The Greenhouse Blog

Goodbye To EWF And All That, From Sam Twyford-Moore

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Today is my final day at the Emerging Writers’ Festival, as my outgoing Director status becomes plain old gone. It has become something of a tradition for festival staff to write  a sign off (read terrific contributions to this spectacularly niche canon from former Director Lisa Dempster and Program Manager Karen Andrews). I guess we all think we’re writers  – we just can’t help ourselves, so please indulge me, as I bid a fond farewell.

It’s been a wild ride of three years filled with incredible highs and lows – which is to say, it has presented all the peaks and troughs that a festival naturally brings to your working life, doing terrible things to the stability of your calendar year. But I wouldn’t change a thing. After all, the role of Director for the most innovative, forward-thinking writing organisation in the country is an obscenely privileged position. I remember during the job interview – over a shaky Skype connection held between the Sydney office of New York University, the space kindly loaned by a friend, and The Wheeler Centre, beaming in a selective panel from the board – being asked what I would get out of the role. My answer was something along the lines of: ‘Are you kidding? Getting to hang out with two hundred writers a year? Do you realise how many ideas there will be for me to steal!’

The role might have interested me initially for selfish reasons, but the scope of the organisation and the vibrant community that comes together to form the festival quickly kicked any sense of entitlement out of me. The founding principles of the festival – established by the inimitable Richard Watts – of inclusivity of writers from all ages, backgrounds and genres, and diversity in audience, were there facing me from day one. Such strong values, naturally lead to incredible innovations in programming, which hopefully serve to strengthen the opportunities for writers across the country.

There has been so much literary activity packed into three years, and all of it vital and valuable, that there’s no way to pick favourites – but here are some final thoughts from me on what the festival and organisation have achieved across that time.

Within the festival program itself: in 2013, inspired by Peter Minter’s suggestion that writing is a life, not a vocation, we presented a full weekend in partnership with The Abbotsford Convent, devoted to the well-being of writers, offering strategies for them to look after themselves at various stages throughout their careers, which in light of recent events within the Melbourne literary community, seems more important than ever.

One of EWF’s greatest strengths, in my mind, has been fostering partnerships with likeminded organisations. Our Late Night Lit Mags programs forged a close relationship between the festival and a number of local literary magazines – The Lifted Brow, Kill Your Darlings, Going Down Swinging, Canary Press, Chart Collective, among many others – providing an essential connection given our shared work supporting emerging writers. Challenging writers and editors to create vital late night programming, which can activate bar spaces across the city, and which can compete with any number of bands and live performers, is essential for the festival to promote writers to a broader audience. I remember well walking into the first event in this series, on a frigidly cold Melbourne Monday night, for the first ever Mixtape Memoirs, and being blown away by the amount of bodies in the gallery of Thousand Pound Bend to hear writers read at 10 pm.

Two individual events to highlight: The Pitch Networking Session for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Writers seems like a no-brainer looking back – we had budget for Auslan interpretation, why not use it for professional networking and not just interpreting general audience events? Connecting mainstream publishers and writers from the Deaf community in this way is the one event I genuinely hope every writers’ festival around the country blatantly rips off. Accessibility should be core to all festivals, but sadly it isn’t always so – and it needs to go beyond venue checks: accessibility also means access to a voice on programming and editorial committees and representation throughout entire creative programs, not just single one-off events.

And look, there was also getting to be cheeky-as-fuck by hosting a panel in the dark at The Wheeler Centre, with four anonymous panelists (with big thank you to our Production Manager of that year’s festival Kylie Maslen, a brilliant writer in her own right, who got my mad vision and pulled it off with limited budget but unlimited reserves of creative verve). Risk is central to the artistic direction of so many festivals dedicated to emerging and early career practitioners – and I can’t tell you how thrilling it is when you get away with these innovations. It’s always part heist.

One of those anonymous panelists is no longer with us, and I will miss her comforting yet confronting voice most of all – she taught me more about the importance of artistic risk than anyone I will likely ever know, but also to do so with empathy, and so inclusivity too, in mind, always.

This really is the festival that knows no bounds. Lisa Dempster, and David Ryding before her, had left incredible groundwork to build national and international connections. I was lucky enough to tour the festival to Hobart, Sydney, Adelaide and Canberra within those three short years. Indeed, within my first year, we managed to establish an incredible valuable cultural exchange program with the Bali Emerging Writers Festival, culminating last year in the ‘Island to Island’ tour, produced in collaboration with the productive teams Asialink Arts and the Ubud Readers and Writers Festival, strengthening the ties between Indonesian and Australian emerging writers. The exchange program, supported by DFAT and the Australia Indonesia Institute, has just finished its third year and shows no sign of slowing.

Launching the Digital Writers’ Festival – a broadened version of Lisa’s groundbreaking EWFDigital program – with Connor Tomas O’Brien has undoubtedly changed the Australian literary landscape. Writers’ festivals around the country need to be investigating livestreaming options and investing in digital infrastructure now. We need to be the leaders in this area internationally too, and own this story of innovation: lucky, we have the entire internet in front of us to do so.

This is all to say nothing of the hundreds of writers involved across all of these programs, of their incredible work and bright futures – which, without them, there really is nothing to say at all. This festival is for writers first and foremost.

There are those that have suggested that the Emerging Writers’ Festival is only for the careerists – but such criticisms have only ever been aired by those who haven’t bothered to attend. A festival is a meeting place, and by meeting, writers can be so much more effective in the world than sitting in their bedrooms alone – sure, we can do that for most of the time, but for eleven days a year there is a space marked out for us to come together and share war stories and to formulate ideas for the future.

If there’s one parting provocation to leave behind it is this: When will my generation of writers realise they are best placed to argue political views, particularly those that will serve and advance their own best interests as writers?

