The Emerging Writers’ Festival is an immersive experience. It fits a concept one of my creative writing tutors talked about in first semester – interstitial spaces; physical or mental spaces between your usual routine. Other festivals in the city you live in, such as the Melbourne Writers Festival, for me, seem like casual disparate tastes of separate events, where as EWF feels more like a festival you’d travel away for, like the Byron Bay Writers Festival. EWF seduces you into allowing your normal routine to recede into the background for the eleven or so days it rises out of the ground and asserts itself into Melbourne’s cultural life and cultural lives.
It’s hard to explain, but I feel like EWF occupies your mind whilst you occupy the events physically. It changes your mindset, focuses you on writing with all your senses until you forget about the real world, just for a little bit. Sometimes I think writers need to do that. There’s all this pressure not to take writing so seriously, especially if you’re not being paid for it, to treat it as an added extra if there’s more time, but the conversations and thoughts thrown up in the air for the last two weeks have cut against all of that.
I’m not usually a social person and it takes a lot of effort to push out of that, but EWF makes that easy too. I have pushed myself to really experience the whole thing this year, to recalibrate my creative bearings, and stick my hand up for as much as possible. And it’s heartening to get the sense that these efforts do not go unnoticed and I’ve felt very welcome over the last few years. Outgoing Director, Lisa Dempster and others have mentioned a few times that regular fixtures of the festival earn greater opportunities, and that’s true even if you are not on staff or an artist. That barrier between those on the stage and those in the audience is so blurred that it can be hard to tell. And people like me often feel like they have a role in creating the experience as much as consuming it themselves.
Aside from the ecstatic joy of seeing my name in print in The Emerging Writer, some of the more informal conversations have been the most rewarding and clarifying.
The question now becomes what to do with it all. How do you emerge from The Emerging Writers’ Festival? There can be a bit of fatigue and a feeling of disorientation akin to emerging out of a movie theatre into the sun. And all of the creative energy can be so full on that it’s hard to focus on the next few steps to use it all.
One idea is to embrace our inner geek as Meg Mundell did, and write a list and create a bit of a plan, but also I’d like to see that there’s less of a distinction between the short time in the festival and the time outside of it. A lot of people I chatted to over the festival, I hadn’t seen since the year before and I’d like to keep connected over the next year. The online writing website set-up by the festival is a good step in that direction where we are seeing EWF becoming less of this annual festival and more of a full-time writers hub and organisation that rivals a lot of the established organisations. I would totally like to become a ‘member’ of EWF like people might become members of Victorian Writers or Australian Poetry.
But first, I have a fucking philosophy essay to after a nice sleep in tomorrow morning…