Emerging Writers’ Festival – Saturday

I spent the entire weekend wrapped in the Melbourne Town Hall (and Fad Gallery) for the 2009 Emerging Writers’ Festival.

On Saturday, I wasn’t speaking so I was able to attend panels, get a sense of the space for Sunday, and hear cool people talk about interesting things.

First up was Seven Enviable Lines where the festival’s six ambassadors – Luke Devenish, Kathryn Heyman, Rachel Hills, David Milroy and Pooja Mittal – spoke about the seven pieces of advice they wished they’d been given starting out.  As a fiction writer, I found Luke Devenish and Kathryn Heyman most interesting.  Luke is a playwright & teacher who’s worked on both Neighbours and Home and Away.  He had a really strong sense of the craft of writing and was an incredibly open and personal speaker, both things that I look for and try to do when I’m presenting too.  Kathryn Heyman is a novellist, and again, had a strong sense of craft and willingness to share.  I knew I’d get to catch up with Luke at some point because I was on a panel with him, but I resolved to talk to Kathryn at some point, but sadly only got to shake her hand as she was leaving the bar on Sunday Evening.  She told me I had very soft hands.  I told her I was a writer and had never done a day of hard labour in my life.

I saw two From Here to There sessions – Hollow Fields with Madeleine Rosca, and The Librarians with Robyn Butler and Wayne Hope.  These sessions were designed to give the audience more of an in depth look at a particular piece of work.  There’s something consistently comforting in hearing the stories of how people create.  There are always enough trials – the length of time it took to get the Librarians off the ground; Madeleine having entire pages of her comic rejected and having to rework them – that it reminded me that this is part and parcel of the writer’s life.

The Great State Divide was an attempt to answer the question – is there a regional voice for each state in Australia.  As an outsider, I find the question of an ‘Australian Voice’ an incredibly interesting one, but I’m not sure this session managed to answer the question.  The speakers were diverse in both content and quality – the highlight being Sean Riley who told the incredibly personal story of him growing up in Tasmania and the very clear moment where he realised he wanted to be a writer.

Last on Saturday, before retreating to Fad Gallery in Chinatown, was The Pitch where a broad range of publishers – some established, some independent – let the audience in on what they were looking for.

The day let me put into words something that I’ve thought for a long time but never actually verbalised.  Seeing such a large group of writers, with such broad ranges of experience, I still found myself drawn to particular things – and it wasn’t necessarily what they said, but how they said it.  I’m interested in people who share something of themselves at conferences, who, afterwards, you feel like you know a little bit better.  If they manage to impart something useful, some glimmer of knowledge about how to proceed, great, but I’d much rather hear someone talk who could speak with conviction and passion about why they write, letting their personality shine through.

Sunday writeup coming soon…

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