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5am Melbourne – After the Emerging Writers Festival

5am Melbourne – After the Emerging Writers Festival

The Emerging Writers Festival is over. I had a rocking good time. Met some lovely people. Had the brain juices stimulated, challenged, soothed and had some of my wackier ideas encouraged! Beware.

As always, I didn’t attend most of the panels I intended to go to. Instead I wandered from interesting thing to interesting thing and like a jellyfish followed the currents that found me. There were times when I was juiced up on the best drug of all (ideas), mind and mouth rambling and brain sparking off in all directions from good company.

There were some times when I was asked some really hard questions about my own work, discovered some deep emotions and subtext to my graphic novel script that I had never realised. I felt confused, sad, struggling, lost and around my own writing – going back to my hotel with a laptop full of mud… And built a bridge, got over it and wrote important words. There is still some difficult work to be done (and dusted before Clarion), but I’ve made an important breakthrough… now I just have to hold on to it.

If I do something with 10% of the ideas I’ve had at the festival it shall be a good year. I got up at 5am this morning, with three articles bubbling in my head. Dragging myself up before the morning light I ignored those concepts completely and wrote a comic script instead. I thought it would be a good fun fluff piece (if slightly disturbing) for Tango’s new anthology Love and War. But as I wrote it, dammit, I realised it had a deep and meaningful subtext directly relevant to the theme of the anthology. Ben Hutchings would be the perfect artist for it if he’s available and willing. The working title of the comic? Love and Spandex.

Little liz – the accident prone years

Little liz – the accident prone years

… no the accident prone years would mean just about any year. I am writing this with a strapped finger after getting a deep slash in my finger while examining suitcases.

I wrote up this anecdote to share with my Co-Clarionaters, we’re getting to know each other and Mr
The scene. Midnight, an eight year old Liz is cutting up a chocolate syrup bottle with stanley knife (box cutter). The plastic is really hard and I am tired and impatient and get careless. The stanley knife suddenly swishes really smoothly through plastic and over one of my fingers.

There’s a lot of blood. Everyone is sleeping and I know I shouldn’t be up and I don’t want to bother anyone and I don’t want to get into trouble so I stifle any kind of sound and try to apply first aid.

My parents, woken by random sounds and movements late at night find a bathroom with blood splats and a messy pile of bandaids that keep floating off.

My parents say “What’s going on?” with some urgency.

I hide my hand behind my back and say “nothing” convinced I am going to be in the biggest trouble ever for being so stupid with a knife.

I don’t get into trouble at all and am whisked off to hospital where I get a tetanus shot, many local anesthetic injections and get two stitches. I watch with fascination as the thread passes through my flesh and somewhere in the back of my head I’m thinking “Wow this will make a great story.”

I’m particularly pleased that I will remember this as I’m still cross that I don’t remember breaking my leg when I was three ’cause that was really cool and my leg bent at a funny angle. It’s very unfair I don’t remember breaking my leg especially because my brother says that when you break a limb it heals to be stronger and so my chances of ever having a broken leg again have been reduced by 50%.

I get a day off school to recover and I traumatise my little sister for years and years with slow graphic descriptions of watching needle and thread go through flesh.

Even at eight everything was material to observe and absorb to use for later and my technique for any kind of trauma or scary thing is “this will be useful material”.

Wonderful scholarship news

Wonderful scholarship news

I just got some great news from the good people at Clarion. I have received some scholarship support from the following organisations/groups/foundations:

  • Walter and Marjorie Farrell Scholarship
  • The Farrell Scholarship in Honor of Tina Spell
  • IBM
  • Clarion Foundation and UCSD Knight/Wilhelm Endowed scholarships

You can find out more about the scholarships on the Clarion Sponsorship page.

I feel honoured that they’ve deemed me worthy. Excuse me while I do a happy dance.

I feel so fortunate, going to Clarion is a scary financial commitment, especially on the variable wages of a freelancer. Since my acceptance the Australian dollar has rallied and improved, saving me a considerable amount of money. I have sold my car for a good price and earlier than I thought (saving money on servicing and insurance, not to mention parking and petrol as I have no choice but to walk, bus or car pool). I have got several chunky projects that have also helped to bring in the dollars as well as give me amazing life experiences and see more of Australia before leaving my homeland.

The life of a freelancer can be financially precarious and as a person of relatively modest spending (or at least no regular expensive habits) one of the psychologically difficult things about shifting to a freelancer has been the struggle to save money. I discovered how much of my self esteem is tied into being able to put a little away each fortnight and being able to pay off debt quickly. Now the struggle is more epic, clawing ahead, then taken out by unexpected bills and the grind of a morgage, a quiet spell or some surgery. The joy of money and the sorrow of payments more profound, it reminds me of being a uni student.

The scholarships do not pay for all of my tuition, but it makes such a difference. I can feel my mind expanding, knowing that I have more savings to cushion me during the ups and downs of a freelancers life. A few more dollars to support my ongoing creative development and the scary adventure of living in a new country.

I am filled with gratitude.

2008 review continues, two festivals in detail – Emerging Writers Festival and ACT Writers Festival

2008 review continues, two festivals in detail – Emerging Writers Festival and ACT Writers Festival

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.

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