Emerging Writers’ Festival—Town Hall Conference Sunday

A little bit late, but I thought I should complete my posts on the Emerging Writers’ Festival. On Sunday I went along to just two sessions at the Town Hall Writers’ Conference—I’m not surely brain could’ve coped with anymore. Some very vague and incomplete notes are below.


In a session on Digital Writing, John Weldon came out with this gem: “Having an online presence is a bit like having a gym membership. Most people get one, but then never go. To get something out of it, you have to actually go.”

In the afternoon, I went along to a session on Life Writing, in part because I write personal essays and creative non-fiction, and in part because I’m currently writing an essay about the complexities of narrating the self. Comedian and writer, Luke Ryan, and author and program director of Creative Writing at RMIT, Francesca Rendle-Short, discussed the difficulties of writing about yourself. A couple of interesting notes:

“In any family, you always have as many mothers as the are children.” (Rendle-Short)

Luke, whose writing frequently relates to his two run-ins with cancer, says writing the narrative of his illness allows him to control how people speak to him about it. Because his writing is funny, he hopes that people will stop being terrified of talking about he disease.


I came away from the afternoon, and indeed the weekend, with far too much to think about. It’s been awfully difficult to concentrate this week — but it’s kind of nice to know that there are new ideas and connections forming in my mind. Hopefully my vagueness hasn’t worried my yoga students too much.

Emerging Writers’ Festival launch

I’m in Melbourne this weekend (well, I’ve made it a long weekend) with my housemate (my Wifey) for the Emerging Writers’ Festival. We got up early yesterday morning and flew down, both on very little sleep (excitement had kept us both up the night before maybe?), and spent the afternoon doing some writing work in a cafe recommended to us by the lovely Ms LiteraryMinded (Ange).

In the evening we ventured into the city (along with Ange) in search of a cheap and cheerful dinner, which we had along with perhaps a wee bit too much wine. As a result, we turned up at the EWF launch rather giggly. Rather then go into great and lengthy detail about the night, I thought I might just post a selection of my notes from the evening. There are plenty of gaps in these notes, and they were made in the fog of red wine and the excitement that comes with being at a festival. Here they are.


Arrived giggly and a little tipsy.
Familiar faces (including a little swoon at nearly literally bumping into songwriter Paul Kelly)
Tessa Waters, MC: “…wipe the creative placenta from your eyes, & just, you know, emerge.”
Tessa dancing. Us laughing. Bottom shaking. Laughing. Tears of laughter. Not that funny but can’t stop laughing. Aware that other people aren’t laughing as much as Wifey, Ange and I. Still laughing. Tassels shaking. Laughing. “Too much champagne already,” says Tessa once she’s finished her dance. Yep. I hear you.

Ruby J Murray
“Everyone of you will know what it feels like when you learn a new word, and you experience the world through this new thing.”
“We only have one word for their thousand beginnings, which is ‘acorn’, and only one word for their thousand ends, which is ‘oak’.”
Talk of loss of Indigenous languages. We miss out on a way to describe this place. “I will do what all writers should do, which is listen.”
“But in the end it’s all up to us to listen.”
Think about the ground beneath our feet, and what it means to the Indigenous leaders for us to be here.

Lisa Dempster introduces the festival.

Wishing suddenly that I could go to the launch of the Emerging Writer at the National Gallery (there’s an essay of mine in this beautiful book).
Aware suddenly that lots of garlic and onion at dinner was probably not a good idea if I want to actually talk to anyone after the official stuff is over.

Monash University Undergraduate Prize for Writing announced.
Monash winner—Michelle Li
Overall winner—Tully Hansen

International guest—Anita Sethi
“Each story itself is a journey” from the mind of the writer, through the pen or computer, to the reader.
The world is teeming with stories.
“History and fiction blur, and the imagination fills in the gap.”

Fiona McGregor, a call to arms:
Suspend the adjectives—get rid of the emerging, or at least think about what it means.
Maybe get rid of the adjective and return to the noun—writer, writing.
“We still have this urge for this gathering in the flesh.”
“Festivals are about the performance aspect.”
“Writing still necessitates retreat.”
Thinking space needed.
George Orwell—Why I Write
The four things: the best writers manage to keep all four in the air.
Ego, aesthetic, history, political purpose.
“As solitary as this work is, it has to be plugged in to the here & now.”
Writing is a job. If you want to survive, you have to set alarm and get up. You have to deal with days where you do nothing—worse, where you do harm.
“What are you doing it for? Because you’re mad.”
But then some days it works—”and when you share it, it chimes.”
Cherish the lonely space, the space of discomfort.
A reminder that solitude is scary, but wonderful. Cherish it.

Tessa Waters, introducing Omar Musa, talks about hip hop and dancing. On krumping: imagine yourself a very short person in a very big boat and you’re just rowing.

Omar Musa
My Generation