Sam van Zweden




Emerging Writers’ Festival Program Highlights

ImageIt’s here! Last Wednesday night the Wheeler Centre packed out for the launch of the 2013 Emerging Writers’ Festival. This is the festival’s 10th birthday, and its first year under the direction of Sam Twyford-Moore. The program is freakin’ huge, and I’m excited!

Of course, the EWF holds a special place in my heart, as they’ve been immensely supportive toward me, and I interned with them last year. Melbourne’s great for festivals, and EWF is one of the many fantastic literary events happening right through the year. For two weeks in June, the EWF runs panels, workshops, performance events and networking opportunities for emerging writers. It’s a unique opportunity for us baby writers to get a foot in the door, and to meet people fighting the same good fight.

I had to hold off on this post for a few days, just because the program really is so big. I needed to sit down with some tea and a marker, and highlight what I want to attend, and then identify any clashing events, and make tough decisions which might very well change a few times before the actual events.

At this stage, it looks like I’ll be out and about for most of the two weeks of the festival. I won’t go through my entire itinerary, but here’s the things I found particularly exciting, and that I think you shouldn’t miss:

Festival Hub: Thousand Pound Bend. This might sound silly, but since the beloved Rue Bebelons shut down, I was eager to find out where the new watering hole would be. I like the choice of Thousand Pound Bend – it’s cosy, with couches and dim lighting. It’s significantly larger than Rue’s, which probably works in its favour, with EWF crowds no doubt swelling this year as it has each consecutive year since its start. They’ll also be running Late Night Live With Literary Magazines, which could be a great way to discover stuff you didn’t know about before, but also a talking point, and a way to connect with other people (like, strangers, friends you haven’t met yet) at the Festival Hub.

Pop Up Page Parlour. Usually, Page Parlour has been a one-day event in the Atrium at Fed Square. If you miss that one day, you miss out. The pop up idea is great – not only does it give me more opportunities to check out the merch, it also gives those who are selling things there far more exposure. Win-win.

Town Hall Writers’ Conference. This is where writers get together to impart all their secrets. The timetabling gods have looked kindly on this weekend, and I’ve got something highlighted in most blocks, with no clashes. Particularly exciting: The Control Room with Melinda Harvey and Connor Tomas O’Brien; Cutting it Short on short stories; Writing The Personal; and Critical Conditions on the culture of criticism.

Emerging Q & A. An insane panel line-up and an awesome event, I can’t wait to Tweet my way through this bad boy.

And really, really exciting is this year’s addition of The Writers’ Retreat program at the very beautiful Abbotsford Convent. This beautiful setting will be overrun by writers for the weekend, and a lot of the program is free. I’m most excited about seeing Kate Richards on the panel for Symposium: Writing and Health on Sunday, and Saturday’s panel on Writing About Food, which will include the tiny and loveable Romy Ash – who at last week’s Erotic Fan Fiction night at Wheeler, shared a story about stuffing a food critic like a chicken.

The word is that tickets are already selling fast, as EWF seems to be very much on the radar of Melbourne’s cultural calendar. Happy Birthday EWF, happy first festival STM, and a massive congratulations to the whole dedicated and hardworking EWF team for putting together such a brilliant program!

My Picks for Week 2 of MWF

It’s officially day 7 of the Melbourne Writers Festival. Last week I brought you “my picks” for the first week, so today I’m giving you my picks for the second half of the festival.

My reading chair arrived this morning, so assuming that I can pry myself from its soft leathery caress, I’ll be attending the following sessions:

Friday 31st will kick of with Angela Meyer’s The Morning Readsampling the work of Claire Bidwell Smith, Asa Larsson, Eowyn Ivey and CS Lakshmi. Not only is this event free, but it’s a great tasting plate of writing you otherwise might miss out on. Plus, in researching the writers she’d be hosting, Angela mentioned that Eowyn Ivey was particularly enjoyable.

