Saturday, 7 June 2014

Reflections #ewf14

A recap of a week in blogging, inspired by the Emerging Writers' Festival, Melbourne, Australia.

A lady of letters in residence of late in the hills of the Northern Rivers - the lush upper reaches of New South Wales - takes flight for a week of literary festival, trams and temperate weather on Kulin country, otherwise known as Melbourne.
‘More than an opening night to a writers' festival - it was an awakening….’

Blog link : Arrival #ewf14

This was one of those break open, take a good look at yourself and re assemble with optimism literary festival days.

Get all the information you think you need – and write.
Do your research and decide what is best for you – to publish.
Yes, you will bullied, distracted, teased, humiliated and hectored by those who don’t understand a writer’s life – and so, writing is the only freedom you will ever know.

If you want a friend – create them.
If you think you have enemies - ….. use your imagination.

And in the words of someone who is often asked how she achieved literary rewards and renown, who I wish I knew the name of,' if you want more success as a writer…WRITE BETTER!'

Link: Back Yourself

And it was only a matter of time before all things turned to Twitter…it came into the rooms of duffle coats, scarves and coloured tights, sprawled in the corner, then proceeded to interrupt every conversation for the remainder of the Festival – I gave it a cheery wave, and blogged about it.

People who are not on Twitter don’t like it. Simple as that. And that’s okay. But I don’t much care for country cricket. I can see it from my window, I think it’s going to rain, losers in their revved chevies have arisen from their oxycotin dreams to throb around the lanes, and there’s one of those birds that I call the Skippy bird because it makes that bird song that plays so well across a river.

I have no urge to stand at an open sash window and scream – ‘you fools with your cricket dreams, your chances of playing for Australia are as likely as this country winning the World Cup, and did it occur to you that it just might rain, or did you think of your poor mum – did YOU! -  who’ll be nappysanning grass stains out of your cricket whites for days!’ Slam.

If you are in to Twitter, this is what ranty people who don’t like Twitter seem to be saying.

And for the rest – yes, Twitter is kind of lonely and mean, and some people make it look easy.  Just like some made the Brewarrina Fish Traps make it look like fishing is easy.

They overlook the mastery of physics, preserving a pristine environment and managing a sustainable food source for 50,000+ years. If you don’t examine it, it looks like black fullas found a real easy way to achieve "fish, jump in my mouth".

Do you expect someone to research and write your book for you? To engage an audience so they gather around you in case you say something?

Or do you plan on spending most of your time thinking about how to write better so what is in your head, looks as close as you can get it on the page, even though you may never be happy, really, with how it looks?

Do you want the industry – the system – the world to stay the same?

Or do you want to find a new path for yourself – not locked in to the route with the same view that others have been forced to keep?

Right then.

After a really long day not short on great advice and useful tips for writers, nerds & nerd-writers, I blogged then drafted the outline for a novel. The best of both worlds.

By now I had made nodding acquaintance with a few of the other Golden Ticket holders – those of us who took up the first two rows of every session.

Except for the last session – the art of short story writing – where I dawdled on my way to St Kilda and missed out on a seat. Dethroned, I found a sucken seated leather chair and relaxed into the cracks and a spot of Twitter while keeping one ear cocked to the panel’s musing on just what is, what makes and why ‘short stories?’

It was a great spot till some bloke dressed in “I write” uniform of worn boot heels, saggy assed jeans and '70s was my best era' hair, dragged a bottle of red from it’s bottom shelf hidey hole and struck up a giggling conversation with the usher, with both standing just close enough to me to make every third word from the panel inaudible.

But in between his low octave chortling I picked up some great questions, to which I filled in with answers:
How long is a short story? Till it's finished.
Why do you write short stories? Because they seem to end well short of novel length.
Where do you get your inspiration from? Everywhere.

