The Lonnie Writers support and assist each other with diverse literary pursuits

LIBRARY: The Lonnie Writers co-coordinators Penny Garnsworthy and Johanna Baker-Dowdell. Pictures: Scott Gelston
LIBRARY: The Lonnie Writers co-coordinators Penny Garnsworthy and Johanna Baker-Dowdell. Pictures: Scott Gelston

Once a month, in a meeting room of a Launceston pub, a diverse group of passionate writers convene.

Critique isn’t on the cards, but constructive advice and conceptualising are encouraged. 

The Lonnie Writers comprises of about 15 passionate Northern Tasmanian writers, ranging from around 21 to 70 years of age.

The group’s members specialise in a range of diverse genres, including historical romance, poetry, children’s fiction and novel fiction. 

The unlikely bunch bond over their love of literature and discuss the distinct difficulties their genres present, as well as universal issues including writer’s block. 

LOVE OF WORDS: Some of writer Penny Garnsworthy's published pieces at her home library.

LOVE OF WORDS: Some of writer Penny Garnsworthy's published pieces at her home library.

The Lonnie Writers co-coordinators Penny Garnsworthy and Johanna Baker-Dowdell met through the group, which formed in 2009.

The pair were glad to bond over their mutual love of the written word.  

At meetings, the group adhere to an agenda. 

“We usually start with everybody chatting about what they've been up to, it's a bit of a social catch-up as well,” Ms Baker-Dowdell said.

"I've read things and challenged myself to do things that I wouldn't normally, because I've found out about so much."

Johanna Baker-Dowdell

“Then we go through what everyone's been reading and writing.”

The group discuss strategies and seek solutions for any writing related struggles members may be facing.

“Because we cover so many different areas, there's usually somebody that can answer the question," Ms Baker-Dowdell said.  

The group contains some members who are professional writers, although many are not. 

Ms Baker-Dowdell has been a journalist for more than 20 years.

She was able to express expertise on self-publishing after she released a book in 2013.

Business and Baby on Board, a manual for coping with kids and a career, was published using crowd-funding revenue. 

She described the book as “a business how to” guide which "also factors in time management and mother guilt".

"I ran the crowdfunding campaign in 2012 and so the whole ‘mumpreneur’ idea was becoming quite popular I was tapping into that."

Ms Baker-Dowdell raised awareness around her crowdfunding campaigns through her social media networks. 

Her experience with the evolving publishing industry allowed her to inform her fellow writers’ club members. 

Since joining the group, Ms Baker-Dowdell has expanded her ability to write prose that are more exploratory than restrictive journalistic word counts allow. 

“The news sort of writing that I do in my day to day work is very different to dropping somebody in the middle of a fictional story, and I quite like being able to do both," Ms Baker-Dowdell said.  

The pair said the diverse skill set and experience levels with in the group have exposed them to new ideas and techniques.

"I never would have done any short stories without being in this group because I'd never tried fiction at all before [joining The Lonnie Writers],” Ms Baker-Dowdell said.

“I still write non-fiction in my professional roles but when I'm writing for pleasure now I tend to do more fiction, which I'd never done before."

 "I started off with short stories and children's books, and now I don't want to do any of that anymore, I just want to write non-fiction, and Johanna’s going the other way," Ms Garnsworthy said.  

Both women said they delighted in having a group of like-minded people to discuss their writing with.

“I have absolutely no family or friends [outside the group] who are remotely interested in writing,” Ms Garnsworthy said. 

“It's opened my eyes as well...I've changed genres over the years so that's been really interesting too,” she said. 

“It's been great having people like Johanna who's got a real professional eye about this whole thing."

Similarly, Ms Baker-Dowdell said that the group opened her mind to different genres, techniques and publications.

“I love that I've found out so many different ways of doing things simply because there's so many different genres covered, things that I never would have considered before,” Ms Baker-Dowdell said. 

While some members of the group have been published or are actively pursuing getting their work out into the open, others simply love writing for leisure. 

The group meets on the second Wednesday of every month at The Gunners Arms Tavern. 

Anyone interested in joining the group can e-mail Ms Garnsworthy at


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