I leave the Emerging Writers’ Festival fully satisfied with my three years of creative direction and am proud that the operational staff has doubled in my time. I do wonder too if your successor can indicate some level of success? Not to make it about me, but I really couldn’t be more thrilled to be followed in the Director role by Michaela McGuire, whose achievements with Women of Letters have been absolutely dizzying over the last five years. And with an exciting new Co-CEO model with the talented and deeply driven Kate Callingham, supported by a strong and nurturing volunteer board, this new era can only strengthen what the organisation achieves from here.

I cannot wait to see what Michaela does artistically with the festival over the next three years – certainly it will be a different experience from my tenure, but those guiding principles and values, of inclusivity and innovation, will remain always.

As for me, you can continue to listen to my ramblings on The Rereaders podcast, and I’ll be back in freelance writing mode, putting to use all of those terrific ideas I stole over the years. I told you it was a heist!

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Yours faithfully,
Sam Twyford-Moore

 

 

#writingwhilefemale wrap up

The #writingwhilefemale day was one of the runaway successes of this year’s festival, and we thought it was time to profile the achievements of our brilliant intern, Amaryllis Gacioppo, who programmed and devised this unique day of panels, workshops and performances. The event trended strongly on Twitter, and insights from the day were shared widely.

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Artshub published an article examining ‘How we can bolster female writing,’ and commended EWF as a “strong supporter of female voices” and made particular mention of Amarayllis Gacioppo’s excellent programming.

A later Artshub piece provided a beautiful wrap up of the day, and lists ‘9 ways for women to stop self-sabotaging.’

A few weeks ago, the #writingwhilefemale hashtag has gone international, after Jezebel posted the predictably depressing story about gender bias in the publishing industry, ‘Homme de Plume What I Learned Sending My Novel Out Under a Male Name.’ The author, Catherine Nichols, submitted her the opening pages of her novel to publishers under her own name, then under a pseudonym, and discovered that her male alter-ego was “8 times better than me at writing the same book.”

The connections created on the day will have lasting impacts – Lisa Dempster, Director of Melbourne Writers Festival, presented on the panel ‘Schooling Self Confidence’ and has since joined the steering committee of WILAA. Monash University postgraduates presented on a panel ‘Writing Women’ introducing a new generation of female writers to the Emerging Writers’ Festival audience. The day ended with the presentation of the Rachel Funari Prize – an award dedicated to the memory of Rachel Funari – before the announcement of a new literary organisation.

Lefa Singleton-Norton proudly announced the establishment of Women in Literary Arts Australia (WILAA), an initiative borne from an industry round table held at last year’s EWF. The WILA manifesto was presented at the closing night of the festival. We’re thrilled that this wonderful hub of information for female writers exists, and encourage you to take part in WILAA’s survey of women in literary festivals in Australia.

We’d like to thank Maxine Beneba Clarke for beginning the conversation and starting the #writingwhilefemale hashtag and our event partners Monash University Faculty of Arts and The Stella Prize.

Q&A with Amaryllis Gacioppo

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Amaryllis Gacioppo is a writer currently undertaking a joint PhD in creative writing at Monash and the University of Bologna. As Women in Literary Arts Coordinator at the 2015 Emerging Writers’ Festival, she curated and produced #writingwhilefemale, a day-long event dedicated to women in the writing industry. Her work has appeared in journals and anthologies across Australia and the U.S.

How did you come to intern with EWF, and what was your experience like?

My internship was organised through Monash University’s Faculty of Arts where I’m currently undertaking a PhD in creative writing. It was kind of fortuitous – as I’ve gotten older, my awareness of gender inequality has become more pronounced. By the time I met with Kate and Lefa, I was itching to contribute something positive towards closing gender imbalances and supporting women writers, but I wasn’t sure what.

My experience was entirely positive – being new to Melbourne, it provided me with an introduction to Melbourne’s vibrant writing community. I also learned a lot about the inner workings of an arts organisation. A thing I admire about the EWF is that inclusivity is a major priority, both within the organisation and in the literary community at large, which makes for an incredibly nurturing environment.

You started your internship at EWF researching into organisations that support women in writing, what did you find? How did this research lead into the establishment of WILAA?

The research into women’s writing organisations was my over-arching project at EWF. The establishment of WILAA was already on the cards from my first meeting with Kate and Lefa, catalysed by the Women in Writing Manifesto from the 2014 EWF Writing Forums.

A lot of my research was into the efforts being undertaken by both Australian and international women’s literary organisations in order to find out how we could support what was already being done and potential gaps WILAA could fill.

There has been a lot of action taken to supporting women in the Australian literary community in recent years, notably The Stella Prize. Most recently they launched the Stella Schools Program, which aims to encourage the inclusion of female Australian authors in the school curriculum.

There are many inspiring initiatives being carried out internationally – particularly in North America, with VIDA in the U.S, and CWILA in Canada. However, there seemed to be an absence of an over-arching Australian entity that could focus its efforts on the eight key points outlined in the Manifesto. Existing organisations working to equalise gender imbalances were already under-resourced and over-stretched in scope. WILAA aims to provide a supportive resource that focuses on the over-arching and interrelating issues facing women.

Could you tell us about the genesis of the #writingwhilefemale day? Were you at all surprised that there was such an appetite for a full day of events discussing the experiences of female writers?

Kate and Lefa had it pegged from the beginning as the WILAA launch. It was important to launch WILAA with an event that aimed to foster community, determine challenges affecting literary women in 2015, and promote an open dialogue.

I don’t think I was too surprised – I suppose because I knew my own hunger for an event like this, and it almost seemed overdue. We purposely wanted to stress that the event was inclusive, and I think while Melbourne has a brilliant literary community, something like #writingwhilefemale provides a space and fosters a community of openness and support. My main concern was for the event to meet these needs.

What were the challenges of programming these events?

There really weren’t many! The majority of artists I reached out to were excited to take part, so I suppose a challenge was the usual boring one of organising times. It was a big day, so a lot of the work once the programme was set was just a matter of juggling.

My own biggest challenge was curating panels and workshops that I thought were important to women in Melbourne’s literary community. I wanted to curate something which would be beneficial to both the audience and the artists. Actually, more than one of the artists commented on how wonderful it was to be surrounded by so many brilliant women, which was exactly what I was going for.

