EMERGING WRITERS FESTIVAL
The Emerging Writers Festival is over for another year. It's taken me a few days to recover enough to write about it.
This was my third EWF. Last year, A. and I ran the online storytelling project Melbourne by Dusk as part of EWF's digital program.
That apparently made me enough of an expert for the Festival to invite me back to host a panel on Digital Writing for the Town Hall Conference.
The Town Hall Conference is always my favorite part of EWF - two days of talks and panel discussions about writing and being a writer. It's energizing. It kicks my brain back into gear. It strips away the quotidian rust in my head, and makes me want to write.
I was nervous about hosting the panel. I hosted a panel at Continuum last year, but that was much more intimate. And frankly, "Digital Writing" is an incredibly broad and vague topic to discuss in one hour.
I was up late Saturday night, writing and rewriting introduction.
Fortunately, the Festival lined me up with four very smart and interesting panelists: novelist John Weldon, blogger Carla Sammut, journalist Andrew Ramadge, and transmedia writer and designer Christy Dena.
The panel was a success. Lots of questions from the audience, lots of intelligent answers and advice from the panelists, a lot of buzz afterwards.
(My little tip for panel hosts: if you struggle to remember which audience member has the next question during a Q&A, draw an arrow pointing to them on your notes.)
I didn't make to as much of the Festival after that as I would have liked. Work was stupidly busy, and then we had a server die. I did get to the Revenge of the Nerds slide night, where various guests talked about their pet nerdy topic for 20 slides of 20 seconds each.
I'm still upset I missed Fright Night, where authors read scary stories in the Stare Library's Queens Hall.
But I did enroll in the Rabbit Hole.
Oh dear lord. The Rabbit Hole.
The Rabbit Hole was event were twenty writers tried to write 30,000 words each in a weekend. Which is madness: my record is 7,000 in one day, and that was when I was off my face with 'flu.
I signed up for it because I hadn't done any sustained writing in the last six months, and I hoped that this would kickstart me again. Or at least prove I was capable of sequencing more than 140 characters together.
We brave, mad Rabbit Holers met up at the Wheeler Centre on Friday evening, opened our laptops, and began.
My initial idea was to write a surrealist murder mystery. But I soon learnt my first Rabbit Hole lesson: I can't improvise when writing. I need a plan. I made two false starts on the mystery story before I abandoned it and moved onto another idea: a fictionalised version of the student occupation of the Hornsey College of Art in 1968.
My entire knowledge of the student occupation of the Hornsey College of Art came from two articles I had stumbled upon that lunchtime while googling something else entirely. So this was a risky move. But the was something in the story that spoke to me: idealistic students forming a community together in service to Art, only to have it crushed by the police.
This new idea worked a lot better. Not perfectly, of course. But better.
By 7:30 on Sunday, two people in our group had reached 30,000 words. I only made 12,500, but that's 12,500 more than I'd written in the previous six months.
And I think there's a good idea for a novel in those words. I didn't write it, that weekend, but it's there.
So I at least proved my minor goal: I can still write multiple sentences at a time. Whether it kickstarts my writing again remains to be seen. Like exercise, writing requires you to do it regularly if you want to make any progress. And like exercise, it's a pain in the arse trying to find the time.
Extraordinary lives require extraordinary habits, Aaron Diaz wrote recently.
It's up to me.
I crawled out of the Rabbit Hole late Sunday night, and went down to the traditional EWF wrap party, the Spelling Bee. And while I was there I got to give Festival Director Lisa Dempster a great big thank-you hug.
Lisa has been director of the festival for the last three years. This year was her final one. She has done an inspiring and thought-provoking job. And more importantly, she's done a warm and welcoming one. Lisa's friendliness and inclusiveness is major part of why I love this festival, and feel like a part of the EWF Family.
So thank you again, Lisa, and congratulations, and best wishes for whatever comes next.