Emerging Writers Festival: The story so far

The Lifted Brow at Page Parlour

The Emerging Writers Festival (EWF) came to life on Friday night in Melbourne in the form of The First Word, a tasty teaser of things to come. Toni Jordan called writers to action with her thoughts on writing, love and the love of writing. Performers were sent off with a snippet of inspiration to write a play in 48 hours (they were later performed at the Malthouse theatre). Triple J’s Craig Schuftan entertained the crowd by dissecting 80s disco lyrics to reveal their underlying philosophy (he also gave a disco lecture the following Tuesday). Dancing man Vachel Spirason proved that words aren’t even necessary (he was back in Wordstock last night). The night finished after a debate, hosted by the Wheeler Centre’s Michael Williams and featuring Michaela McGuire, Josh Earl and Kate Mclennan, which found–by ‘clapometre–angst is better than love at inspiring the best writing, with each participant debating from both sides of the coin (another band of debaters will show up this Sunday for 2 Sides of the Coin).

The Express Media skill share took place on the weekend with workshops on writing reviews, how to write for television and computer games, and how to edit a publication. The Living Library was a great success, giving writers the opportunity to hire living ‘books’ (experts in the industry) and gather vital information for their writing projects. Small publishers had the chance to display a sampling of their wares during the Page Parlour at Federation Square. A highlight was the Stuck in a Lift sessions, with the afternoon session featuring the delightful author/illustrator Mandy Ord, who showed the audience all the books she loved and grew up with.

Travel writers Paula Constant, Ben Groundwater and George Dunford, and host Ruby J Murray

Estelle Tang has been launching books left, right and centre every day since Monday at her 15 Minutes of Fame sessions, where four authors are each given 15 minutes to launch a new book. Travel writers took to the stage on Tuesday night: Paula Constant talked about walking barefoot across the Sahara and recommended wannabe travel writers avoid frustrating stories that will just bore others. Lonely Planet writer George Dunford mentioned the time he snapped his back in Singapore and warned about writing ‘under the influence’ of advertisers. Ben Groundwater, author of 5 Ways to Carry a Goat (see review), said to just be honest when writing and for an interesting experience travel to the end of the train line. Opinion writing was the focus at the Wheeler on Wednesday night. Crikey‘s Sophie Black gave advice to fledgling writers: ‘just write, publish yourself, spruik yourself up, get a blog and if you have something unique you’ll stand out’. New Matilda‘s Ben Eltham reminded writers that it’s good to make mistakes when starting out. Marcus Westbury from the Age told writers to avoid the trap of gratuitously repeating the same opinions.

Claire Halliday

It was a great night on Wednesday night to get some advice on freelancing in the comfort of a Brunswick St pub. On stage Chris Flynn, Claire Halliday and Ben Pobjie read their first published articles. In all his Irish charm Flynn told his story of the hacky-sackers he despised–to the amusement of the crowd. Halliday read a feature article about a rural newspaper. Pobjie said sorry to Andrew Bolt about reconciliation in the form of satire. The special guest Catherine Deveny spoke her piece of thick-tongued ranting hilarity, followed by some great advice on writing. All panellists explained how hard freelancing can be, but gave interesting advice on making it work.

Catherine Deveny

This weekend at the EWF is looking to be jam-packed with sessions for writers emerging from the Melbourne underground. Watch out for the Zine Bus, learn out how to pitch your manuscript at The Pitch, see the winner of the Overland Judith Wright Prize, and listen to some great writing advice among the many Town Hall panel sessions.

During the whole week the EWF has been running a series of interesting and entertaining conversations via Twitter. Anyone can join the TwitterFEST by adding the tag #ewfchat to their tweets.

Oh, and Bookseller+Publisher will be there, at our stand in the Portico Room at the Town Hall, so come and say hi.