What was the most surprising story that was shared on the day?

I really enjoyed Lou Heinrich’s exploration of her decision to take her husband’s surname when she married and her inner conflict about it as she became older. I’d read her article on Kill Your Darlings a little while beforehand, and it provided a really amazing insight into the reasons why a woman might change her name, and the mixed feelings that may follow.

http://www.killyourdarlingsjournal.com/article/name-calling-coverture-in-a-feminist-age/

One session, ‘Writing While Feminist’, discussed the joys and perils of online writing. The perils are now very well documented, with online attacks now being routinely shared on social media seemingly every day. Could you tell us about some of the joyful experiences of writing that women shared?

All of the women agreed that online writing has broadened their sense of community and allowed many women who would otherwise be barred from traditional publication avenues a voice. The purpose of Writing While Feminist wasn’t to deter women from online writing, but to equip them with strategies to protect themselves while doing so. A really great example of a writer not only protecting herself but reclaiming the online space is Clem Ford’s naming and shaming of internet trolls. She spoke about this during the panel – I think this is significant, as strengthened community will empower more of us to reclaim space rather than just navigate it.

I think one of the best things the internet has provided is a democratisation of voices. It’s incredibly heartening to see women equipping themselves with knowledge and speaking out where they might previously have been silenced.

What do you hope will come out of events such as this?

In general I hope that these events foster community amongst women in the literary industry, facilitate more open dialogue, and make women feel supported.

Q&A with Sophie Allan

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Photo credit: Nadia Mizner

Sophie Allan is the Founding Editor-in-Chief of Chart Collective, and the Assistant Prize Manager of The Stella Prize. Her writing has been published in The Lifted BrowGlobal Weather Stations and By the Book? Contemporary Publishing in Australia.

Sophie will be travelling with the EWF team to Alice Springs next month for the Eye of the Storm Festival, taking part in our Mixtape Memoirs event on Friday, 18th September. We caught up with Sophie about how to balance writing, editing and ‘fugging,’ and the artists she’s most excited about at the moment. 

Can you tell us about your career trajectory, and how you came to found Chart Collective?

Earlier in the year I went to a creative writing workshop with Christos Tsolkias at Footscray Community Arts Centre, and he talked about this thing called ‘fugging’, which is a verb that describes what you’re doing in that time you spend just thinking and messing around with ideas before you can write something. He attributed this term to Doris Lessing, although when I try to search for it on the internet I just find a whole bunch of dirty urban slang definitions. Anyway, I suppose I feel like most of my life up until maybe three years ago was spent fugging – it took me nearly nine years to finish an arts degree in linguistics, I traveled overseas and lived in Spain for a year, I worked at an Aboriginal language centre in a mining town in Western Australia, I worked in bars and restaurants and theatres and behind reception desks. Sometimes I think I must’ve been doing anything I could possibly think up to avoid making a commitment to the thing I really wanted to do (and therefore the thing it would be most catastrophic to fail at), which was writing and editing words. That, and I was fugging. I knew that I didn’t have all that much to say, and although I am far from convinced that I presently have something to say, I’m closer to being comfortable at trying.

The point when I knew the fugging was over (this is a retrospectic knowledge – there was little consciousness of what was happening at the time) was when I took a subject at university that looked at writing and place. Something about it made sense to me, the sort of sense that can’t be questioned, only acted upon. That was what I’d been waiting for, so I ran with it, and seeing as I’d been pretty noncommittal and hedonistic for most of my adult life, I was ready to work.

Chart Collective explores the ways in which our stories are woven into the Australian environment. Can you tell us a story that is connected to Alice Springs? Have you spent any time there?

I grew up in Southeast Queensland, in between the small and not-so-small towns of Brisbane, Toowoomba and Stanthorpe, and have never set foot in the Northern Territory. One thing I do remember was being a small kid and my Pa showing me his walking boots after he’d climbed Uluru. They were covered in red dirt and the rubber soles were so worn down I thought he must have climbed the biggest rock on earth. It’s not an altogether good thought now, though, because all I think about are the people whose sacred site my Pa was trampling all over. I like to imagine that if he was alive now and went to Uluru, that with the knowledge of the traditional owners’ wishes, he would just look at it from afar. But who knows. It’s important for me to acknowledge that as a white person from the eastern states I have come from a culture of having a very dim, very colonial understanding of all that is to the west of me on this continent.

In addition to being founding editor-in-chief of Chart Collective, you’re also studying and have just started working with The Stella Prize. How do you balance so many roles?

I’ve thought about this question for a long time and so far the main thing I’ve come up with is: sleep. My lifestyle is far less interesting than it was before I knew I wanted to try to make something. In fact my lifestyle is probably far less interesting than my 90-year old grandmother’s. I sleep often and at length. I don’t really party like I used to; I’m more interested in spending my time on other things. I make sacrifices in my relationships that I regret and yet don’t really have the time to correct (I wish I saw my godson more). I often miss out on going to things and seeing things and I often only read half of a book before it goes from the teetering pile on my bedside table into the bookshelf. I don’t exercise other than incidentally. I don’t write as much as I’d like to. I have no money for things like clothes or a pot big enough to make soup for more than 4 people. You can’t win them all. Do not think for one f*cking second that you can.

Who are some of the writers and artists that you’re excited about at the moment?

There are so many people around me whose art and writing gives me a rush, and I feel incredibly lucky that many of their faces populate the Contributors page on the Chart Collective website. I won’t name every one of them, but let’s just say that I have done little dances in my room making a sort of high-pitched squeaking sound while punching the air upon receiving correspondence that each of them was interested in being involved in my project. And there are more of these stamping-feet dances that go on when I receive work that so idiosyncratically and personally responds to an idea the Collective has dreamed up.

Ever since he published the Serco comic, Sam Wallman has been blowing my mind. He is fearless and nuanced and so strong in his ideas and so tender in his humanity. I often think to myself that I wish I knew what Sam Wallman would think of this or that, what he would make of it. He has a clarity and incisiveness that is rare.

