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Archive for the category “Festivals”

Writers’ Forum Wrap Up

By Johnny von Einem

For the last three years I’ve been working away at a journalism and creative writing degree, essentially straddling a line between two seemingly similar, but in practice starkly different worlds. Tight sentences and a strict adherence to hard facts are the main tenets of (good) journalism, whereas beautiful, descriptive and immersive language is what makes reading a (good) novel so addictive.

Where journalists and authors meet though, is a almost unnatural love for words, a strong desire to make a living from them, and (if discussions at the SA Writers Centre’s forums are anything to go by) then a collective uncertainty about how to exist in the digital age.

It’s not a topic that comes up often in creative writing tutorials, most classes are spent flexing your writing muscles, but the rise of social media and the prevalence of online content is having an effect on how writers are being discovered and how they perceive themselves.

There are masses of self-published works by unknown authors available through well-known companies like Amazon and iTunes, as well as hundreds of other obscure sites, and in a lot of cases for free. Where once these works were dismissed as already-considered-and-rejected writing, publishers’ attitudes are slowly changing and they’re now seeing a slush pile worthy of sifting through for elusive diamonds.

…exposure is something you can die from…

While this seems like a positive step, the abundance of free online content has done journalism no favours. The value of news content has dropped in the eyes of readers, who expect a lot for nothing, and in turn, media outlets are sourcing content from young writers willing to work solely for experience. It is a great way for students like myself (who haven’t quite learned the value of our skill set) to gain exposure and have our work tested at a professional level, but as D. W. Wilson pointed out, ‘exposure is something you can die from’, and at some point it’s going to stop looking like opportunity and look a lot more like exploitation.

So tread carefully aspiring authors, and learn from your journalistic cousins: it’s a great feeling to be read, but don’t sell yourself short.

 

Johnny von Einem is a final year journalism and creative writing student, music writer for Sleigh Ride and XXIV Magazine, and a shameless self-promoter via Twitter (@johnnyanonymity)

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Connecting the unconnected – ideas, creativity and storytelling at Adelaide Writers’ Week

by Rose Hartley

As I fumble my way through the second draft of my novel, writers’ guides call out to me from every corner of my bookcase, claiming to be able to help me craft a story that someone might want to read. The latest one I’ve picked up is Lisa Cron’s Wired for Story, which uses brain science to try to explain why stories are so necessary to humans, and why we crave to know what happens next.

Of all the Adelaide Writers’ Week sessions, Telling Stories seemed the most likely to open up the craft of storytelling and explore how to develop an idea into a powerful story. Rachel Kushner (The Flamethrowers) and Fiona McFarlane (The Night Guest) did their best to pick their own brains and lay out how they work as storytellers.

Rachel Kushner unravelled the stories within her stories, that is, the way her characters use story in order craft their own identities in front of others. She explained it as similar to being attracted to someone: making yourself hostage to a person in order to hear their self-created story. Even if the story is a lie, you’ll suspend your disbelief if the person is a good storyteller. And that’s what her characters do.

“There’s an essential truth to the way that people lie about themselves,” Rachel said – and sometimes it’s so strong that we dupe ourselves. “For instance, when I’m saying something that I believe is earnest, I experience myself being earnest.”

The moderator asked, “So are our lives shaped by our perceptions?”

Fiona McFarlane’s response was a simple yes, and she used her protagonist as an example. Ruth’s brain, mixed up by the beginnings of dementia, “is telling her a new story, and she must figure out which world is the most likely,” since her sensory perceptions are lying to her. Fiona went on to talk about the “anxious gap” between perception and reality, and how as a writer that gap enabled her to create the character of Frida, who co-opts and manipulates Ruth’s story.

It’s all very well to hone in on the details of how characters experience story, but what about the writer who’s creating a whole, novel-length story with a beginning, a middle and an end? Rachel touched on this when she began talking about her novel’s themes.

“I enjoy putting two things into play that don’t necessarily relate to each other, and seeing how things turn out, without forcing them into some kind of logical continuity,” she said. Sometimes, of course, the unconscious mind connects them naturally. And this, to me, seems the definition of creativity: connecting two things that were previously unconnected.

