’s Degree and a Graduate Diploma in Writing and Literature. Terese likes to be unconventional and her work ranges from magical realism to poetic science fiction/dystopian fantasy. Her characters challenge dogma, celebrate diversity and difference, and most of all desire freedom. Her poetry and short stories have been published in various Australian Anthologies, she won the Deakin University DUSA award for writing and she has read her work at writers’ events in Victoria.

Writing Through the Senses

Three short activities using tactile, aural and visual stimulus, participants will create a word bank and two pieces of writing which can be used for a short story, a poem or flash fiction. This session will be useful to both beginner and experienced writers


Tom McIlveen

Tom spent part of his childhood growing up on a dairy farm in Nemingha, north-east of Tamworth NSW,  and the latter part in an orphanage, following a family breakdown. He now resides in Port Macquarie NSW and has won approximately 45 x national awards for poetry, including the prestigious Bush Lantern twice, the Rolfe Boldrewood twice, the Boree Log six times, Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson awards, the Ipswich Poetry Feast, the Silver Quill,  several Victorian and West Australian championships, and an Australian championship in 2015 and continues to write prolifically.

Poetic Pursuits Panelist

Local poet Tom joins Bessie Jennings and Barbara Orlowska-Westwood in a Conversation Panel facilitated by Lorraine Penn exploring the concepts, conventions, and practice of poetry with three local poets. Expect some spirited discussion and to hear wonderful poetic lines.


Tom Penrose

A qualified and experienced workshop facilitator, Tom spent more than ten years in Training and Development at Australia’s leading department store David Jones. Tom is now retired and lives with his wife on the New South Wales mid-north coast. He is a committee member of Port Writers Inc. and the winner of two short story competitions. His interests include reading and writing crime fiction and travel.

Winning Short Stories

The workshop aims to prepare participants to develop short stories suitable for various short story competitions. An interactive workshop for novice writers. Includes discussion, activities and handouts.


Wendy Haynes

Wendy completed a Diploma in Creative Writing. Her writing focuses on middle-grade fantasy, historical, and contemporary stories for children, picture books, junior fiction, and YA.

Her first picture book Hayden’s Bedtime was published in March 2019 and is on the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge list. Her new book The Door in The Woods: Book 1 Hollow Woods a middle-grade fantasy fiction series is due out in 2020.

She believes that having a regular writing practice, and understand the device at your disposal, is the key to not only completing a story but in building the skills required to produce a worthy manuscript.

Elements of a Fantasy World

Explores the elements when building a fantasy world. Participants will have the beginning skeleton of a fantasy world at the end of the session.

SATURDAY 10.45am


The Write Practice

Workshop for those wishing to complete their MS. Explore regular writing practice and goals.

SUNDAY 1.30pm

Yvonne Kachel

Yvonne is a member of the Nambucca Writers Group and recently won the yearly prize for a nonfiction story. Yvonne, in her previous working life, has presented at international conferences as well as publishing her nonfiction works.  Since her retirement, Yvonne has concentrated on fiction, playwriting, travelogues, short stories, and contributing to anthologies.  At the Grass Roots Writers Festival in Coffs Harbour in 2019, Yvonne presented a workshop on “Making Your Characters Come Alive”.  Yvonne is also an actress working on stage and television and enjoys teaching drama.

Journey into the Unknown

Participants can expect an interactive workshop, with outcomes of an idea catalogue on how to take journeys from what they are – the basis of adventure and insight for authors

FRIDAY 3.30pm