The other person who is commanding attention is Hannah Donnelly, who, with Gabi Briggs, is the editor of the zine Sovereign Apocalypse. Hannah has DJd at a launch event of ours (as Sovereign Trax), and contributed a piece of work to our zine 1P Halley, or: What Goes Around Comes Around that made me tremble the first time I read it. I want to know everything Hannah has to say. I want to experience her vision.

As an editor, what’s the best advice you could pass on to emerging writers?

I was once in a writing class at uni, and the teacher, Tony Birch, brought the writer Arnold Zable into the class to give him a book or a printed-out article or something. Tony introduced us to him and him to us. He spoke very highly of Arnold, his friend and colleague, and our eyes were all lighting up in the presence of a real writer like that. When the introduction was over, there was a pause as we all watched Arnold and, I don’t know, tried to take something of the moment in. Arnold just looks around and goes, “So, you all want to be writers hey?…SUFFER!” and pissed himself.

Later I had Arnold Zable as a teacher, and it was one of the most wonderful experiences of my education. He emphasised that writing is not a mystical gift bestowed to a lucky few, that we are all storytellers, but that if we want to write – if we really want to write – we must work. And it’s true; if you wanted to be a carpenter you couldn’t just get up one day and go to a work site and make good cabinets just like that. You’d have to learn how to do lots of little things first, and then once you have some skills you have to practice and practice until you get better. That’s when you can start to have enough control to be able to express yourself through your work by messing with the rules and doing it in your own way. I can’t see how writing is any different to that. Just make sure that you know that the difference between being a writer and a cabinet maker is that cabinet makers are usually paid in proportion to the work they do.

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Q&A with Ellena Savage

Interview by Michaela McGuire

Ellena Savage

Ellena Savage is an editor at The Lifted Brow, a columnist at Eureka Street, and a PhD candidate at Monash University. Her essays and criticism, which have appeared in the pages of periodicals such as The GuardianMeanjinOverlandJunkee, and The Australian, examines the intersections of politics, feminism, and literature.

Ellena will be travelling with the EWF team to Alice Springs next month for the Eye of the Storm Festival, taking part in our Mixtape Memoirs event on Friday, 18th September. We sat down with Ellena and asked what this busy writer and editor is up to lately.

Tell us about your work as a writer and editor of The Lifted Brow?

I started at the Brow as the books columnist and arts editor in 2011. In the past four years it’s been one of my regular writing and editing commitments, sometimes being the centre of my life, at other times, something else. Now I edit the magazine alongside two others, Steph Van Schilt and Gillian Terzis. We each have our own obsessions and styles that we try to represent in the magazine so that with our powers combined, we can (hopefully) produce something that’s beautiful, thoughtful, relevant, and sexy. I think together we are like the Charmed sisters, or the Holy Trinity, or some other perfectly formed magic. We also each have a million commitments outside the Brow, so having a triquetra to lean on is really valuable to me.

Can you tell us about the last book you read and loved, and what’s currently on your to-read pile?

I am reading through the back catalogue of Elena Ferrante’s work for an essay I want to write, and am up to the most recent installment of the Neapolitan Novels, which isn’t actually out until September. I can’t rate Ferrante enough. She’s just a queen. Most recently, I read The Lost Daughter, which is brilliant. But all her novels are.

I also just came back from a workshop in the States with Maggie Nelson, whose most recent book The Argonauts is a beautiful assault on conventional publishing categories. It’s literary nonfiction slash queer theory slash memoir slash art criticism slash political tract. She’s working in this expanded form that opens up imaginative spaces for me as a reader and writer.

How do you balance your writing and editing work? Do you ever find it difficult to put aside your own in-progress pieces and set your mind to finessing the work of another writer? Can you describe what a typical work week for you looks like?

Like everyone I know who’s trying to make something of their art, balance is the holy grail. Does it exist? Who has it, and can I have some. Fitting in the work, the admin, and still being able to show up for friends’ birthdays and not be too terrible a housemate can be difficult at times. I teach a couple of days a week at uni, I look after my nephew one day a week, go to class as a student on another day, and try to spend as much time at my research desk at uni as possible. I sort of just juggle my writing and editing commitments around that. I walk a lot. I don’t like making lunch dates anymore because they break up the day. I’m not sure where all the work goes, as much of it is unpaid and sort of invisible, but I think that that is the breaks. I’d love more writing time, of course, but there are other skills I want to develop because I can see their value for my writing practice: caring, speaking, lecturing, and navigating institutions, seem essential for me to becoming a more balanced writer and person in general. Part of writing is always doing things that aren’t writing.

What have you been working on lately?

I’m writing a collection of essays that are about gender, genius, literature, politics, love, maternity, Socrates, King Solomon, Chris Kraus, disappeared women, and of course, me. That’s part of my PhD project I’m undertaking at Monash at the moment.

What’s the best piece of advice about being a writer, or an editor, that you’ve ever received?

The best general writing advice probably came from my mother, who’s not a writer at all, but a pianist. It goes: “practice, practice, practice,” which is so boring, and awful, really. Starting out writing, it’s hard to know what practice looks like, because the elements of craft can seem much more obscure in writing than they in other arts and crafts. For me, taking the same emotional and political risks in writing has given me some skills in writing around problems that used to seem completely daunting. If you keep taking the same risks, they will seem less and less like risks.

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Vale Kat Muscat

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It is with great sadness that the Emerging Writers’ Festival learnt of the passing of our dear friend Kat Muscat – writer, editor, feminist. Kat was a volunteer at the Emerging Writers’ Festival from age fourteen and has been part of the EWF family for more than ten years, as an artist, mentor and so much more than words can convey.

We’re in mourning with our friends at Express Media and writing communities everywhere. Kat was the editor of Voiceworks magazine and the heart of so many communities, inspiring and fostering the voices of countless young and emerging writers around Australia. From an incredibly young age herself, Kat became a leader for the writers and artists who need nurturing the most. She gave time, energy and genuine love to a resilient community of writing and writers, who loved her back.

