I am headed down to Melbourne this weekend to fulfill my role as one of the Ambassadors for the Emerging Writers' Festival, one of the most important events on the Australian literary calendar.
Before I left, I thought I'd ask the director of this year's festival director, Sam Twyford-Moore, some questions:
What is an “Emerging Writer” and who is the Emerging Writers’ Festival intended for?
The Emerging Writers’ Festival is the festival for writers – in that a great deal of the programming is focused around the creative and professional practise of writers. But there are plenty of events for readers to come along and check out the most exciting new writers this country has to offer. Events like Sweatshop Stories, Turn The Words Up Loud, Poet Café and Wild, Wild Life: An Evening of Animal Stories are intended as showcases of some exciting new work and thinking.
I like that everyone has a different take on what an emerging writer might be. The keynote address on our opening night – given by the terrific Astrid Lorange – is really going to look at an emerging writer is. I think it’s a writer who is engaged with the culture around them, constantly evolving their work and ideas, and striving towards something.
Why do you think the Festival has become so enormously popular?
It’s interesting being a first time director on the tenth festival – there’s been a lot of brilliant community building and the festival has provided so much terrific support for writers over the last ten years that the word spreads. I think the EWF is at the forefront of considering the everyday needs of the writer, and that’s why people keep coming back, or new people starting hearing about us.
Do you think it’s a good time to be a writer? Are the book industry changes good or bad for us?
I think it’s an exciting time to be a writer – the opportunities that have been opened up by digital spaces are just incredible. I wouldn’t want to be in another era – it can be hard to keep up with the changes, but it’s also a giant playground out there and there are new audiences out there everywhere, who are looking for something new themselves.
Can you maintain your own writing when you have such a busy job and high profile?
Peak festival times mean that I don’t have so much time for my own writing, but I know when I do get back to it – and I’ve got a couple of things I’m working on in the second half of the year – having come in contact with so many different writers is only going to be good for it.
What books would you recommend for someone starting out in writing?
The books you love the most. I think those will be the books that will make you want to be a writer, and you have to find them in your own way. But if you’re thinking about being a writer, go back and visit them and keep them close to you when you’re writing.
What advice would you give someone to free their inner writer?
Don’t put pressure on yourself to perform and don’t spend too much time comparing yourself to other writers – use the digital space as a place to practise and experiment and have fun. Find other writers who have similar values and work towards a collective goal.