“My unconscious is smarter and more interesting than I am”

Rachel described herself as an intuitive writer, saying she doesn’t always think about what she’s doing. “My unconscious is smarter and more interesting than I am,” she explained.

It reminded me of something that Isabel Allende wrote in Paula: that she doesn’t write a word of a new novel until she has the first sentence, and then she just writes, almost without thinking, tapping into something that’s lurking in her subconscious, just waiting to put itself onto the page. It’s a good reminder to put the writers’ guides away and just get on with the thing.

Rose Hartley is a writer and copywriter whose first novel is currently shortlisted for the Varuna Publisher Introduction Program. She blogs at rosehartley.com.au and her short fiction will feature in the upcoming Right Now anthology, to be launched on May 29 as part of the Emerging Writers Festival.

Imagination – musings from Adelaide Writers’ Week

By Fleur Kilpatrick

Every now and then you have that moment: the moment when you realise just how foreign the workings of your brain are to the majority of the population. Yes, it turns out that it is you who is the alien.

Don’t be alarmed. Our minds are so complex and individual that every one of us is an alien in our own right. Our isolation is our most unifying factor.

This week I am spending my days under trees, at the Adelaide Writers’ Week. The generosity and wisdom of the writers is making me feel immensely fortunate and rich but it is the audience questions that I am finding just fascinating. They remind me how foreign creativity is to so many minds.

“You named your character this. Why was that?”

Imagination by Lucy Welsh

Imagination by Lucy Welsh

“Did you write a story about a man with a strong grandfather figure because you long for a grandfather?”

These questions seem bizarre and jarring to me. Under the politeness and generosity the writers answer with, I hear a more abrupt answer lurking:

“Because imagination.”

“I imagined it into being and therefore it was that way.”

“I named him that because it sounded good on the tongue tip of my brain.”

This is not the answer that Richard Flanagan or D W Wilson gave. They expanded it because they are polite, generous people and because they understood why they were being asked these questions. Those questions came from people fascinated by that incomprehensible medium within which the authors work: the imagination.

To those of us that work within the realm of imagination, these questions don’t need answering. It is blatantly obvious to us why a character is called this: there was an empty page and we filled it because we had to. Why? Because it is my work, my mission, my compulsion, my autism to get inside another brain; to manipulate a jaw that did not exist until I wrote it into existence and make it form sentences that have never been formed before.

And yes, as Richard Flanagan said on Sunday in the gardens, if you must interrogate and prise apart the folds of the writer’s brain, eventually they will shout “Madame Bovary c’est moi!” Elizabeth Gilbert also admitted that there is an element of this in her craft when she suggested that perhaps we are writers because it is illegal to kidnap people and have them play out our stories for us. It is personal because writing is personal but, on the other hand, sometime it is as simple as because imagination.

It goes both ways. The people who can make numbers sing or those who light up when talking about investments are completely foreign to me. My questions to them would sound idiotically simple. I would use the words ‘why’ and ‘you’ too much and some scruffy kid in the audience would shake their head at the reductionist nature of my thoughts.

“Why do you think like this? Why does your brain twist around this particular kind of logic?”

The expert would answer with all the politeness and generosity of our novelist. They would try to make me understand but beneath their answer would be lurking another, entirely alien to me:

“Because maths.”

“Because finance.”

“Because that’s the way the world works.”

“Because I have stared at those numbers again and again and that’s the way numbers fall into place.”

“Yes. He is named this because I had an empty page and I needed to fill it.”

 

Fleur is a playwright, theatre director and arts blogger. Her work can be found at schoolforbirds.wordpress.com and on stages around the country. Her favourite audience question of the festival was asked of Alexander McCall Smith: “You seem to have a great sense of humour. Are you a Gemini?”

Performing and Presenting Your Work

By Caroline Reid

Adelaide in March is hectic and joyful. As part of the Adelaide Festival I spent six hours watching Roman Tragedies, which was sore on the back but brilliant for the spirit.