This morning we were sent an audio recording of Kat reading from last year’s festival, at an event called Amazing Babes. The event, inspired by Eliza Sarlos’ picture book of the same name, invited eight women to write and read stories about the women in their lives who had inspired them. Kat was the first speaker on the night, on a stage that now looks like it was set for her and her alone – decorated by flowers, slightly grungy, but in a room filled with love and light.

Kat, so many writers are lost for words right now, and rightly so, but know that we’ll soon find them and they will likely never stop for you.

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GriefLine operates a free, confidential telephone service with trained counsellors between 12noon and 3am, 7 days a week:

  • Melbourne Metro: 03 9935 7400 or 03 9935 74444
  • National: 1300 845 745

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Emerging Writers’ Festival response to Senate Inquiry into Commonwealth Budget decisions on the Arts

The Emerging Writers’ Festival submitted this letter to the senate inquiry into the Impact of the 2014 and 2015 Commonwealth Budget decisions on the Arts on the 17th of July 2015. 

We write this letter as the Emerging Writers’ Festival, an eleven day Melbourne based festival, which supports new and developing writers, of all genres, in their creative practice and careers, and an important part of the literary sector and an essential step in the individual pathway of the writer.

The Emerging Writers’ Festival (EWF) is an organisation that exists for writers and is recognised as Australia’s leading organisation for emerging writers. The organisation runs a year round program of live and online events, from the Digital Writers’ Festival in February, a Melbourne-based festival held in May/June, an interstate touring program that in recent years has visited QLD, NSW, ACT, SA and TAS, and an international exchange program with Bali Emerging Writers Festival now in its third year.
The Emerging Writers’ Festival has annually received funding for the travel expenses of writers from around Australia to attend and participate in the festival, creating a national meeting place for writers. In addition the festival has used Australia Council funding to tour its programs interstate and regionally, servicing writers across the country, and a number of individual projects have been funded, including the establishment of the world-first Digital Writers’ Festival (www.digitalwritersfestival.com)

As a small to medium arts organisation, we are deeply concerned about the redistribution of funds away from the arms-length processes of the Australia Council for the Arts, and how this might impact not only us but the stability and sustainability of the wider literary arts sector and its ecology.

Small organisations support each other independently, and extend the reach of government funding through partnerships in cost effective and culturally vibrant ways. The Emerging Writers’ Festival has been known and celebrated for its successful and innovative partnerships with other small to medium and arts organisations, who have also been supported through the Australia Council for the Arts – including significant national partnerships with the Queensland Writers Centre, the NSW Writers Centre, the SA Writers Centre, the NT Writers Centre, Island magazine, and the black+write! Program, through the State Library of Queensland, among others – and the threats to their sustainability, and ability to make national connections and share programs, impacts the festival significantly.

We are also deeply concerned for individual artists. The current and immediate impacts on the Australia Council for the Arts, in particular the discontinuation of the ArtStart program, will have a significant impact on the development of emerging and independent artists. Many of the Emerging Writers’ Festival artists and audience have used this set of funding to travel to and from the festival and to access professional development opportunities offered by the festival, moving towards making their own creative practise sustainable.

The Emerging Writers’ Festival prides itself on being the festival for writers – profiling over 300 writers in the space of a year. We are not only an outward facing celebration of writing and writers, championing early excellence, but we are an essential incubator for writers. Many of the festivals programs are intended for writers to build their skills, confidence and professional networks as they create sustainable careers. The successes of developmental programs such as these are inherently best suited to the democratic integrity of peer review processes and we recognise and commend the fairness with which the Australia Council for the Arts operates.

The Australia Council for the Arts is a highly respected and valued institution – with forty years of organisational knowledge – and its peer review processes ensure a diverse range of major, medium and small arts organisations are funded through its programs, as well as independent artists at all stages in their careers. For the health and diversity of the Australian arts landscape the Emerging Writers’ Festival requests that all funding – including efficiency cuts – are returned to Australia Council and their peer reviewed processes.

Yours sincerely,

Kate Callingham
General Manager

Sam Twyford-Moore
Outgoing Festival Director

Emerging Writers’ Festival appoints Michaela McGuire as Festival Director

michaelaThe Emerging Writers’ Festival (EWF) today announced the appointment of a new Festival Director and co-CEO, Michaela McGuire, commencing Monday 20 July 2015.

Michaela is an author, journalist and commentator, as well as a founder and co-curator of the internationally acclaimed literary event, Women of Letters (WoL). Under Michaela’s guidance, WoL has expanded from a single event, into a series of sold out shows that have been held across Australia, Indonesia, the UK and the US – and has produced five acclaimed anthologies of writing as well, promoting a wide range of Australian and international authors.

Outgoing Festival Director, Sam Twyford-Moore, departs EWF on 28 August 2015, following the completion of a three-year tenure. Under Sam’s direction EWF has seen the festival audiences soar by 30% and box office by 50%. Sam programmed some unique and popular festival events and launched the highly successful Digital Writers Festival.

EWF Board Chair, Andrea Spencer, said today; “Sam joined EWF in 2012 and has made a valuable and passionate contribution to the organisation. His incredible commitment and raft of original ideas has not only delivered three very successful festivals, but it has propelled EWF into its second decade.”

“Furthermore, Sam is adored by his colleagues and the literary community. Please join us in thanking Sam and wishing him well in his next endeavor.”

“We are delighted to appoint Michaela McGuire whose experience as a writer and as a literary curator with Women of Letters makes her ideally suited to the Festival Director role. Through Women of Letters, Michaela has created speaking and publishing opportunities for countless emerging writers. Michaela understands how important it is to build a community for the sharing of ideas, stories and conversations and how important the EWF is for the professional, artistic and social development of new talent. We are excited to provide Michaela with the opportunity to work with the literary community to create new and enthralling festival programs ” said Andrea.

