Sam van Zweden




Because Every Time You Pick Up Your Pen, You Realise You Know Nothing

Last night was the launch of the program for the Emerging Writers’ Festival. As always in the Wheeler Centre, seating was a little awkward, but the entertainment made up for it. To launch the program, Ben Birchall hosted a panel made up of Paddy O’Reilly, Sean Condon, and Meg Mundell. While there didn’t seem to be a specific point of discussion, the wandering topic of the event was a good way into the festival, which encourages us as writers to think about our practice and process, the wider implications of what we do, not just the act of publishing but the whole idea of “being a writer”. It’s so important to have space and time to do this, to make meaning of what we’re doing.

Paddy O’Reilly provided the quote I got the most out of from the night – “I learn,” she said, “every time I pick up a pen, that I don’t know anything.” In a way, this is possibly the worst thing for me (as someone at uni studying the craft of writing) to take on board. It’s also really constructive though. It’s such a positive way of tackling blank pages, new projects – don’t try for that level of production I reached by the end of my last project, because that was something different. This is new, I’m starting from scratch, and I know nothing, so just do it.

Having spent an hour or two picking out my dream itinerary from the very spunky looking program (all individually screen printed, as last year), I’ve come up with the following events as my picks from the 2011 program. All links back to program descriptions (and tickets) on the EWF website –

26th May – The First Word

28-9th May – Town Hall Writers’ Conference

31st May – Not Your Nana’s Slide Night

4th June – The Writers’ Toolkit

4th June – Tram Tracks

4th June – The Pitch

5th June – Page Parlour

5th June – Spelling Bee

Also, right throughout the festival the #ewf11 hashtag will be active (already a fair bit of action on Twitter), and panels will be hosted online. There’s a whole extra level of discussion that occurs over the Town Hall weekend if you’ve got access to Twitter on your phone. There’s a silent layer of discussion going on on Twitter at the same time as panels are running, it enriches the whole experience. I’m so glad this year I have a wanky phone with internet access so I can get to that – last year I saw tweets post-fact and was a bit disappointed I’d missed them.

Also exciting news connecting LGWABP with the EWF this year – I’m one of the bloggers whose content is being pulled into their Planet. A “planet” is a feed which draws in content from selected blogs, which are tagged in a certain way. So throughout the festival, anything that I tag with “emerging writers festival” will appear in that feed. Lisa (festival director)’s experience as a blogger has made this feed really nuanced in the way it works, as she understands that the planet benefits both the writers and the festival. Had a non-blogger created this, it may have turned out a bit differently.

SO! Go check out the EWF program, tickets are all on sale, program’s up, I’m part of their blogging planet, the #ewf11 hashtag is already active – get involved!

Coming home and The End Point

That’s it. Semester over! This semester was big. Really big. Fourteen novels for just two of my subjects and that’s only the stuff with covers. At least two reams of paper, lots of ink, hours and hours of reading off my screen because I couldn’t afford to print any more. Twelve weeks of sacrificing the reading I actually wanted to do, to make room for things that were mostly worth reading, but not always what I wanted to do.

But that’s over now! It’s holidays! It’s lovely weather! The real reading can begin. I can cross billions of things off my “to-do” list, and work through the huge stacks of books that I’ve been buying but not had space or time to read. I can make sense of my writing desk, make some narratives happen, rather than torturous essays comparing texts which should never, ever be compared (Camus’ The Outsider and Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea being the most recent hideousness).

So here I am, back at home in the blogosphere. I can blog whenever I like, I can dedicate that section of my brain to planning posts as I live. I can work my way through my poor, neglected Google Reader feed! Oh poor Google Reader…

Today I read a piece that really got my attention, which was re-tweeted by Angela Meyer. The article, “Where Did The Web Go?“, talks about a lot of things that got my attention.

First point of interest: A quote from Stephen Mitchelmore: “Finding a way to talk about the reading experience is, I’ve realised, the greatest pleasure of writing; where it ends is of no importance.” I love this quote. Stephen’s talking about how it doesn’t matter if your online literary efforts never really take off, because that’s not the point. The point is to find a way to talk about your “reading experience”. Reading is a strange thing in a similar way to writing – it’s a necessarily lonely activity, but there’s a definite pleasure in finding ways to share that loneliness. For me, LGWABP is a major way that I do that. I’m not sure that I always (…ever) provide insightful contributions, but I enjoy doing what I do. Stephen’s right – it is “the greatest pleasure”.

Second point of interest: “Choose what you want your site to be, and then do it” – I like this. Sometimes I feel like my blog misses the mark because I’m not sure what I’m doing with it. Successful blogs have something that is specifically theirs, whether that’s a layout, a tone, a bunch of memes, whatever. They own it.

Other than these two superficial things that caught my eye, the article itself is actually a great contribution to the discussion of the role of online media, in particular online literary criticism. Check it out.

Happy Birthday To Meeeee!

Well, not to me. To LGWABP.

Today is the first anniversary of this blog! It certainly doesn’t feel like a year. So much awesome stuff has happened because of LGWABP, and I’m really glad I’ve stuck with it. People often say that you shouldn’t blog unless you’ve got a passion for it, because it comes through in the content – I hope my passion comes through. I love this thing! LOVE IT!

174 posts later…

In the last year I’ve written a lot more than I used to. I’ve realised that “being a writer” is what I’m doing, and I’m dedicated to that. I’ve met amazing people, some of them higher up in the industry than myself, others on the same level, others just beginning – all of these people have been helpful, insightful, and immensely encouraging.

