I’ve thought about writing this post for a bit, and decided against it until now because I didn’t want to make a big deal of it, but I have a criticism of the Emerging Writers’ Festival this year that I think is worth opening up a discussion about.
I love EWF and have been to it every year since I moved to Melbourne, and it was one of the first outlets for me to meet other writers in Melbourne (as well as the NaNoWriMo group) that really helped me push forward with my writing and make a bigger effort at being published. It’s a great festival that I’d recommend any writer, no matter what level, attends as it’s invaluable for meeting other writers, engaging in debates and discussion around writing in Melbourne and helps you work out how to do.
That said, I wasn’t able to go to much of it this year, for the first time. I bought a ticket to the whole weekend of the Writer’s Conference, the best part, but missed most of the Saturday afternoon because I had my own poetry event on that afternoon, that I’d been booked for before the EWF dates came out, which is definitely not my gripe here, but the past few weeks for me have been fairly busy and I had to miss the Sunday, and a bunch of other events.
I study Creative Writing at RMIT. I’m in second year and started it after becoming engaged with the writing community in Melbourne and really love the course, the chance to study writing full-time. My classmates are all emerging writers too, but we found this year that the Emerging Writers’ Festival, a festival aimed at us, was right in the middle of the end of semester, as assignments were piling up, and with the stress of all those coming down upon me, I had to make the difficult choice of missing the events I wanted to go to.
And I know, speaking to other classmates in my course that they weren’t going to anything this year because of this. Last year, I took programs to my year level to give to everyone to try and get them to come to the festival. I saw myself as an unofficial ambassador because I knew the festival would be perfect for all these writers I’d just met, many just from high school. As I remember last year, the timing was a little better, but I think many missed it for similar reasons.
I realise that EWF can’t cater to every demographic’s whim and schedule and inevitably people are going to have clashes and sometimes miss things, but I feel like Creative Writing students should be a major focus for EWF and getting them along to the festival. EWF offers something quite different to what you study in class; meeting other writers, engaging with publications that you can submit to etc. and would be a perfect thing for me, my classmates and other university students to throw ourselves into during semester break. Our teachers do give us practical knowledge, encourage us to submit etc. but I feel like it’s more effective when our peers and the people were submitting alongside and for are the ones encouraging us.
I know EWF invited many of our teachers to speak at the festival and that’s great, but I think it would be worth keeping in mind next year timing the festival so its accessible to students too, because I love the festival so much that not only do I want to be involved in it next year, but I want to be able to encourage my classmates to come along too.