Michaela will work alongside co-CEO and General Manager, Kate Callingham.

In a statement Michaela said, “Through my work with Women of Letters I have developed a great passion for literary programming, and I am beyond thrilled to be afforded the opportunity to continue this work with EWF. New literary talent energises me, and it is a great pleasure to be able to both champion and be inspired by new generations of writers. I cannot wait to work with Kate Callingham and the EWF team to continue creating innovative professional development opportunities and a dynamic program of events. EWF is a unique platform for new talent, and it’s an honour to be able to help emerging writers from all backgrounds to engage with and contribute to the world-class literary community of Australia.”

The Emerging Writers’ Festival is a not-for-profit organisation whose foundations are built on supporting emerging writers. Engaging writers in the eleven-day festival, our digital festival and events interstate and internationally, the EWF is a place where creativity and innovation are celebrated, where new talent is nurtured and where diverse voices from across Australia are represented.

For more information, visit: http://www.emergingwritersfestival.org.au

Writers and Disability closed forum statement

Written by Jax Jacki Brown write-ability-ewf15

(Write-ability Salon-Emerging Writers Festival)

I would like to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land we meet on tonight and pay my respects to their elders past and present

I would also like to acknowledge the work of First Peoples Disability Network Australia (FPDN)

fpdn-write-ability

(FPDN group photo from http://www.fpdn.org.au)

FPDN advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have a disability. I also want to acknowledge that indigionality and disability often intersect with ABS statistics suggesting that 50 percent of indigenous people have a disability.

1 in 5 people in Australia have a disability, its 2 in 5 if you include carers or family members.

What would that expand to if we included lovers, friends and allies?

We are all only temporarily able-bodied, we will all age and our bodies and minds will change in our life times.

I want to invite you to think about disability anew, to ponder disability as resulting ‘from the interaction between a persons impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers, these  barriers hinder our full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others’ (UN General Assembly 2007) or as Stella Young put it ‘‘I am not wrong for the world I live in, the world I live in is not yet right for people with disability, and we need to change it!’’

People with disability are one of the most marginalized groups in society 45% of people with disability live on or below the poverty line (Human Rights Watch report, 2015).

We are subject to disadvantages in the key areas of employment, education, transport, housing, rates of violence and abuse and access to the health system.

Some quick stats
Employment – half that of people without disability
Education – only 24% have completed VCE
Housing – 2x’s more pwd’s live in public housing, age-care or inappropriate accom, more likely to be homeless
Transport – 1.2 million people with disability reported difficulties accessing transport
(Source: Disability and health inequalities in Australia, Vic Health 2012)

Women with disabilities are assaulted, raped and abused at a rate at least two times greater than that of women who do not have a disability. 90% women with an intellectual disability have been subjected to sexual abuse.  More than two-thirds  (68%) have been sexually abused by the age of 18 (Voices against Violence Report, 2014)

So what does this have to do with writing? It means that we want have to equal and paid access to the writing world.

We want to change and challenge perceptions of who we are as people with disability – we are not objects of inspiration or tragedy – we are complex and whole individuals leading full and rich and messy lives.

We want to break down these stereotypes, these meta narratives of disability by having our writing published in the mainstream.

We want to read and write stories of disability pride, of sexuality, of parenting, of teenage angst, of falling in and out of love, of the intersections of identities- of being queer and disabled, of being indigenous and disabled or the pletha of other identities one can have- we want to proclaim the the disabled body as desirable, to read and write stories which show disability as a valuable part of a person not something to be afraid or ashamed of.

Such misconceptions can only be broken down if we are published, and published wildly and in accessible formats so that people with a variety of disabilities can have access to and enjoy text.

Like any minority we want to tell our stories ourselves, because this is where empowerment and societal change happens, we are tired of others writing about us. Its time to get our voices out there.

If we happen to be written about by others who don’t live the experience of disability we want to be consulted in the same way that the Indigenous community is consulted about how to address Indigenous stories and issues

Nothing about us, without us.

We want writers with disability to be included in the programs of festivals and events as a mater of course. We want mentorship by and for writers with disability, funding for writers with disability, paid positions within key literary organisations.

We want to get rid of the barriers people with disability face, we want accessible buildings and accessible stages so we can share our work on the sage with others, equally, proudly and boldly.

I don’t want to see disability continue to be included as an afterthought, as a box to occasionally tick but instead as a key and valuable part of the human experience and as in important minority which deserves to take up space and tell our stories for ourselves.

 

Women in Writing Manifesto: one year on

At the Women in Writing session on 30 May 2014 a manifesto was created. It had eight key points focusing on the challenges faced by women in the industry, and concrete ways that action could take place to better support, promote or highlight their work.

What became clear after the #EWF14 Women in Writing round table was that many of the calls to action needed a framework within which to happen. Who would conduct the surveys we suggested? Where could we have resources hosted so that we could share information? The existing organisations and initiatives operating within this space are already under-resourced and stretched in their scope. At first individuals started chipping away where they could. We hosted events in partnership with The Wheeler Centre. We wrote op-eds. Other writers started their own initiatives.

Some wonderful things happened, but it soon became apparent that there was no one entity looking at the overarching and interrelating issues facing women. So we’re starting one. I’m proud to announce the formation of Women in Literary Arts Australia (WILAA).

WILAA aims to foster community and promote women in the literary arts. We want to be a hub of information for women writers. To draw attention to the opportunities that exist for them, and to advocate for their needs where those needs are not being met.

To begin, we’re taking a survey of women writers to ask about their experiences. We have committed to one big project for 2015: to undertake a count of women at literary festivals around Australia. We know women are underrepresented in the media, but what about on stage? We hope to grow beyond this, though. And we’d love to hear from you if you have ideas on what we should tackle next. Take our survey, send us an email, leave us a comment. We look forward to hearing from you.

In the meantime, one year on from the round table, what has changed? Here is an update on how things have changed, how they remain the same in 2015, and what we hope the next year will bring.

