Speakeasy chats with Lisette Ogg, Queensland writer and panelist at the Emerging Writers’ Festival, about her experiences at EWF last week:
Sp: This was your 3rd visit to EWF, is that right? How was the festival overall this year, in terms of organization, venue, and quality of panels? Can you give us a feel for the vibe?
LO: This was my second visit to EWF. My first was in 2007, whilst I was being mentored as part of Youth Arts Queensland’s Young Artists Mentoring Program. In that first, fateful visit to EWF, I met a talented visual artist that contributed to my artist book, among other young artists and industry professionals that I continue to keep in contact with to this day. Whilst I had been to the National Young Writers Festival in Newcastle during university, 2007 marked my first visit to EWF and I was one of those young whippity-snippets who attended every session and sat down the front, hungry to absorb.
At the year’s festival, I was older and wiser, but no less excited. I took my invitation as a panelist quite seriously (it is the rampant nerd in me), and concentrated on a few core things to avoid burn out. In particular, I put a lot of preparation into my panel ‘The great state divide’, which looked at the distinct literary voices of Australia. Queensland literature as vast as the land itself, and I felt a great responsibility to do it justice in six minutes. [The full text of Lisette’s presentation is available here.]
The vibe was electric; lots of people, lots of discussion, lots of connection. That’s what I like about EWF. It doesn’t have the barriers that the bigger writing festivals may do for new and emerging writers, because it’s still defining what it is and why it exists. I think emerging authors feel cushioned by this; as if they are ok to make mistakes. Just like the audience it caters for. The bones are still settling and there is room for experimentation, bold voices and a quiet sympathy for fresh nerves. Whilst it caters for emerging writers, don’t be fooled into thinking this Festival only caters for the young. The vibe is nurturing, professional and dynamic, where talent is looked at for what it is whether you’re 14 or 40.
Sp: What range of issues did this year’s festival cover?
LO: Now that it runs over 10 days, EWF covers many issues! ‘Truth and honesty in writing’ looked at how much a non-fiction writer can bend the truth and claim it is ‘correct’? Queensland’s Krissy Kneen was on the panel and had everyone eating out of her hand in the lead up to the release of her debut novel Affection – the true story of a woman, her body and the extraordinary adventures they’ve shared. ‘Just write dammit’ was a helpful panel, looking at techniques for starting a piece, finishing a piece, and how to structure this within your day; which is something I think every writer grapples with at some stage! Other issues covered looked at comic book writing, funding bodies, writing for film and TV, copywriting, bringing your work to market, ghostwriting, promoting yourself online, and working with an editor.
Sp: Which authors/panels inspired you?
LO: The ‘From Here to There’ session with Queensland poet, Nathan Sheperdson, was grounding and inspired. So much so, that I rushed out to buy his book What Marion Drew Never Told Me About Light. I love the idea of this work; where one artist is inspired to create by the work of another. I often think that poetry is painting with words, and I am enamoured by the potential collaborative nature of visual and lyrical imagery.
Christopher Currie had a ‘From Here to There’ session too, looking at his work on www.furioushorses.com. I’ve been watching his writing since university and he’s always made it look so effortless. Sadly, I missed his session as it was on at the same time as mine. But he’s definitely a writer to watch.
Sp: How was the zine fair?
I tend to get vaguely dizzy at EWF’s zine fair, as my eyes can’t stop looking at everything at once. Bibliophile’s beware! You may think you will only bring home one or two publications, but this is never so. You will cram your bag full until you run out of money. There are so many luscious artists creating, crafting and collaborating on independent and small scale publications, all in one place, that I can’t help but think of EWF as a beehive of Australia’s small-scale writing producers.
Sp: Did your professional development as a writer benefit from attending and participating in EWF this year?
After a big year of writing in 2007, I didn’t write at all in 2008. It was what I refer to as my composting year… breaking down all the debris and creating some rich, fertile soil in which new projects can grow. Whilst I’ve been taking some time off writing myself, I’ve been filling myself up with the lives and words of renowned Queensland writers, and it was an honour to speak as a representative of their exceptional work through this Festival. EWF is one of fortuitous influences that are gently luring me back to the page. In terms of my professional development, attending Festivals like EWF is crucial to be aware of current industry trends; to look at who’s doing well and why; to gain tools and advice to achieve your goals; to meet people who may help your artistic and professional practice; and just to get caught up in something bigger than yourself.
Sp: Did you speak with the Director or organisers, and get any sense of future directions for EWF?
I had a discussion with David Ryding, the Festival Directory and visionary behind bringing the Festival from 3 to 10 days. I admire his persistence in making it work, when so many people said it would fail. It’s a slick thing now, EWF. With a good team of people behind it. Some people may write it off because it’s a Festival for emerging, not established, writers, but David has brought a lot of professional clout to the organisation and a clarification of where it sits in the market – and why it’s essential to Australia’s literature sector. He mentioned that EWF doesn’t necessarily have to be based in Melbourne, as it is a national festival. So I’d love to see where this could go. I’m excited to work with him in the future, and will definitely be keeping a close eye on his future moves.
Sp: Any suggestions for future EWFs?
More Queensland writers! Perhaps something involving AWM? I’d love to see a stronger web presence of the Festival too, perhaps were writers could network and particpate in forums or watch live webstreams. There’s many writers who can’t physically attend the venue, but would still benefit from accessing the wealth of information and talent on offer. And… that they keep on doing what they do!
Thank you, Lisette, for taking the time to keep Speakeasy readers up to date with the Australian writers festival scene.