Sam van Zweden




Live from Future Bookshop!

The Future Bookshop exhibition is in the studio space at NGV. The sound of school groups bounces off the high ceiling and stone tiled, as it’s connected to the NGV foyer where they gather to collect chairs and debrief before moving on to the next cultural experience.

The Future Bookshop is amazing. When you walk in the door (just inside the atrium) there are two big armchairs to your left, with a bookshelf containing a bunch of interesting things to read.

Right in front of the door is a wall, plastered with more QR codes than you’ve ever seen together in one place, all of which link to a different article/podcast/video/collection of thoughts about the future of writing and reading. There are also big copies of articles from The Emerging Writer, the EWF publication, which talk about interwebz and writingz.

In the middle of this QR code wall is a panel with USB sticks poking out of it. Hook whatever USB-friendly device you’ve got up to these and download free ebooks, as well as loving words from the artists’ collective behind the USB installation.

Next to this is an “ideas wall”, and under this is a table with paper and pens. You’re invited to participate by sharing your ideas about the future of books and writing and putting them up on the wall.

In the middle of the room is a table, where you can sit down and join the writers in residence as they create. Of course, not all writers in residence make use of the table. I ditched it pretty quickly in favour of a beanbag (see below – photo via @lisadempster), and another writer is currently kicking back in one of the armchairs. May I say – ALL writing places should have beanbags. It might just be an exhaustion hangover from the Festival, but the ability to sit equal parts vertical and horizontal in a squishy surface is really relaxing me and making the creative juices flow more easily.

Another section of the front wall houses works-in-progress from the writers in residence. Up there so far: Tully Hansen‘s room-plan (see below), blog posts from Sophie Benjamin, and Julien Leyre had stuck something up right before I left.

In the middle of the room also is a pole intended for structural integrity, which the Future Bookshop makes use of. There are headphones hooked up to looping podcasts, which visitors can sit down and listen to. Not just any podcasts, but Paper Radio podcasts – these guys podcast stories, with really nice sound things happening in the background.

Next to the residents’ work-wall is a wall with book designs, and an interesting statement about the weirdness of books being super-accessible with free content around, but also becoming really expensive moving forward as they become obsolete.

The back wall has copies off all the Signal Express, the EWF/Signal Express daily newspaper from during the festival. They did an amazing job, pumping out two articles and Twitter highlights every day throughout the festival.

Tucked around the corner is a screen with looping vlogs with thoughts about the future of bookshops, books, reading and writing.

Along the glass wall that faces the atrium are lots of lamps, all switched on. The future looks bright. But we don’t want to make light of the future either. They’re just lightening the atmosphere. We’re trying to shed some light on where we’re headed. Hopefully people are smart in the future too, and just as switched on. Puns finished.

So that’s the space. Check out Tully Hansen’s floor-plan (relevant to his very cool work – photo via @lisadempster) to help you envisage it.

Even better, come down and visit to get a REAL idea of what’s happening.

During my time at the NGV studio, I’ll be blogging. I’ll be doing posts about the future of the book, and what it means to be writing and reading in the digital age. I’ll also be drafting blog posts for after the residency, and saving up a little back-log of stuff. Talking with Angela Meyer last week reinforced that this is something I should do continuously – if I’d had more posts/drafts on hand during the end of semester, I wouldn’t have gone silent when my workload grew. And so that’s what I’m doing at NGV. Making Little Girl With a Big Pen happen.

One fellow writing resident, Julien Leyre (who was one of the amazing writers who crossed that 30K mark at the Rabbit Hole!) is spending his time here translating a blog into French and Chinese. So maybe the future of books and writing is a place where things are more accessible.

The thing I love most about working in digital spaces is the way that readers are able to feed back. The ways that readers become creators. This is reflected really well in Future Bookshop, and that’s what excites me most about the space. The audience is also the creator, those who are watching feed back into the space, and by having people in the space it becomes something else. It’s evolving. That’s what the future of the book is all about.

Day 5 and Still Running!

Today is day 5 of the Emerging Writers’ Festival, and I thought I’d do a quick wrap-up post of the things that have made an impression on me and what’s been great about the festival since my last post, and what my experience has been as an intern.

My last post was just after the launch. Since then has been a Masterclass, the Artists’ Party, and the Town Hall Writers’ Conference.