I also got to hang out with some excellent Australian and International writers/poets when I chaired a forum as part of Adelaide Writers Week. We covered Presentation and Performance – how to captivate a room with your reading. The line up was impressive: Ali Cobby Eckermann, Omar Musa, Jeet Thayill and Yang Lian. I saw Omar perform last year so I was  familiar with his work but the other three, not so much. In my research I began to see what an incredible body of work they have and also the vastly different lives they have led. I was looking forward to meeting them. The problem with biographies is that they are such cold things, they act to hide rather than reveal the  flesh and blood people they are telling about; the living, breathing, graceful, warm, thoughtful people – Omar, Ali, Jeet and Lian are all of these things, all reading their work beautifully, moving the audience to tears. Such grace in their readings. Laughter too, and generosity of spirit from the panel and audience.

So here are some thoughts from these fine, fine writers. They may help you next time you’re sh*t scared of getting up to read your work:
‘Don’t be afraid of the emotion’, said Ali.
‘Work harder, practice and watch how others do it,’ said Omar.
Jeet said ‘One glass of wine will relax you, three glasses and you’ve lost your timing.’
And Yang Lian:’We don’t read from the page, we read from the poem.’

How lucky for me & the audience that we got to spend a delightful hour with these four writers. *Feeling inspired*

Caroline Reid’s plays have been performed and published, as have her stories and poems. She curates the popular short story readings Spineless Wonders Presents… Storytelling for Grownups at Adelaide’s Wheatsheaf Hotel. Caroline is currently working on her first collection of short fiction, and blogs sporadically at carolinereidwrites.blogspot.com.au.

Emerging Writers Festival – a wrap up

By Vanessa Jones

This year I really had no excuse not to go to the 10th Emerging Writers Festival at the end of May. I was invited to be part of a panel, my Adelaide and Melbourne writing buddies would be there and I could go to represent the SA Writers Centre. So far, this has been one of my favourite professional adventures. EWF_Web_Banner-fixed

So what were the highlights?

Those Randoms in the Green Shirts: The way the staff made everyone feel inclusive, and tirelessly worked away but didn’t let it show on their faces. They made the time to stop for a cheeky chat, hand over a homemade mulled wine, whilst simultaneously cleaning up coffee spills, preparing speeches and fixing lighting.

Audience Questions: Arts festivals, particularly literary ones, have this unparalleled ability to bring out the most cringe worthy audience questions. Often, not questions but extensive diatribes on their self published historic memoir on the romantic life of their ancestor’s cat.  A parody Twitter account, @writersfestquestions, is a testimony to this phenomenon. It’s truly a testament to the EWF that they attracted such a high calibre crowd that almost every single question was well thought out, profound, wise, sensitive to the audience around them and drew out information from the speakers that really did add to the quality of Festival.

The was only one time that I felt the need to physically cringe, ‘I don’t use Twitter but I have a comment about it.’ Much to the credit of the succinct panel chair, he cut this person off immediately and requested she get straight to the question, which was ultimately thought provoking.

My Tribe: I felt an instant sense of camaraderie with my writing peers flanked either side of me in their heavy knitted scarves and their hashtag-happy fingers. And it was also about the in between stuff, the conversations that were had between panels – what people are writing, their processes, sharing similar fears and insecurities and advice from people who are in the same place as me and from those who are not.

I Found Jesus: It might sound trite to say that it was a spiritual experience but it literally was. On Saturday 1st June, I attended back to back sessions of yoga and meditation and creativity (I discuss the meditation workshop in depth in a future post). The combination of the festival, being in the sacred environment of a former convent and these philosophical workshops encouraged an opening and enlightening experience for me. The energy and inner motivation (or creative fire, in yoga it’s called Shakti), was burning strong inside me.

What I took away from the festival:

The Burn: A burning motivation to write, the reminder that writing is important, that it counts and that I was born to do it. I also came away with a renewed motivation to want to inspire others around me and some infant ideas of what I can bring back to South Australia for my writing peers there.

I took back the knowledge about health in writing is vital. And that I must invest as much time and effort into these areas of my life as I do in writing as this is part of writing.

State of Mind: I learnt what was happening in other states and that South Australia is not the only state with ‘Melbourne envy’, surprisingly even Sydney suffers from it. We, as a state, are very fortunate in the opportunities and accessibility we have. Tasmania and Northern Territory have no undergrad writing courses and mentoring is hard to come by in Tasmania.

Here are some quotes from panel members during the Festival that really struck something in me that have altered me. I’ve previously tweeted them.

‘Health care professionals who understand the creative lifestyle are vital,’ Kharani “Okka” Barokka.

