Kathryn Heyman was the last Ambassador to speak, novelist and with a very sharp mind. After her speech I chatted to her over coffee and she was very thought provoking. In addition to her writing she teaches workshops and occasional mentoring. From my brief and fascinating encounter with her I would not recommend her for a shy author still finding their voice… perhaps because I think it’s important to write that self indulgent poetry without fear when finding your voice (which is very different to expecting that work to be published).
Once you’ve found your voice and are prepared to be properly challenged and made uncomfortable she’s fascinating, fearless, intelligent, will ask you hard questions and won’t let you wimp out on the answers. I can see why she’s very picky about who she mentors. After and while I was speaking to her I went through a rainbow of emotions… and then went back to the hotel and made the script stronger.
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If Ambassador Milroy has a website I can’t find it, but google David Milroy and you will find his name attached to a range of really interesting and well regarded projects. He’s a musician, writer, playwright, artistic director, he’s won Deadly Awards and he has a really nice presence. I found him to be a really down to earth interesting guy with that rare combination of thoughtful plus active plus playful mind. His key points were:
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Rachel Hills was the third Ambassador to speak at the Emerging Writers Festival. Rachel’s a widely published journalist and editor. She’s also an awesome blogger (with many of her articles available to view) and posts interesting tweets linking to interesting articles. I wish I was half as retweetable as her. I was excited to finally meet her, having met her virtually years and years ago when she was working on a story about labiaplasty (now that’s a long story).
Rachel has in her fabulous blogging way put up a transcript of her full talk, you may find it interesting to see the difference between what I distilled and what she said. The distillery says:
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Five skilled wordsmiths, each providing seven gems of knowledge at the Emerging Writers Festival. Luke Devenish was the second to speak. Ambassador Devenish witty, charming and, as is appropriate for a screenplay writer, does good punchy dialogue. He’s a novelist, coming from the land of TV and the stage. He also teaches for AFTRS and has got me seriously considering going back to school. He too has a website. Here’s my paraphrasing of his enviable lines.
- I wish somebody had told me not to believe my own PR. Don’t get a hyped up, bloated ego head.
- I wish somebody had told me the importance of doing more than clever dialogue. To start with I was just a dialogue monkey (ed: Luke didn’t say monkey, Liz just likes to say monkey). Good story takes you to the next level and writing for TV forces you to be a story machine.
- I wish somebody had told me the real deal about agents – you don’t need to have them to get published.
- I wish somebody had told me to keep my gorram mouth open. You must learn how to talk about your work and promote your work. It is a skill you can learn and get better at with practice.
- It pays to be multi-skilled
- It is impossible to have a career without spelling and punctuation
- There is no shame in the lowest common denominator. Next to my computer I have two words SEX and DEATH.
- Just do it
Tomorrow, Ambassador Rachel Hills.
Five skilled wordsmiths, each providing seven gems of knowledge. That’s how the Town Hall program at the Emerging Writers Festival (EWF) is kicked off. The Ambassador Program at the Emerging Writers Festival (or #ewf on twitter) quite simply rocks. The Ambassador’s role is to be available, be ready to have their head picked, brain meats fossicked and have curly questions thrown at them. It sets a wonderful atmosphere of availability and open conversation for the rest of the festival. I hope other writers festivals go for this kind of thing. It’s a wonderful, wonderful program.
Ambassador Pooja Mittal, poet and geek girl was the first to speak and share the seven things that she learned/wished people had told her. Pooja has a lovely fresh voice, crisp intelligent language and a blog. Here are my imperfect notes and interpretations:
- There is no Ivory Tower. Find community, it will help you create, it is important
- All criticisms are constructive. If it’s true and hurts it’s because they’ve found you out. If it has absolutely no grain of truth (and make sure you look)… well then it isn’t a crit.
- Conserve your syllables – it’s a useful tool to help you show not tell. Make sure every sound serves a function and has elegance.
- A writer’s block is just a block in the road, it is no the end of the road. Fallow fields, dry seasons allow the soil to rest.
- Inspiration doesn’t strike, it surrounds
- Change is natural, don’t pigeonhole yourself. Explore different media and different forms. Most creators create in more than one way.
- Give no excuses for your writing – don’t explain what you’re trying to do. Do.
Tomorrow I’ll post Ambassador Luke Devenish’s lines (novelist and highly experienced screenplay writer).
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.