Sofija StefanovicLorelei Vashti

Sofija Stefanovic and Lorelei Vashti are the brains behind Melbourne’s write-as-you-walk-workshop, Paper Trail Tours. Spanning some of the city’s most popular hangouts and lesser-known nooks, the foot tour focuses on unlocking participants’ creative potential, all while in a relaxed, friendly group atmosphere. They even provide notebooks, with the hope of people continuing their scribbling long after the tour concludes.

Having been lucky enough to attend the inaugural tour, I can guarantee it helped unblock my writers’ block and energise my deskbound-body. It also allowed me to see a city I swore I knew like the back of my hand in a whole new way. Not convinced walking is the best cure? Perhaps Sofija and Lorelei can change your mind.

What was the impetus behind starting Paper Trail Tours? 

SS: It started with The School of Life, Alain de Botton’s excellent enterprise that came to Melbourne for a summer term. We got to teach at the School and were particularly taken by the people who participated in the classes. They were brainy, curious and really keen to develop their creative potential.

LV: Sofija taught a writing class and I led a walking tour, so we thought, why don’t we bring the two together? Nietzsche says that all great ideas are conceived while walking, and Melbourne’s a pretty great place for a stroll.

How does walking influence your own creative process? Are you stationary when you write or constantly moving about?

SS: Many messes in my head have untangled on dog walks. When I’m stuck on something, I get out of my flat, let my legs move and allow myself to be bombarded by new sights. Suddenly there’s grass, parrots, kids eating poo, people texting. For me, a walk puts things in perspective, calms me down and helps me start thinking clearly about my writing.

LV: We both practice what we preach and carry notebooks everywhere. I’m trying to get in the habit of using the Evernote app on my phone to catalogue my scrawlings, but when it comes down to it I still prefer the small lined notebook in my bag. Capturing things I think of on the move, or ‘live’, even if it’s just one sentence, gives me something I can connect with later when I’m at home on my own, staring into the blank void of the computer screen.

A large part of the tour focuses on place and how writers can best utilise their everyday surroundings. Which environments most inspire you?

SS: Even though I’m not a beachy person (and I hate sand) I really like to look at the horizon, and the beach near my place is good for that. I also love ports: cargo ships remind me of dinosaurs, going about their business as they have done forever, making me feel small.

LV: Cities inspire me, especially grand old European ones, but until we started Paper Trail I had almost forgotten about my own. Melbourne is so gorgeous! I guess no matter where I am, what I’m interested in most is learning how to be inspired by any environment, and I think this happens when you really make an effort to notice the things around you. And that skill can be useful for everyone, whether you’re trying to write a novel or just trying to live a good, rich life.

Are you part of any writing groups outside this tour? Do you view writing as more of a solitary activity, or as a social one?

SS: Well, I’m part of a very small writing group, which is me and Lorelei. We get together once a week and work on various projects (Paper Trail Tours being our most recent!).

LV: We have been writing a throm-com screenplay (a thriller-rom-com) together for about two years now, but we also went a bit off-track for about six months which we spent organising a singles party. But all our weird ventures have helped us become really good at working on a variety of different ideas and events together.

SS: It’s hard being cooped up on your own trying to be a writer, so I am a great believer in forming communities and helping each other out. Lorelei and I are always reading each other’s work, and giving each other ideas and encouragement. We encourage our Paper Trail Tourers to stay in touch with each other and form communities too.

LV: Oh my goodness, imagine if two of our Tourers fell madly in love with each other – our life’s work would be COMPLETE!

Finally, if you could spend the day walking around any city in the world, with an author of your choosing, where/who would it be?

SS: Istanbul, with Orhan Pamuk.

LV : I was gonna say Istanbul too! But not with Orhan Pamuk, who is BORING. When I was there last I got to see Courtney Love do a talk in this ancient building overlooking the Bosphorus, and she kept gazing up at the ceiling and exclaiming, ‘Oh my GOD is this, like, a MOSQUE? Are we in a MOSQUE?’ and it was terrible but oddly fascinating. I think walking around anywhere with her would be pretty interesting. (And, yes, Courtney Love is an author: she has a book called Dirty Blonde.)

SS: One: Orhan Pamuk is not boring and stop stealing my city ideas. Two: maybe we can introduce Orhan Pamuk to Courtney Love and they can fall in love and solve crimes in Istanbul!?

LV: A REAL-LIFE CELEBRITY THROM-COM! Let’s make this happen, Sof.

Find out more about Paper Trail Tours.

Emily Laidlaw is KYD’s Marketing Coordinator.