I’ve had three pieces accepted for publication. I’ve introduced myself and been recognized for my blog name. I’ve had my passion understood and been invited to do book reviews on c31’s Yartz. I’ve been asked to guest blog. I’ve interviewed a hero of mine. I’ve learned what doesn’t work.

I feel like I’m on the way to good things. And LGWABP is has a lot to contribute to it.

Thanks for reading, ya’ll, keep it up! And I’ll keep posting.

Cheers to my first year!

Making Shit Real, Yo!

Today I met someone I respect quite a lot. I introduced myself, and he said “oh yes, Little Girl With a Big Pen, I read your blog.”

The name of my blog sounds surreal coming out of people’s mouths, like it’s a real thing. People out there read it. YOU! You read it!

So hey, thanks. Thanks for reading my blog, and giving me an audience, and making shit real, yo. I had a moment today where I realized that I’m doing something ace that I enjoy, and it’s getting somewhere. It’s been about a year since I started blogging, I think it’s a year in about a week’s time… Gosh.

YEEEE! (RE: Recognition via blog)

Comment July Challenge, Week 1 Wrap-Up

So I thought I’d post weekly highlights for the month of July, while I do the LitLife Comment July Challenge.

This first week has proved harder than I thought it would – 5 comments a day, not so hard? Actually, incredibly hard! I’m also trying really hard to make my comments more substantial than “Great post!”. This, at times, seems to be an exercise in showing how little I really have to contribute to discussions…

However, there have been some good discussions, and some great posts to comment on. So here’s my top five from the past week (in no particular order):

1. Lisa Dempster’s “How to Blog When You’re Not Blogging”
2. Liam Wood’s “What’s Hipster Than Being Cool?” on Virgule
3. Megan Burke’s “What We Can Learn From Mia Freedman” on Literary Life
4. Jo Case’s “Why The Internet Turned Me On (To Creative Writing)” on Kill Your Darlings
5. Q & A Monday with Lisa Dempster on Virgule

Are you part of the Comment July Challenge? How’s your week been?

New Meme, New Meme!

I said “New Meme” in the heading TWICE because I needed to. That’s how exciting this is.

It’s been in the ideas-bank for a while now, but it’s finally here and ready to launch. And it’ll be happening tomorrow.

The new meme is called Admiration/Inspiration Thursdays. Appearing weekly (on Thursdays – who’d have guessed?!) it will feature interviews with people who inspire me, articles about people/things I admire, and collections of things that are currently inspiring my writing.

Check back tomorrow for the first installment of A/I Thursdays!

LitLife’s Comment July Challenge

It’s almost July. It’s almost winter!

In celebration of these things, Megan Burke of Literary Life is running something called the Comment July Challenge.

Megan has realised that she’s a lurker. She reads a ton of blogs every day, but comments on a very small percentage of them. I’m the same. I don’t let fellow bloggers know that I enjoyed their posts often enough, I don’t often contribute to threads worthy of a discussion. Sorry, blog world.

Here’s how we make amends:

For the entire month of July, I (and Megan, and the other people who have also taken Megan’s vow of commenty) pledge to comment on at least five blogs per day, in an effort to better connect myself with the blogs I read, and make sure that the producer of said blogs feel the love.

As part of her vow Megan is posting links to her comments so her devoted readers can take part in the discussions. I’ll be posting highlights weekly, so you can keep track of where I’ve been having some commenty-fun.

Hats off to Miss Megan for such an awesome idea! Head over to her site to make your own pledge, and spread happiness and light with the Comment July Challenge.


In the blogging community there are little widgety things floating around called “blog awards”. They snowball. You get one, then give it to a number of other people, who give it to other people and so on. It’s a sweet little internal love-fest for bloggers. I have suspicions about the nature of these things as shameless self-promotional tools. But I’m partaking. I’m in.
And it may help you, dear Reader, find some quality new reading!

…and I know that the recipients of this award will swoon over what appears to be a teacup full of roses.

This morning I received “One Lovely Blog” award from Spicyt. A big big thanks for that, Spicyt, I’m pretty chuffed.

So now I pass this award on to 15 of my favourite blogs. Yeah, 15! That’s a lot, huh? So here goes:

These, by the way are in no particular order… Let the Love Fest begin!

1. A Broken Laptop, by Mercedes M Yardley.
2. Adair On Books, by Misha Adair.
3. Clara Emily’s blog
4. Logic and Life
5. Dabbling All Day, by Nicole.
6. Creative Liberty
7. Should Be Reading, by MizB.
8. Thwok!
9. The Unabridged Girl.
10. Cellophane Teeth.
11. Literary Life
12. A Bisonicorn Cluster vomiting Rainbows.
13. So, You Wanna Be A Boxer?
14. Inkygirl: Daily Diversions for Writers.
15. Benjamin Solah, Marxist Horror Writer

I’m not sure how appropriate the term “lovely” is for all these blogs, but “freaking ace” is pretty true. So check ’em out. Partake in Love Fest 2010!

Themes, They Are A-Changin’!

Today you clicked that Twitter or Facebook link here, and all of a sudden you were somewhere unfamiliar, right?

“What the hell is this?!” you said.

“White background?! Drop down menus?! This is not that same blog that reeks of default that I know and love!”

…Suck it up. You’ll learn to know and love this one. I promise.

I got sick of the oh-so-default theme I had, there was something disgustingly kitsch about it. And entirely not customisable; Thanks WordPress!

So now we have something which navigates much more nicely, is much easier on the eye than the old theme, and which I feel can be taken more seriously.

In the coming weeks (…months? Year?) the default banner will be changed to something personalised and swish. Just you wait ‘n’ see!

Blog at

Up ↑