Tag Archives: novella

Write Around the Murray Festival – a review

site-logoWe’re very spoilt for choice in Melbourne when it comes to writing festivals. So much so that they tend to become white noise. From the Melbourne Writers Festival, Emerging Writers Festival, many council/library run festivals to The Clunes Book weekend and Bendigo Writers Festival, just to name a few. But here’s one I suggest that you put on the calendar of events for next year and make a weekend of it.

The Write Around the Murray Festival (Albury NSW) celebrated ten years last week and I only heard of it last year, when I went with my writing group for the weekend. This is a five-day festival that has lots of great content with a great location. Most of the bigger events are held at the LibraryMuseum, right in the centre of town. This venue is fantastic, with the library, bookshop and even a pop-up café.

Unfortunately, I had events to attend in Melbourne, so it was Saturday night by the time I arrived, just in time to meet my fellow panellists for our Publish Me! segment the next day. We discussed the submitted stories over wine (tough job, I know), then headed over to the LibraryMuseum for pre-dinner drinks before the Stereo Stories event.

Stereo Stories @ Write Around the Murray festival
Stereo Stories @ Write Around the Murray festival

Stereo Stories is a great night of song memoirs featuring guest authors with what I would call musical interludes to fit the story. The songs resonated with me because they were from artists such as Paul Kelly. The featured authors were Debra Oswald, Jane Harrison, Anson Cameron and Phillip Murray, all accompanied by the Stereo Stories band. Apparently this group performs at lots of festivals and events, so if you see them out there, try to get tickets. Great food went with this event, so I was well fed with nourishing food and creative talent by the time I fell into bed.

The Publish Me! panel was well attended for a Sunday morning session. I’m guessing quite a few in the audience were writers who had submitted a page for discussion. The panel consisted of Fleur Ferris, Sue Gillett, Jen McDonald and myself, with the task of assessing whether a page of writing had the goods to hook and reel in a publisher. From the nine submissions that we chose, there was great discussion about pace, point of view, showing not telling and intrigue – all elements that we think hook a reader in.

After the session, we were swamped with some of the submission authors wanting to talk more about their pieces. I hope that many of them have gone away with valuable insights to their work that is useful going forward.

I feel as though I really only had a taste of the festival this year, compared to last year, but it was enough to get some creative juices flowing and to get a real buzz from the festival goers. And, I learned a bit of trivia at Stereo Stories: Enid Blyton’s nephew, Carey Blyton, wrote the theme song to Bananas in Pyjamas in 1967!

Blaise the book chick

So you want to be a writer?

Work in progress
Work in progress

In a room full of people I would say that around eighty per cent have at least one book in them. And secretly, many of them have the desire to write it.

But should they?

Each of us has a unique fingerprint and this means that we are essentially one of a kind. So telling a story should be different for everyone. But this doesn’t ring true if you look at what is on offer out in the world of literature. Many people write what they think the industry wants, which comes out as clichéd, risk averse and often boring.

Having a good idea for a novel or an ‘interesting life’ for a memoir, does not make good writing, and even for a seasoned writer, the story that’s in your head doesn’t always translate onto the page as you would hope.

The main reason for this is that people think that they can bang out a story and – hey presto! – there’s a best seller. If only I had a dollar for every time someone came to me saying, ‘This is going to be a best seller’. If anyone could predict such a thing, we’d all be doing it.

I’m a huge advocate for new and emerging writers. And we do a lot of work with people through workshops and mentoring to help them improve their work. But at the heart of great writing is hard work. This is where the wanna-be writer will fall away – once they realise how much sweat and tears goes into it.

So what do you need to be a writer? Yes, there is the need for some talent but there are many out there who write great books on little talent because they put the work in. You need resilience, tenacity and an open mind because to make it in the writing world you will come up against rejection and naysayers over and over again. It will feel like ground hog day. You’ll also need to work and rework your writing until you are so sick of the sight of it that you may want to torch the whole damn lot.

If you asked a writer if they’d do all that work again on a novel they just brought out they may look at you like a crazy person but it’s a bit like childbirth. Once you have that baby in your arms, you forget all the pain and discomfort that went into making it. And then you go back and do it again.

So you want to be a writer? Be prepared to work hard. Don’t give up. And have that vision of yourself holding the baby in your arms.

Blaise, the book chick