My Melbourne Writers Festival Experience

After my last post I did get a chance to attend a couple of events at the Melbourne Writers Festival, so here (to make up for a bit of a blogging hiatus), are some recollections and thoughts. Better late than never!

I ended up only attending free events, but I was not disappointed! Though the festival began on Friday the 21st of August, my first event was on the night of Thursday the 27th: The Festival Club. This event, which was on most nights, offered a mixed bag of what the festival had to offer. The main portion of this event when I was there was the SPUNC Reading and Writing Spectacular. SPUNC stands for Small Press Underground Networking Community, for those not in the know, so it was a good showcase of small indie publishers doing great things! Three things stood out that night:

  • Affirm Press’s Rebecca Stafford spoke about their upcoming Long Story Shorts: short story collections that they’re currently planning and accepting submissions for. If you’ve got a collection of short stories in your drawer, computer or mind, then you should send something their way. This is a publisher doing a great mix of things, and I’m interested to see what they come up with.
  • Sleepers Publishing was represented by author Kalinda Ashton, whose new book The Danger Game had previously failed to entice me, but after hearing her give a reading, I think I might have to check it out. Sleepers is becoming more awesome by the day: they put out a weekly video newsletter, the annual Sleepers Almanac and, recently, The Age Book of the Year, Things We Didn’t See Coming by Steven Amsterdam, which I can’t wait to read.
  • Finally, I correctly answered a question (“What will Affirm Press’s short story collections be called?” See above!) and MC Angela Meyer rewarded my attentiveness with a copy of My Extraordinary Life and Death, a delightfully hilarious little picture book! Huzzah!

So my night was interesting, informative and I got a freebie!

On Saturday the 29th, I went along with friend and girlfriend to watch that day’s Artist in Residence: the author and illustrator Shaun Tan. If you haven’t seen or read his work, check out The Arrival. It’s a fantastic story about the immigrant experience told without words. And for no price beyond the tram ticket to get there, we could sit in our deckchairs and watch Shaun choose a little doodle from his sketchbook and then turn it into a finely crafted pen-inked drawing of a griffin mother and child, or wax crayon picture of a sinister penguin banker. We could either watch up-close or see his handiwork projected onto a huge video screen. He made it look so simple! He was a friendly guy; he would chat to people and answer questions as he was drawing. He even signed dozens of people’s books purchased from the nearby festival Readings store, including my friends copy of Tales From Outer Suburbia … I really must borrow it someday.

Shaun Tan giving a speech

Shaun Tan giving a speech

(Photo by anna_t, under a Creative Commons by-nc-sa license)

In our brief chat, I was intrigued to hear that he also did some of the preliminary concept drawings for the animated films Wall-E and Horton Hears a Who and is working on an animated short at the moment. This whole experience just cemented that he’s one of my favourite artists. It was so cool to get a chance to watch and engage as a talented artist created his work. Inspiring stuff! I just wish I could have seen some of the other artists and authors in residence.

Later that evening, I got along to another Festival Club. The Age’s Literary Editor, Jason Steger, was there for a chat. Among the interesting tidbits was his revelation that he read War & Peace in just one day, spread across a couch at home. And he gives it two thumbs up!  Other than that, there was more from SPUNC:

  • A representative from Spinifex Press spoke about their new work Getting Real: Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls. It sounds like a comprehensive and important work on a troubling topic. The brief interview gave me the impression that this is a bigger problem than I’d ever suspected.
  • Emmett Stinson, who some of you may have had classes with, spoke about Wet Ink, where he’s the Fiction Editor. They were giving away free copies and I managed to bag one. I’ve had a look over a few issues now and it’s a quality publication. I’d like to subscribe once I get a real job as , say, a Fiction Editor?
  • There were words with the editor of Extempore, a biannual jazz journal, which actually sounds really amazing, even though I know next to nothing about jazz.
  • And Griffith Review, yet another journal that looks intimidating in its greatness. I don’t think I’ll ever have time to read all the snazzy-looking publications out there, thanks to events like this!

All in all, another great day and night at the festival!

