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One-stop shop opens for budding writers but no entry for dangling modifiers

Over the years retailers in gritty Johnston Street, Collingwood, have sold shoes, hats and tools. A new chapter is being written with the opening of The Good Copy, a shop for writers. 

If you’re an aspiring Hunter S. Thompson looking to buy an eraser, notebooks and Wired magazine, or for a place to sit and write over a coffee, it’s your space.

There will be a punctuation and grammar course ($300 for four classes) if you urgently need to know how to construct a sentence, how to use a semi-colon and what a dangling modifier is.* 

The shop will stock grammar bible The Elements of Style, dictionaries, books about writing, such as Stephen King’s On Writing, Oslo Davis’ latest cartoon collection, and audio recorders to replace those destroyed by political party aides.

It will sell magazines about surfing, skateboarding and photography, local zines, Iranian house slippers for those who like to work from home, and screen films about writers and journalists such as All the President’s Men.

There will be free forums on subjects such as how to interview, a monthly social event for writers called Friday Night Writes, and book launches.


Co-owner Penny Modra, a journalist and editor, sees Johnston Street’s industrial feel as a good fit for her unusual new venture. 

She says writing is too often seen as ‘‘magical’’ or a lofty literary pursuit; she prefers to regard it as a trade – a set of skills that you can learn, refine and put to good use.

She sees The Good Copy as a club house ‘‘but not snobby or cliquey’’. ‘‘It’s a bit more practical and down to earth.’’

It would be ‘‘a creative hangout for people who want to figure out how to make a living out of non-fiction’’. She said the shop was ‘‘for everyone’’ from builders who need to write to clients, to university students writing essays to parents who have to write a sports club newsletter. 

‘‘It’s really for everyone. anyone who wants to get a handle on the mechanics of language, and make themselves feel more confident in their writing.’’

The shop is part of an artistic renaissance for the street; a few doors down Circus Oz recently moved into the old Collingwood TAFE building, and the Magic Johnston complex behind the shop has studios for 50 creative workers including artists, web designers and architects.

Ms Modra, co-owner Frunch Nazzari and creative director Max Olijnyk have for the past year run a copywriting business, which will fund the new retail space, writing press releases and pamphlets for clients such as Melbourne Central shopping centre and Tourism Tasmania. 

Ms Modra doesn’t believe in the adage that it’s impossible to make a living from writing; she said people who write crisp, engaging copy are in high demand for everything from business documents to website copy (‘‘a booming business’’) to advertising and public relations. 

*Ms Modra says a dangling modifier is when one confuses subject and object, writing for example, ‘having run to the the station, the train was 20 minutes late’, and making it look like the train, and not the person,had done the running.