‘You’re drinking whiskey this morning?’ – Overheard at The Abbotsford Writers’ Retreat Weekend.
This week I volunteered at the Emerging Writers’ Festival. Yes, that was me passing the microphone during question-time and me giving directions to rooms and toilets. I don’t think I was particularly helpful, but it’s a pleasant thing to be surrounded by writers keen to talk about the process, the passion and the pain.
I’m trying to condense what I learnt from the panels I went to, last year I filled my notebook with pages of notes and concentrated hard on blogging. This year I felt my role as volunteer separated me from being involved directly, I observed and thought about the speakers, their job as interviewer, how many times they said ‘umm’. I watched the crowd and thought about the identity of a writer.
Writers do not have to wander lonely as a cloud. Writers, especially the lovely volunteers I met and worked with, were incredibly social and warm people. Stereotypes be damned, do not use the term ‘writer’ as an excuse for not getting out and talking to people.
Future Media made me think about the use of Twitter, Facebook and blogging. Niche writing spaces are where the growth marketplace for writers is. Aspiring journalists hoping for some good news about the industry were reminded that journalism is not going anywhere but is rather changing models, yet job stability and entry-level cadetships are no longer the norm.
My favourite panel was the Emerging Q&A hosted by Benjamin Law. Unlike ABC’s Q&A I was not caught up in a #qandarage but felt entertained and engaged by the intellectual discussion of the writing world. Jess Maguire’s honesty about struggling with moral issues on whether she should write articles purely for the dough reminded me of the personal implications of using your life to earn a living. But does a full-time writer, trying to make a decent living, have the choice to turn down paid writing jobs? It’s not a simple question to answer.
I spend yesterday at the beautiful Abbotsford Convent wishing for a pair of gum-boots and marvelling the convent bakery’s variety of fresh breads (Beetroot and Sour-dough, yes please!). The festival wraps up tonight but for me it won’t feel finished until I get through my copy of The Emerging Writer. Although I would have liked to have gone to more panels and scribbled more notes I did get to experience a more behind-the-scenes view of the festival, and hopefully help (even just a little bit) writers have an enjoyable time.