Wednesday, August 31, 2011

MWF 2011: Emerging Writers

From the MWF Program: Hear from key people in Melbourne's best loved organisations supporting new voices in writing, and from freelancers making their way in publishing. In this session we discuss ideas on finding a community as a writer, routes to getting published and building your profile on your way to success.

Tony Thompson, Steph Bowe, Johannes Jakob and Lisa Dempster

Day 3 already - guys, this week is flying by! My first session today was Emerging Writers, chaired by Tony Thompson. It was a really strong panel and judging from the questions at the end of the session, split between students and aspiring writers. Here's a glimpse at what was talked about:
  • Lisa Dempster spoke about her role as director of the Emerging Writers Festival, and about the aims of the festival (writers talking to writers about writing!). Lisa is a vocal supporter of DIY, indie presses and self-publishing.
  • Johannes Jakob is the current editor of Voiceworks (which I subscribe to and urge you all to go and buy copies!), and is designed to bring attention to new writers. Johannes also has a podcast with Madeline
  • Steph Bowe is a seventeen-year-old blogger and published author (and I had the pleasure of seeing Steph speak at last year's MWF).
  • I'd like to take a moment to say what an awesome chair Tony Thompson was - I know the focus is on the panel during these things, but lately it's really struck me how important it is to have a good chair manning the session. Tony did a fantastic job introducing the guests and leading the discussion. Most of my notes below are responses to specific questions or topics bought up.
What should you do with a finished piece of writing?
  • Johannes: Leave it for a month (as hard as it might be) before doing anything with it, then you'll see it with fresh eyes and be more open to making changes and edits. Johannes also recommended sending your work to places you like reading.
  • Steph: Had other people look over her work (having built up some online writing contacts through her blog) to get an impartial opinion and generate useful feedback.
  • Lisa: Advocated getting your work online and spoke passionately about blogging - about the way a blog gives you regular writing practice, gives you feedback, encourages interaction and helps develop your writing skills.
How important is it to be a part of a writing community?
  • Lisa: Encouraged the audience to attend festivals and stressed the importance of "getting out of your bedroom and meeting other writers".
  • Johnannes: Spoke about the way that the internet and social media has helped eradicate some of the barriers that have previously existed - as writers can now approach and connect with other writers and publishing personnel online.
  • Steph: Talked about perceptions of writers, about her own shyness and and encouraged aspiring writers to put themselves out there. Interestingly, she also reminded the audience to not think of other writers as their rivals.
How can you stand out from the dreaded slush pile?
  • Steph: Research! Send your work to the right people (before submitting your work to an agent, published or journal - find out what they like and what they are looking for).
  • Johannes: Good writing! Write what you are interested in, are passionate about and send it
  • Lisa: Contacts! Whilst a good contact doesn't guarantee a publishing contact, interacting with the community can have huge benefits.
What are you reading?
  • Lisa: Wake in Fright (Kenneth Cook)
  • Johannes: 2666 (Roberto Bolano)
  • Steph: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Jonathan Safran Foer)
Once again I sat next to the amazing Megan Burke, so be sure to check out her live-blog from the session. Also, if you are an aspiring writer interested in sending your work to an agent, you can check out some of my tips in the series I wrote for Ricochet.


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