Me and My Fake Girlfriend Go to the Bendigo Writers Festival

Annabel and I attended the Bendigo Writers Festival a couple of weeks ago. I endorse all the kind words about it since. It was well organised, the people were polite, and the venues were excellent, often historic. Anna liked the speed writing/writers block breaker class, where she got to talk to strangers and read new work. The kind of thing that makes me shudder.

I enjoyed most of it (including the blogger you can blame this on), and the footy at the oval next to the theatres. Of note was the session with the publishers. They didn’t reveal anything drastically new, but it is worth mentioning.

Basically, and despite Anna nudging me to raise a hand and ask a question – preferably an enlightening one so to ‘get noticed’, the rules have not changed. One must follow manuscript guidelines, submit to publishers within your genre, edit as best you can and don’t get your hopes up. Publishers are never disheartening, but the most honest answer I’ve ever heard is:

‘We get thousands of submissions, and probably published one last year. The year before I think was two.’

Yes, writers festivals; when they’re not self congratulating on how difficult and great it is to be a writer, there are few surprises on what they have to say.
Not that that is meant as slander. Like I said, I enjoyed the Bendigo Festival, but, oh, how do I put this… I want to hear talks that will challenge, engage, inspire, and provoke. And importantly talks that will bring in the fringe. Those who think writers festivals are just a bunch of people self-congratulating themselves on sitting in a warm office while thinking greatness is making a sentence with good grammar.

So, if you can withstand my slight irritability at my own kind, here’s a few topics I’d like to see at the next festival (and he writes fully aware that he has no responsibly in coordinating any of it).

New Writing
Take selected works from the fringe and challenge the mind. Read some of the horrible stuff Gertrude Stein wrote (Ed: or Ern Malley). Even if it is rubbish, it will be worth considering the extremes so we don’t fall off the edge… or like Vikings of lore we can discover there is no edge.

Grammar Rodeo
If there is one thing aspiring/emerging writers want to know, its/it’s where/were their/they’re comers/commas go/went. It might sound simple but trust me. Everyone learns something at a Grandma Rodeo.

Persuasive Writing
Let me put it this way. If you don’t put this talk on it will cost money and jobs! Small and big business, entrepreneurs, the keen of mind, advertisers, marketers, etc, etc, all demand it. Writing persuasive copy is a craft, and is must be at future festivals.

Opinion v Journalism
This is topical right now, as Rupert Murdoch runs newspapers riddled with his opinion, and impossible as it might me, imagine having Andrew Bolt sit and argue the case for airing a personal opinion against someone who focuses on researched fact (unfortunately no reporter example springs to mind).

Secretly I Read
Annabel thinks I’m a bit stupid. This is because between reading the likes of F.Scott Fitzgerald and J.D. Salinger, I like to read some Terry Pratchett and J.K.Rowling. I tell her this is because popular books of today are the classics of tomorrow, and that ‘To hell with being 100% uber-intelligent. Reading should be fun.’ She still laughs (maybe it’s the Wodehouse), but I say romance, sci-fi, murder mystery, action-adventure, et al all require quality writing and get people reading.

Writers talk of success.
This is a selfish wish. A chance to take my project out of the warm office (aka draughty back room when mum and dad don’t visit and Annabel lets me be), and speak of it like a real professional. Even a chance to pitch at those publishers who skim over my manuscripts. In all, a chance for a few local writers to pretend they have success, and talk about what they are writing close.

When I grow up I want to be a writer.
Oh! how I wish I had this. A side from not being force read Z for Zachariah, I am David and Wake in Fright when I was a school kid (scaring me for years from reading again), I wish to have been a child and heard a talk on what it takes to be a writer. Any writer: novels, poems, lyrics, scripts, copy, journalism, blogs, anything. Now I know that, outside of temperament, interest, and desire, it takes very little. Then again those three things are rare for any one person to have.

Ok, there we go. Blog one done. And I barely had to lift a finger to be published… typing excluded.


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