Before we talk about how women should pitch more, negotiate pay better and advocate for themselves, we should recognize that if women fail to do these things as freely and readily as men, it is because they are conditioned to do so. Overcoming this lifetime of socialisation takes knowledge and empowerment. Women should be empowered to talk about what they are being paid. We want to see practical guides and advice for women on how be assertive, how to negotiate and advocate for their work. It’s time we figured out how to empower women with these skills in practical ways.  We want them given all the tools they need to know what others are paid, what a fair rate for their work is, to negotiate for better rates and conditions. We love the recently launched Pitch, Bitch initiative. It’s practical and supportive, and we thank Estelle Tang for making it happen.

This year an entire day of #EWF15 has been dedicated to workshops, panels and performances empowering women with practical knowledge. There’s also a full day for high school aged women, too. Having a space for women to discuss and learn from other women regarding the unique challenges they face is invaluable.

We need to arm women with information. Transparency is vital. Are female authors offered lower advances than men? If publishing houses won’t tell us, we want an anonymous survey that authors can answer to help us find the truth. And are freelancing women offered lower per word rates than men at the same publication? We want to analyse some of the data from the ‘pay the writers’ campaign and find out. And if this data shows that women are indeed paid less, we want publishers and publications to answer to that information.

This is one area where we have no more information than we did this time last year. It’s vital for women to know if the national wage gap average of 17.1% is reflected in literature. In the following year we will start to formulate ideas on how we can ascertain this.

If women are counted on the page, they should be counted in public, too. The VIDA and B&P/Stella Counts unveiled the statistics showing women get a raw deal in literature. We want to see a count of public literary events broken down by gender. Too many writers’ festivals have women relegated to the women’s topics and women’s panels. It’s time to hold programmers and event managers to account for the amount of women they place in key platforms in their events. We challenge festivals and cultural institutions to do their own counts, and if they won’t do them and consider these issues, we’ll do it for them.

In 2015 WILAA will undertake a survey of literary events. We invite festivals and literary events from all over Australia to get in touch with WILAA to ask how they can be included in the count.

As well as counting these stats, we want to hold those in positions of power accountable for them. We will challenge them to respond to the statistics of the Stella Count and the Festivals Count. We want them to participate in this dialogue and speak to the industry about what they are doing to redress gender imbalances.

It is our aim to directly engage with editors, programmers, publishers and the industry as a whole in 2015. WILAA will invite those in positions of power to engage in a dialogue about the state of affairs for women internally within their organisations, and lobby for better working conditions including representation and pay.

We want to see mentorships for women where skill-sharing and career advice can be enabled. We want to see further training that breaks through the barriers women face in reaching the top levels of industry. More importantly, we challenge those in positions of power to start a dialogue about and with women in their organisations. What do they need? How can you support them?

In 2015 WILAA will search for funding and program partners for a mentorship program. We see this as a key way for women at all stages of their careers to skill share and network.

We challenge the accepted concept that boys won’t read girl protagonists, or than men won’t read stories with women protagonists. Many books prove this concept wrong, and teachers and parents repeat it like it is law. Why won’t they? What can be done about it? Is it even true? If women are 50% of the world, it’s natural for them to be 50% of the characters in books, and to lead those stories. Girls read books featuring boys all the time, and boys, when given the opportunity, are just as adoring of characters like Katniss as girls are. Education is vital from an early age. We want to see better support for initiatives like the Stella education program, which goes into schools and talks about boys books vs girls books, what they are and why the delineation is irrelevant. And we want to delve into the Australian high school texts lists to see how women fare in those lists? Are there great female authors and great female characters for young readers to explore?

Since the roundtable in 2014 the extended Stella Schools Program has been released. It is an exciting initiative which addresses all of the issues discussed in this point. There is a resource kit, school visits, teaching notes and professional development for librarians and teachers. It has been accompanied by events at many key festivals around Australia talking about these issues and engaging with parents, librarians, booksellers, teachers and young readers.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what do the covers of books by female authors say? We’re tired of seeing headless female torsos, giant lips, half faces, windswept hair and longing gazes into middle distance. Who comes up with these marketing rules that say green don’t sell, or female authors must use covers that highlight their gender and alienate half the population? We will create a visual display of the covers of books by women released in the last year and bask in the hot pink, the pastel tones, the beheaded women. What will it look like when we are confronted with this? We don’t know, but we look forward to finding out. And when we do, we’ll be awarding a literary version of a razzie to the worst cover offenders.

December 2014 saw Cover Girls Uncovered take centre stage at The Wheeler Centre in Melbourne. This was an excellent start to the conversation. You can watch the video here.

Women are not a homogenous group. We will not be treated like one. Within our community there are women of colour, women from refugee and migrant backgrounds, queer women, indigenous women, people who reject gender as a socially created construct that is of no consequence at all. All women’s stories matter, and they matter to everyone regardless of gender. We’re here, and we won’t be erased or silenced or ignored.

WILAA hopes to represent the interests of women in literature, while remaining aware that the needs of our community are as wide-ranging as our members.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Closed Forum Manifesto

On 3 June, 2015 the EWF was fortunate to bring together a group of passionate emerging and established Aboriginal writers and representatives from a number of key organisations who work with Indigenous writers. In the forum, over two hours, the group discussed a range of key topics and concerns, and these have been brought together in an EWF Manifesto.

The aim of the Manifesto is to inform and improve processes around how to better engage with and support emerging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers and how the EWF and other organisations within the Wheeler Centre can enhance their programming of Indigenous writers in the future.

 

Gender

-          The experiences of Indigenous men and women can be different – writing can be a gendered experience.

-          Women can have a lived experience of trauma – an intergenerational “journey”.

-          How do Indigenous women construct and document their stories?

 

-          Collaborations

-          What are the protocols on how to document stories e.g. who owns a story? When an Indigenous person who is not a writer has an amazing life story and collaborates with a non-indigenous writer to tell the story, who owns the writing? By law, ownership reverts to the writer. So how do Aboriginal people retain authorship of their story when in collaboration with non-Indigenous artists? There is the potential to mark lived experience on works as a “story witness” – but is that enough?