At 11.30am, I’ll be at Making Robots Thinkwhere Lee Gutkind (the godfather of creative non-fiction) will be talking about why we need great long-form non-fiction, and his latest work. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

At 1pmThoughts on Thoughts will be discussing cognitive neuroscience. This is a field that’s been moving forward in leaps and bounds lately, and the amount of new books on neuroscience is crazy. I don’t have time to read them all, but I do find it interesting, so hopefully this panel’s got something rad to offer.

At 2.30pm, Benjamin Law will be talking to Germaine Greer. To be totally honest, I’ll be there more for Benjamin Law than Germaine Greer, but it promises to be an interesting session. Germaine Greer’s been so influential for such a long time, and she’s still at it. That’s pretty damn respectable.

I’m a big fan of Spinifex Press, The Stella Prize, and women in cultural production, so at 4pm I’ll be at Women in Culture.

And along those lines, at 7.30pm in the Yarra Building, The Stella Prize are having a trivia night! I’m currently assembling the Dream Team.

Saturday is another big day – and a day where it’s really hard to choose between events that are on simultaneously. But I’ll be there, kicking off again with The Morning Read.

At 1pm I’m catching the Memoir: Fact or Fiction? panel, because it’s a topic I’m incredibly interested in. The conversation on that topic was touched on already at panels last week, particularly the Friendly Fire one, where panelists talked about the fact that memoir is a construction. So where does the line go?

At 2.30pm that conversation continues on another panel in Fact, Fiction, Truth. More Lee Gutkind. And Robin Hemley. Life’s good.

In the afternoon I’ll be catching Robert Dessaix. He spoke to a class I was in a few years ago, and he’s one of the most respectable, gripping speakers I’ve ever seen. Don’t miss it.

Wrapping up my Lee Gutkind filled weekend will be the launch of the next issue of Creative Non-Fiction. You’ll kick yourself if you miss it.

And finally, the last day of the festival is Sunday, September 2nd. It’ll be a little sad maybe. Us and the festival having gotten to know one another over the last few weeks. It’ll hurt a little to say goodbye.

And again, the day will kick of with Angela Meyer at The Morning Read.

At 11.30am, Alicia Sometimes talks to Pico Iyer and Benjamin Law about what draws them to Asia.

At 2.30pm, Chloe Hooper will be talking about her turn to fiction in her new book The Engagement, which has just been included in the Get Reading list of 50 Books You Can’t Put Down.

At 4pm, Michael Williams hosts a panel talking about that age-old issue: what really makes a classic, and what should be included in an Australian canon? This should be great – Williams always asks really spot-on questions and gets good conversation flowing.

The festival wraps up on Sunday night with the launch of the latest Going Down Swinging at the Toff in Town. $25 gets you entry, entertainment, and a copy of the journal.

I’m looking forward to another PACKED weekend. Come schmooze if you see me. As always, I’ll be blogging and tweeting my thoughts throughout.

Winding Up for EWF

It’s only just over a week until the first official event for the Emerging Writers’ Festival. On Thursday, 5th May at the Wheeler Centre, the 2011 program is being launched. Titled “Stories from the Trenches”, the event promises to be a lot of fun – not only can we get our paws on the program, but we’ll also be treated to readings from Meg Mundell, Paddy O’Reilly and Sean Condon, all addressing the reality of “the cold, hard world of Writerland”. The event will be hosted by Ben Birchall.

…Did I mention it’s free? Bookings, however, are “recommended” (see: get your tickets now cuz it’s going to be so rad that if you don’t, you won’t be able to squeeze in the door).

You can see the whole program at the EWF website, and pencil those into your diary so you can’t make any other plans! Then top up your credit card for a bit of a beating.

You can also get all happy in your pants over the brand-spankin’ website, which has SO MUCH happening, and a super-spiffy new layout – more about that in the next few days, as well as a picks-from-the-program post.

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