My final part in the festival experience was a little bit of The Morning Read on Sunday the 30th, the final day of the festival. This event, chaired by Torpedo’s Chris Flynn, ran almost every morning of the festival and presented three authors reading from their works and fielding questions from the audience. I’d never heard of any of the three, but I was pleasantly surprised:

  • Peter Bakowski was first, and he got past my misguided prejudice against the pretentious beret-wearing poet cliche with his gentle, wise and casually talented words and manner. His reading of Portrait of blood floored me. I want to get one of his books already.
  • Petina Gappah, a Zimbabwean author, read some short excerpts. I’ll definitely keep her in mind, with her detailed and colourful tales of daily life in Africa.
  • I didn’t hear Nicholas Rothwell read any of his work, but he did field some questions. He was so softly-spoken, introspective and thoughtful and used such descriptive language, I assumed he was a poet too. But upon internet research: nope! Journalist for The Australian!

Goes to show you can’t judge a book by its cover!

Aaaaaand with that, I think that’s enough literary-related blathering for several weeks, at least on this blog. I promise my next post will be short, pithy, well-chunked and related purely to the interwebs.

In summation: There were so many events I wish I could have made it to, but I’m glad I saw what I did. I feel much more familiar with the festival and know exactly what sort of things I want to get in on early, next year. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to see everything I want in 2010!

Beyond that, for anyone else who’s interested, the MWF Website has a roundup of all the blogging that’s been done about this year’s festival, as well as a selection of audio/visual recordings from the programme.

So that should have you covered if you missed out! Anyone else manage to see anything? Don’t let me be a lonely litnerd!

Advertisements

Melbourne Writers Fest

This being my first year living in Melbourne, studying and internshipping and engaging with all things writing, editing and publishing, you’d think I’d be all over the Melbourne Writers Festival.  But nope, not exactly. I’ve been busy and thus far my participation has been solely digital. I’ve been attending vicariously, via those fortunate enough to attend all sorts of festival events from free to fancy. My online pseudo-participation has come mostly from the varied musings on the MWF Blog and the festival diary of Miss LiteraryMinded. It’s not the same as the real thing, but it’s great to get a look at all the things I can’t attend, just for a slice of what’s on offer.

Luckily the festival still has a few days left (until the 31st) and I should be able to make it to some free events closer to the weekend. Maybe I’ll even find some spare change for some of the pricier events, if they aren’t booked out.

Anyone else attending anything/planning to/wanting to/um, not wanting to?

Ooh, and here’s the MWF trailer, which I think is pretty rad for an ad:

The future of books?

Don’t worry if e-readers take over, those chunky old hardbacks will still serve a purpose: as a case for your Kindle.

It’s interesting how this website is starting a little craft enterprise out of this idea. They do it for other models, and even for iPhone. Not sure if they’re the first to have done it for e-readers, but it’s the first I’ve heard of it.

It’s a perversely intriguing idea. You can keep the tactile sense of a real book in your hands, the smell of it, and the ability to show off the book you might be reading on the tram (although it could be just one of the thousands you really have stored inside). But I guess it’s going to make the original book a little hard to read.

Still, all in all, a cute idea. I wonder if they’ll ever design an e-reader that actually looks like a book, with a genuine textured display screen cover showing the title of whatever you’re reading, genuine page-rustling noise when clicking the turn pages button and a smell dispenser for that genuine old book scent! Why, it’ll be the best of both worlds! …Or not?

It begins…

Hello and welcome to DuncanWritingEditingPublishing (DWEP?), a blog named not just for its overall theme, but for the process that goes towards it appearing before your very eyes! Incredible!

In keeping with this theme (or at least the P part), I’ve been pretty interested in where publishing is going, especially seeing as how it’s a field I’m looking to work in. But in the world of digital/online/‘new’ media, it seems most of us with access to the interwebs are already into it via self-publishing: uploading music to MySpace, tortured poetry onto LiveJournal or, hey!, blogs like this.

Anyway, as far as traditional book publishing goes, I’ve been exploring the issues surrounding the, well, not-so-traditional ebooks and the future of books in general. In particular, one of the main players at the moment seems to be Amazon’s Kindle.

From a few of the articles and blog posts that I’ve been reading, there are both  potential benefits and downsides to reading books on the Kindle, but even the more thoughtful articles seem to have skepticism mixed with enthusiasm. The Kindle may be more environmentally friendly, but it can be creepy in a doubly Orwellian way. Many say to forget the Kindle, using the iPhone is far superior for reading many ebooks.

I’m really keen to try out both the Kindle and the iPhone’s ebook capabilities for myself. But I have the feeling that neither of the devices have got it quite right yet. Maybe in the next round of fancy-schmancy electronic devices, something will come along that really makes ebooks work and brings them into the mainstream.

For now, I’m happy exploring blogs on my big old desktop computer, reading scribbles on smooshed up tree pulp and watching the latest round of The Book vs. The Kindle.