Going to conventions costs money, costs time and I’m very aware that it can be one of the best investments a writer can make, or a procrastination tool and a bit of a junket. Here’s an analysis of two of the festivals I went to in 2008, I’ll get to the rest later, so I’ll have a good memory/knowledge base for what festivals and conventions I’ll go to in the future and might be useful to others trying to decide on events.
Emerging Writers Festival
This was my first Emerging Writers Festival, held down in Melbourne. A great festival focusing on the craft and content of writing. There was a great collegiate feel and thanks to attending a panel on what publishers want I was inspired by the new directions of Meanjin and this lead to more published work. The Making of the Scientist, essay plus comic was published in the December issue of Meanjin, although it was written and approved many many months before.
I really enjoyed the down to earth attitudes of my fellow writers. No whinging, a good work ethic and on the whole an understanding and a love of the craft. I know a successful playwright who will not go to writers festivals, has never been… because, well he thinks they’re too wanky. I think I could lure him out for this one even though he’s very much an established writer, he’d get lots of value out of it (and get to grumble in a very entertaining manner about these whippersnappers).
My favourite panels were about the process of creating a specific work. Rather than boiled down generalisations or focusing on a specific aspect of the trade creators spoke about the process, start to finish, of getting something published. Fascinating stuff, great food for thought and having that structure really cut down on twinkish repetitive questions from the audience, while inspiring interesting questions and conversations. Their Ambassador scheme was absolutely brilliant and I hope they do it again. I flew down just for the festival and it was well worth the cost.
ACT Writers Festival
Volunteered for my local ACT Writers Festival, and really enjoyed my volunteering experience. Through this festival a whole range of knowledge and experience crystalised, I took another step forward and started writing much better pitches. My slim novel In Her Own Words is still getting rejection letters, but they are now personalised rejection letters with nice comments about my writing. Onwards and upwards! After the collegiate vibe of the Emerging Writers festival I did find the ACT Writers Festival… well, it felt more fragmented and… I hate to say it, whingier. The Emerging Writers Festival had some innovative ways to deal with this problem, but a lot has to do with who’s in the audience and how they dominate the space.
The pitching competition was fantastic, and very well run. It was great to see how other people present, see the judges comments and afterwards the judges were generous with their time when giving further crits. Not the sort of experience you get often and I’m so glad the Writers Festival Pres poked me into entering. Lots of good stuff, was great to meet new and old friends and there was a lovely sense of community – though in classic Canberra fashion it can take a while to find.