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Storyteller helps townsfolk to ‘write off’ the ogre of negativity

Published:23 November 2017

TOP: Opal Award winner Leanne Dodd (right) is congratulated by Associate Vice-Chancellor (Sunshine Coast Region) Teressa Schmidt. BELOW: Leanne is congratulated by her supervisors, Professor Donna Brien (left) and Dr Sue Davis.

Once upon a time, in the land of Brisbane, a shy but passionate storyteller sought an antidote to the ‘negative, divisive and faceless narratives’ that are propagated online and in the media.

Becoming engaged in the writing community has allowed crime fiction writer Leanne Dodd to venture out from behind her computer screen and pen name of Lea Scott.

She’s been striding the landscape with growing confidence, helping a widening circle of people to use storytelling to make sense of their lives, to learn from their experiences, and to share wisdom with others.

Leanne has been earning accolades for her efforts. The latest of these was an ‘Opal Award’ for an Engaged Service Learning Student Project, presented by CQUniversity, where Leanne is a PhD researcher.

The award recognises her ‘Write On!’ and ‘Writing for Wellbeing’ series of workshops developed for the not-for-profit Queensland Writers Centre (QWC).

As well as being Chair of the QWC, Leanne championed the program concept, connected with practitioners for workshop proposals, helped to identify sources of funding to roll out the program into communities of need, and delivered one of the workshops based on her own PhD research.

“The Writing for Wellbeing project is building personal and community connections by supporting diverse groups of Queensland residents to share their stories, using a range of storytelling forms,” Leanne says.

“Such opportunities for creative connection build social cohesion and social capital, and enhance the resilience of communities when challenged by negative attitudes and anti-social behaviours.

“Funding has also been sought for a low-cost community-based delivery model which will be branded ‘Write On!’.”

Leanne says she has gained self-confidence since she first started her research studies, under the supervision of Professor Donna Lee Brien and Associate Professor Sue Davis from CQUni Noosa campus.

“My voluntary role on the Management Committee of QWC, and their support for me in the writing industry, helped me firstly to hone my writing skills, then to connect with industry professionals, and become recognised in the industry as a published author.

“This, in turn, allowed me to build the confidence to use my skills to mentor new and emerging writers by pitching writing workshops and joining QWC’s mentoring program.

“As I rose through the ranks to my most recent Management Committee position as Chair, I learnt to be an advocate for the organisation as my networking skills grew in strength."

Leanne’s increased networking capacity has led to invitations to participate in writing festivals and to facilitate workshops and seminars both in Australia and overseas.

She has been able to form strong relationships with a vibrant community of practitioners who wish to cultivate change in the area of writing for health and wellbeing.

“I have developed into a thought leader and, with them, founded the organisation, Createplace,” Leanne says.

“I have confidence that I have gained the skills to assist this business to grow and operate a vibrant online hub that will aggregate a large number of credentialed arts/health service providers, initiate a suite of products and services for health and wellbeing, and be able to provide ongoing access to services and training.”

Leanne has been using her PhD to investigate the effectiveness of using creative writing to fictionalise traumatic experience and to create fictional characters to experiment with a re-imagining of self to redirect trauma survivors’ futures, using narrative therapy as a framework.

She says creative writing provides "another place to stand" to revisit a traumatic history.

"It is a space where experimenting, fantasising and trying out being someone else is acceptable.”

Leanne has also been researching a method for writing crime fiction that will be beneficial for readers.