-          Collaborations also impact on areas such as royalties.

-          This is too big an issue to solve in this forum so how do we put it on the table?

-          ACTION: How do we provide information to Aboriginal writers and communities regarding their rights regarding sharing and telling of stories, and make information on intellectual and property rights available so that Aboriginal people are informed? This could be through fact sheets, workshops etc – explore the options.

 

Workshops

-          Writers want the opportunity to meet with other writers to work on their own stories and to develop new stories collaboratively.

-          Are there currently Indigenous writing group writers can access? There is an Indigenous writers group at Victoria University, which meets fortnightly. Participants write together, critique work – in this instance, facilitated by a non-Indigenous mentor. This could be replicated in other workplaces, for instance.

-          With a writing group, there is a need to determine the agenda together as to what the group wants to achieve.

-          One alternative is for a group to be set up online e.g. Facebook, which would also make explicit the resources available for Indigenous writers – a centralised body. Social media is a quick and easy way to reach the community – put the word out to Indigenous writers.

-          Alternatively, a physical writing institution that would be a safe space for writers. Venues can be very problematic – can be very intimating. SLQ has made sure there is an Indigenous person on the front desk, and that signage is welcoming.

-          Writers groups could include professional development opportunities for writing in different genres – or this could take place within a festival. NB South Australia has an Indigenous writers’ group that provides workshops and a skills transfer.

-          There could be guest facilitators or readings by experienced writers that would get people to attend. The space needs to be accessible.

-          Celebrities and champions have star power/ can be a draw card to attract young emerging writers to workshops/events such as Festivals

ACTION: Explore the setting up of Indigenous writing groups. Explore existing models and network with already existing Indigenous writing groups. Explore physical locations where a group/groups could meet. Share information that would help other people set up their own writing groups.

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Mentorship/engagement

-          Mentorship can develop a mentees confidence. Mentorships can be a two way process, with both gaining.

-          Organisations need to follow the best practice of FCAC as it takes long-term investment to get community support. For example it took 5 years to build community support that lead to an Elders in Residence program.

-          ACTION: Identify established Indigenous writers who are interested in mentoring.

 

        Rural/outer suburban writers

-          There is a need to create sustained engagement with Indigenous writers who are not living in the city. There are stories that aren’t being told that communities should be making/creating. The opportunities need to be provided – the effect of this dispels myths about Indigenous people to a wider audience.

 

Funding

-          The funding needed to facilitate these opportunities will be affected by changes to Australia Council funding. Organisations within the Wheeler Centre need to continue to lobby the government about this.

-          Writers orgs just put up grants and competitions etc and don’t advertise and promote within the Aboriginal community then expect that diversity ‘just happens’. We want more than just funding, we want to build long term relationships.

-          There needs to be more assistance in the application process for arts funding – if this does not happen, diversity in who art practitioners are will not change.

-          ACTION: Share with forum information on the First Nations Australia Writers’ Network Conference in August and information on Creative Victoria grants to pay for travel/ registration for FNAWN.

 

Barriers to organisations within the Wheeler Centre

-          Provide opportunities for Indigenous and non-Indigenous writers/editors/ publishers to network.

-          Although it is a national organisation, where is the Victorian equivalent of Black+Write to create writing communities?

-          Venues can be inaccessible e.g. the CBD location may be a deterrent for Indigenous people in outer suburbs to attend their events.

-          Welcoming/ signage is important. There is a need to create culturally safe spaces.

-          Footscray Community Arts Centre (FCAC) is an example of achieving Indigenous engagement. It took five years to make Indigenous groups feel welcome. Organisations need to be committed, as success will be incremental.

-          ACTION: Look at ways to build sustainable relationships with Indigenous writers using the Victorian Indigenous Literature Officer position to create a hub at the Wheeler Centre. Look at ways to make the Wheeler Centre venue culturally safer. Potential to create a bookshelf in an organisation such as The Wheeler Centre which share books by Indigenous writers.

 

Publishing/producing

-          Accessibility of getting published – You write and write but then you think, who’s going to publish me. How do I even begin to speak to a publishing house?

-          Sweatshop model from Western Sydney. Provides professional development guidance, workshopping, a way of coming together.

-          There are opportunities too with self-publishing/online. It would be wonderful if there were more digital avenues for young Indigenous writers to get their writing visible and to let young people know about these.

-          Centre for Indigenous Story is a new online avenue for sharing stories and is looking for content.

-          Likewise in theatre nearly 100% of dramaturgs are white and then wonderful black voices are shepherded into white dramaturgy frameworks. How to break these paradigms?

-          Build more pathways for Indigenous editors, publishers, front cover designers, etc. We need to address the lack of Indigenous people working in the publishing industry. State Library of Queensland Black & Write is a good model.

-          What other opportunities are there for writers? Artists in schools program seeks writers.

-          ACTION: Share information regarding online opportunities. Create factsheet/guidelines for the publishing industry on how to edit Indigenous writers. Provide support on how to contact publishing house/ how to pitching etc. Playwriting Australia to look at developing Indigenous dramaturgy processes.

 

Audiences/critiquing

-          How do you develop audiences/readership? Is reading a lost art form?

-          How do you create a hype around people when new writing comes out? One way is to make a deliberate choice to buy black writers to give as gifts.

-          Aboriginal readers need to read voices and hear and see authors and protagonists that they can relate to. Reading black voices and writers is an act of decolonisation.

-          Also need to build more Indigenous reviewers who review both Indigenous and non indigenous theatre/ writing/ film/ art.

-          Famous Indigenous people could promote books by Indigenous writers to the general public a la Ophrah’s book club.

-          Overall the forum felt it was important that we talk about these issues and attempt to achieve new outcomes rather than waiting to get it 100% right.

-          ACTION: To bring together Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander writer to discuss these issues on a regular basis and to measure the progress of our ACTIONs.

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