‘It’s important to find a way not to feel isolated when you’re writing about difficult things,’ Okka.

‘Tapping into our creative souls can bring danger and rewards. Such a sensitive process,’ Jill Stark.

‘Everyone has a different thing that saves them. Find that thing,’ Joel Deane.

‘If I don’t write, I literally go crazy. So I get driven back to the computer,’ Joel Deane.

‘ALL of my anxiety goes into my writing,’ Joel Deane.

‘Write as if it’s your last book. If you don’t want it to be your last book, don’t write the bloody thing!’ Joel Deane.

Random House Australia keep an eye out on the self publishing market, particularly for “new adults” (17-25 yo).

Alice Grundy says to work towards a deadline, eg writing comps. Behave as if your MS is a professional project.

’70% content, 20% engagement,10% self promotion’ – Alaina Gougoulis from Text Publishing tells us the ideal social media rules.

‘If you don’t know why you’re doing something, you shouldn’t be doing it!’ Zoe Dattner.

‘The question shouldn’t be “should you write for free?” It should be “should media outlets be asking people to write for free”?’ Lisa Dempster

 And my favourite quote of the Festival:

‘Stop being in love with your one stupid idea. Churn out ideas!’ John Safran.

Lowlights:

  • I wanted a lot of the panels to go longer than they did, there were a few things I couldn’t attend due to scheduling clashes.
  • I wanted a camp!
  • Although I personally managed it okay with the help of a supportive workplace and some generous friends, it might work better for interstate guests if the festival is compacted into fewer days, rather than spread over two weekends.

Lowlights aside, I definitely suggest marking the EWF in your calendar for next year if you’re an emerging writer and want to get amongst your tribe. It really makes a difference to how you feel about your writing, which imbibes into your work.

 

Vanessa Jones is the Program Manager at SA Writers Centre, a freelance copywriter, blogger and a creative writer. She is also a yoga instructor. This post was reposted from Vanessa’s blog with her permission.

Tasmanian Writers Festival Recap

By Sarah Tooth, SAWC Director

I’ve followed the rebirth of the Tasmanian Writers Festival quite closely over the last year, watching it being pulled together by the amazing Chris Gallagher, who also doubles as the Director of the Tasmanian Writers Centre. I was very fortunate to attend the TWF in April, which featured a number of my favourite Australian writers including Anita Heiss, Tony Birch and the magnificent Frank Moorhouse, who gave an abridged version of his famous Martini lecture, something everyone should witness at least once in their lives.

But perhaps more importantly, the festival showcased a host of staunchly Tasmanian (or ‘Van Diemonian’ as historian James Boyce insisted) writers, both established and newly emerging, whose commitment to building and participating in the local literary scene was truly inspiring. I also attended the launch of the latest issue of the revamped Island, a national literary journal but one with a proudly Tasmanian accent. With a predominantly local audience, there were times when I felt like an outsider, as if I was eavesdropping on a conversation meant for someone else. This glimpse into their literary community was a real privilege for me.

Coming back to my desk at the SA Writers Centre, I pondered the conversations I’d been listening in on. There was so much talk of Tasmanian identity, of history, landscape, culture, architecture, environment, local politics, and of course the often cited ‘MONA effect’ and the cultural renaissance taking place in its wake.

It was inspiring and exciting to listen to this comparatively small but high achieving writing community whose relative isolation may also be its greatest strength. The writers and readers I saw were so engaged with who they are as Tasmanians, who they have been, and what they might be, and so excited by the stories that try to make sense of it all.

Being on the ‘frontiers’ of mainstream, eastern-seaboard Australia can obviously bring with it a strong sense of identity. Adelaide and South Australia seem sometimes to occupy a middle space – not as removed from the major east coast capitals as Darwin, Perth and Hobart as to have a sense of total disconnect, but far enough to not feel entirely connected. My visit to Tasmania has me wondering anew how much this impacts on the ways we think and write here.

I’d like to see more forums, festivals and events where we talk about South Australian writing, our history, environment, and culture, and how it shapes us. It also made me hope that sometime in the near future I might attend a launch of a reborn literary journal here in South Australia, one that celebrates our diverse and unique community of writers. We’d love to talk to anyone who feels the same.

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