Wollongong creatives are a passionate bunch. You need only look to the poetry slams, \u2018zines, lit mags, blogs, and multitude of quirky home-grown projects that proliferate from the sunny south coast city to know that The Gong is full of talented folk. This was the second annual Wollongong Writers Festival, coordinated by Chloe Higgins and run by dedicated volunteers. The aim was to take a love for writing and reading to the masses, to get it \u201cout of the institution and into the community\u201d, and Writer\u2019s Edit was lucky enough to be there for two amazing panels on Saturday 11th October.\r\n\r\nWhat we learnt from this year's Wollongong Writers Festival. Image Credit: Kyra Bandte.\r\n\r\nThe first panel was called \u2018Art in Isolation\u2019, a discussion about the importance of building creative communities and networking with other writers. Chloe Higgins said that Wollongong, with initiatives like the writers festival, was modelling itself off cities like Newcastle:\r\nPeople there just said, \u2018f*ck it\u2019, and started something themselves without needing permission from the top.\u201d\r\nOther Gong-based start-ups include the monthly Enough Said poetry slam nights, which co-founder Lorin Reid admitted, started out quite slow. But now the slams are producing new poets and pushing them on to greater things in established competitions, as well as drawing huge crowds:\r\nWe were pulling small crowds every month, but they were never the same people every time. Then we moved and added a small fee at the door, started getting feature poets in and now the place is packed. There are people squeezing in, sitting on the floor. It\u2019s about creating a new community of people who like the idea of poetry.\u201d\r\nThe discussion moved to online communities, where Spineless Wonders founder Bronwyn Mehan noted that the internet makes it easy for creatives in rural regions to become part of a like-minded group, without feeling isolated by distance. Spineless Wonders currently run an online book club, where books are sent out to individuals who can then participate in online discussion, including with the authors themselves.\r\nWe have a big online presence, but you\u2019ve gotta put your personality into it. It\u2019s important to have \u2018movers\u2019, people who will help build those communities. You do have to ask people to lend a hand, to participate, to step out of their comfort zone.\u201d\r\nMartin De Biasi, founder of online writing competition site Needle in the Hay, agreed that online communities are a lot of hard work, often taking up a lot of time just to build a social media presence and get the word out about your project:\r\nEverything is so heightened online, people are quick to judge. That comes down to how you manage your online presence. The first competition on Needle in the Hay, there were three submissions. And one of them was mine. And I didn\u2019t win.\u201d\r\nBut each panellist showed that if you have an idea or a creative passion (and you can\u2019t quite fit with something else) then by all means, take on some initiative to start up your own project and build a community around it. With hard work and dedication comes success, and the popularity of the poetry slams, publications, and competitions discussed proved there\u2019s hope for us all to find a niche and start up something spectacular.\r\n\r\nStay tuned for out next article on what we learned from the Wollongong Writers Festival, when we sat in on 'I Want to Read Your Live Journal on a Plane: Talking About Opportunities in Digital Writing and Publishing'.