During this time I needed to finish a heap of assessments, and I tell you what – there should be a dangling carrot like the festival at the end of every semester – there would be so much less procrastination! I didn’t want to be stuck at home working, so I was super-productive and have managed to get everything finished a whole day early. I’m going to hand it all in this afternoon, and I’m OUT of semester one! And I can finally say “Yes, I’m coming up to the festival hub for drinks!”

The Business of Being a Writer Masterclass I worked, but the whole thing was coming over a PA, so I could hear everything that was going on. I’m actually kind of upset that I’d missed out on these classes in previous years – all the things I’d been confused about or wondering about the business side of this was covered in this class. Things like invoicing, setting rates, what to do once you’ve got an ABN, copyright. Everything. I highly recommend this class for everyone next year.

My favourite idea that came from the masterclass was Aden Rolfe’s idea of “Speculative Administration”. Freelancers, he said, necessarily have to spend about 15% of their time engaging in this “Speculative Administration” – things like researching markets, applying for grants, seeing what competitions and deadlines are coming up, thinking about where you’d love to be published. As a result, freelancers can only ever use 75% of their time on the other work. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just something to be aware of.

Friday night’s Artists Party was loud and amazing. I’m continually thrilled by how many amazing people are involved with the festival, and how everyone is ready to chill out and have a chat. We’re not friends already? Alright, cool, who are you? Let’s be friends.

Over the weekend was the Town Hall Writers’ Conference. I worked on Saturday morning, catching the Seven Enviable Lines panel. Favourite lines – “Procrastination: Don’t do it.”. “Never, ever take fear-based advice”. And “Don’t be a jerk”. This “Don’t be a jerk” thing was echoed all weekend, and I think it’s really important in a community as small as Melbourne’s. You’re going to come across the same people again and again, so for the love of God, don’t burn bridges! That’s not to say don’t be critical – one of the things I loved about the weekend conference was the way that many people were brave enough to disagree and really thrash out ideas. Critical is okay. Critical is constructive. Just don’t be a jerk.

After a MASSIVE Friday/Saturday-AM working, I decided to go home to get a heap of this homework done. Everything’s due today and tomorrow. While leaving the Town Hall program to do homework sucked, I really wanted to be able to rock up on Sunday and see some great panels – including one by my mentor for next semester, Francesca Rendle-Short. More on that mentorship post-EWF, no doubt.

Anyway, I intended to come home and be very productive. Instead, I came home and collapsed in an exhausted puddle. I slept for five hours. When I eventually woke, I felt much better, and ready to tackle assessments. I put on headphones, and the newly-discovered Vitamin String Quartet (perfect for studying!). And I powered through almost all of that assessment work.

Which meant I could catch panels on Sunday! I feel like I tweeted the panels to death, so you no doubt already know the highlights. I will say though, that I really loved the digital writing panel, and how it made me feel excited and more energized about this here blog. Post-festival I’ll be around at the Future Bookshop, writing up a storm, and I intend to use the time (at least in part) to re-commit to LGWABP. Time commitments before me still mean I’m a busy woman, but I can see my way to posting more regularly. So thanks, especially to Carla Sammut (@easyasveganpie), for getting me excited again.

Oh, also – just a quick shout-out to my amazing brother, who recently joined Twitter. He’s a fantastic chef, and he’s joined Twitter to follow restaurants and chefs. And bless him, I’ve been tweeting #ewf12 pretty hardcore over the last week and it’s gonna continue, and he hasn’t unfollowed me. Thanks, Chris! x

The last exciting thing is ewfDigital! It went live last night, and it’s all up and functioning and exciting today. It looks freakin’ awesome, and there’s a heap of content up there. I’ve only managed to look at about half of it, and going back just now I see that today’s panel stuff has gone live too. ewfDigital allows people who can’t make it to Melbourne for the festival to engage through videos, blogs and Twitter. Not only is there content going up from panelists, but you, as the audience, can create your own content in response to the stuff that’s up there. Just like question-and-answer time at the end of the panel, where you have the right to respond. Only better. Way better.

Right now I’m off to a briefing for the Future Bookshop, and tonight I celebrate with my best mate and wine and an Industry Insider panel about emerging critics and Lord of The Fries after. I’ve finished assessments! Let me loose on the festival!

Blog at

Up ↑