Now deep into Festival and a person would have to wonder – how many of us are going to make it? The panel of editors gave us a fair idea…and I had a few ideas of my own, after casting an eye around…
 Is it her, with her inner self crafting a plot line, while her outer is giving me crap directions – "no, I am not from Melbourne, I am from another state/time/world. Don't just point in the direction with one languid hand, and definitely do not offer to show me and then wander off in your mary janes and leave me in my night blindness to wander the wet cobble streets".  
Or him, with his big black rimmed glasses who seems to be everywhere, shadowed by a smaller version of himself.  
Or them, who look like radiographers, or IT specialisists but looked most aglow during the ‘Sex Writing Online” lunchtime session?

By this time I was happily climbing aboard trams without a single thought that they might drag me underneath and crush me before I ever got into hardback.
It is a Festival delight that one can leave The Wheeler Centre, pass the chess players up on high, and catch a short tram ride to Federation Square.

My overall assessment of the day of Screenwriting Masterclass panels? 

You need a plan,  a dream and the determination to stick with both.

And new technologies brings dreams alive - cheaper, easier and you can have more control. 

And finally, It put me in mind of my first steps to joining Spike Lee and Steve McQueen on the Cannes red carpet, while not poo-poohing a international blockbuster which meant people walked into buildings, by navigating a giant giraffe’s bum hind quarters. 
The people who make it are the ones who never gave up.

Link: Wishlists

And in composing my response to one of the most heated conversations of the Festival I posted my most read post – a quick fire response that requires hours and hours and hours of research to follow up and respond to the further questions and points of view thrown up by the premise: Who can create black characters?

Some may relish the thought of having a say in writer’s work – and good luck to them, but they need to stand up and say it, not stand behind me and poke me into mouthing their words.

My stance on this is simple … don’t hide behind a black person, real or fictional.

I will have more to say on this no doubt, in between writing a novel, working on a new International Festival, paid commissions and Twitter.

Link: Shame

And my final post while I still had Melbourne dust in my pores was to put up the link to my latest published work – included in the Writing Black anthology – and reflect on what kind of writer am I.

Social media brings a lot more people into a writers world. Our world of solitude; scrimping; pitching and promotion.

I met a Twitter friend for coffee – and a reminder that social media is but the mere glint in the eye of the whole person you rarely get to meet. 

Writers can choose what they wish to expose and we are all seeking a form of manageable connectivity. It's a real pleasure at times when you discover the astute and gifted on line, sparkles with more brilliance in the flesh.

But .... on other occasions, in other people's hands, there are consequences and some are quite nasty.

People will confuse social media profile with your writer existence, to their advantage.

No artist, no writer would stand for anyone taking credit for their work. Absolutely none. If you are on social media…the lines get blurred, ONLY if you are not a writer or an artist, yourself.

My craft….turns into their business opportunity.

My work…is for them to take credit as they call themselves a social media expert, a social justice warrior, and a selfless protector of the silent.

My effort…is theirs to mine to prop up their claims; their website; their pozzible campaign; their ph.d studies; their lectures; their rotation curation account; their blog; their Twitter campaign; their paid work; their lonely nights and their difficult days; and the list goes on of what I am asked for….in any given week.

My sharing….become their claims to collaboration, mentorship and hours and hours of tutelage.

It is one of the down – we’re talking abyss level down here – sides to social media.

But the plus side – and there are much more advantages than not – are that it all goes into the mix and makes me a better writer.  Otherwise it's just me in my cave.

And the best, the very best thing about a writers festival – where I don’t care if they all seem to be young, cavorting in a young person’s space of tiny, tiny writing; colour over substance; and inadequate signage – is confirmation that writing is not a team sport; it has no age limits;   and has the added bonus that amongst a fraternity of writers, at no time will anyone say ‘oh, I thought you said you were writing.....but I keep seeing you on Twitter’.

And my final take home message is if I had a better way of connecting with people, I’d do that, but writing is the best means I have to say ‘this is me and I was here’. 

Cheers Melbourne.

Please note:

My attendance at the Festival was made possible by RegonalArtsNSW and my huge appreciation for their fast turn grant around and commitment to developing the regional arts profile and capacity that the Northern Rivers is fast becoming famous for. And most exciting of all are the initiatives for Indigenous storytellers, writers, screen writers, and filmmakers.

The Regional Arts Fund is an Australian Government initiative supporting the arts in regional, remote  and very remote / isolated Australia.

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