The Emerging Writers’ Festival finished on Sunday, but the ideas and inspiration that it created will hopefully linger for some time to come. From the pages and pages of notes (and quite a few tweets) that I wrote during the festival, here are those points that struck me the most:
Dan Giovannoni on loneliness: “I’m not sure if I like loneliness because I’m a writer or if I’m a writer because I like loneliness.” This topic of writers as working essentially alone came up quite a bit at the festival, with some arguing that writing is a solitary pursuit, while others pointed out that writing (hopefully) involves relationships, too – with editors, publishers, other writers, readers, audiences and writing groups.
I don’t disagree that writing involves relationships – if you want to have an audience, that is – but I think that misses the point. For most writers, there is a phase of aloneness (not necessarily loneliness), that is both driven by a need to write, and is ultimately a driver of the writing process.
Tony Birch on writers in for the long haul: Writing processes inevitably vary except for one thing: serious writers have in common a structured approach to their writing, in terms of when they write – be it for three hours a day, or set days of the week. “Understand that writing is work, and that you must put the time in.”
Stephanie Convery: Write beyond what you know. This came up in the context of the “Aussie Voices” panel, where Convery argued that writers need to write outside dominant power structures, and oustide the popular box of white, semi-autobiographical realism.
Michael Mohammed Ahmad on an Australian voice: “Australia is NOT a new country. It is an old country, with ancient stories.”
Bruce Pascoe spoke in more depth and with more eloquence about these stories, but to his credit, his discussion of indigenous stories and indigenous writing cannot easily be captured in a soundbite.
Donica Bettanin: “The first person who has to take you seriously as a writer is you.” Be professional – if you don’t take yourself and your writing seriously, an agent or a publisher is unlikely to do so either.
Tony Birch on the mentoring relationship: Having a mentor is not like having a teacher; the mentee has to have something to offer as well. Both mentor and mentee need to have the ability to learn.
Katie Keys, twitter poet: Writing for an audience in an online context is all very well, but “sometimes you just have to write what you want to write.” Katie, I agree!
For more words of wisdom now that the festival is over, check out ewfdigital or get hold of a copy of The Emerging Writer, written by emerging writers for emerging writers and edited by Karen Pickering.