2017 Wrap Up

low light picture taken of a full auditorium from the stage at Melbourne Writers Festival
Packed MWF session I chaired with Danielle Binks and Diem Nguyen: probably the most fun panel of the year

This year was supposed to be my maternity leave year… how did I do keeping to my goal of not taking on any major projects? Well, let’s say I failed, but I failed well.

Linus was born November 2016, and I did manage to have almost a full 12 months without a major project. I did, however, take the opportunity to be a guest at the International Literature Showcase in Norwich, City of Literature. And then I accidentally (on purpose) fell into the perfect part-time role at the Centre for Youth Literature (CYL) at State Library Victoria.

So why did I knowingly divert from my 2017 goal? Because these two opportunities were worth it. Visiting Norwich and meeting literary programmers, producers and artists from all over the world was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I felt so fortunate to be the only Australian in attendance and learned so much in my week in Norwich. Joining CYL has been a career goal for me for as long as I can remember. It’s one of the few workplaces I see doing youth-driven, engaging programming for YA lovers. The chance to deepen my YA knowledge (I’m a huge YA reader) and learn from this experienced team of programmers and producers was one I couldn’t pass up. Not to mention it happens to be the perfect part-time fit for my current life with two children.

These two things are my clear work highlights of 2017. As I wrote about earlier this year, it wasn’t a stellar year for reading. I finished up reading 50 books, which is far less than I’ve managed for quite a while. That’s what having a baby does to your hobbies! I also facilitated some really great panels at Reading Matters, Melbourne Writers’ Festival and the inaugural Feminist Writers Festival: I always feel so lucky to speak with writers whose work I love such as AS King, Lili Wilkinson, Shaun Tan, Penny Modra and Kyo Maclear.

I’m looking forward to 2018. When I joined CYL it was on a short contract until the end of the year but I’m incredibly happy to have extended that until mid 2018. I’m really enjoying the role and working with some great people. It does mean that I am unlikely to get much writing done, but as always producing brings a different kind of work pride and enjoyment. I’d like to read more books next year, too. I think that’s my only firm goal for the year professionally: read more. Always nice to set a goal you enjoy.

MWF 2017

Tomorrow is my first day presenting at MWF 2017. As per my earlier post, I have six excellent sessions to host. Day one kicks off with two sessions in the schools program (Oliver Phommavanh doing writing exercises with students and Leena Van Deventer talking about writing video games). Did you know that the schools program is exclusively for young people? That’s right, no adults allowed. It’s one of the things I admire about the festival as especially in the YA space there can be a sense that adult fans are edging out young people. So no, if you’re over 18 you can’t come along and enjoy those sessions as much as you might want to.

My public session tomorrow is one I am so looking forward to. Sexism as a Mental Health Crisis will be held at QVWC, which is a gorgeous venue and they always make such lovely hosts. In preparing with the writers, it’s clear this session could easily run for double the time allotted and we still wouldn’t be covering everything. It’s a topic rife for deep analysis and I can’t wait to hear what these women have to say.

FFS Update

After much soul-searching, FFS has decided to postpone our FFS: Whose Conception is it Anyway event which was scheduled for this Saturday 26 August.

As most of you know, the event clashes with the Equal Love Rally. We were disappointed when it was announced as being on the same date as our latest panel, but hoped that people might be able to go to the rally and still attend the panel later in the day. As the rally information has become more available it’s clear this will be difficult for most people to manage.

Ultimately, we don’t want to be a deterrent to anyone attending the march. We are passionate about LGBTIQ+ rights, and believe that this rally is a priority for our community and us. It doesn’t sit right to be hoping people will rush off after marching to attend an event.

We will be offering a refund to all ticket holders, or you can hold on to your ticket and use it at the rescheduled event. We will be working with our speakers and venue to find another date to present the panel in the near future.

Thanks for understanding, and our apologies to anyone who is inconvenienced by this decision. It’s not one we have come to lightly. We look forward to marching with you all on Saturday!

Details for the Equal Love Rally can be found here.

Image by Jen Clark. If you would like a free downloadable version of the poster in the image Jen Clark has generously provided a downloadable version for you to print.

FFS: Whose Conception is it Anyway?


Feminist Family Salon (FFS) returns with a conversation about making families in new ways. Our panel will explore conception, pregnancy, birth and our bodies. How do we navigate the many different ways we can bring babies into the world when our family doesn’t fit the nuclear mould? Is how we conceive, grow and birth our child political? Does the ‘how’ of how our babies come into the world matter?

For more details see our Facebook event page. Tickets can be purchased via TryBooking.

2.30pm Saturday 26 August 2017

Farouk’s Olive

711 High Street Thornbury

Melbourne Writers Festival 2017

Every year when I’m asked to facilitate panels at Melbourne Writers Festival I pinch myself. The festival, particularly in the last five years under Lisa Dempster’s helm, is such a joy. I have found myself chairing sessions with writers I admire or talking about topics I’m passionate about. I love the opportunity to immerse myself in their work and explore what they write. This year I am hosting the following panels:


Write Here, Write Now

10am Tuesday 29 August

Budding writers, join author and stand-up comedian Oliver Phommavanh in this rapid-fire writing skills session! Learn exercises designed to beat writer’s block and finesse your writing skills to get you on your way to being a true wordsmith.


Video Games Writing

11.15am Tuesday 29 August

How do you write video games? Why are they such a great way of exploring narrative and consequence? Learn the tricks of the trade and explore a new form of writing with games writers Dan Golding and Leena van Deventer.


Sexism as a Mental Health Crisis

6.00pm Tuesday 29 August

Facing relentless discrimination, social stigma and violence, women are expected to succeed in a system that actively works against them. Anni Hine Moana, Zoe Morrison and Jenny Valentish explore the patriarchal structures exacerbating women’s mental ill-health.


Book Talk

12.30pm Wednesday 30 August

How do you share your love of books – blogs, Instagram, podcasts, a book club? Find out all the ways to talk about your favourite books and authors and where to get reading recommendations, with YA enthusiast Danielle Binks and podcaster Diem Nguyen.


Inside Advertising

3.15pm Wednesday 30 August

How are ads made? What are the symbols and language used to capture audiences? Graphic designer Andrea Innocent and arts aficionado Penny Modra take us behind the advertising curtain, with examples of ad images in progress.



1pm Sunday 3 September

Hear beloved children’s author Kyo Maclear (Virginia Wolf) and Australian legend Shaun Tan (The Singing Bones) share their storytelling process and how they inspire imagination in young readers.


There is no way I could pick a favourite as yet again every single one has a topic or author I love, but I must say it’s a particular thrill to be able to grill Shaun Tan about the worlds he creates. Hope to see plenty of you out and about at the festival.

City of Literature ILS Trip: Norwich

After a week of panels, readings and discussions I’m feeling simultaneously exhausted and excited. The ILS has been an invaluable experience and I expect to be digesting all of the ideas and work I have seen for quite some time.

Coming in to this experience I had a clear idea of what I was hoping to do: talk to women from all over the UK and the world about the situation for women writers in their countries. I wanted to know if we faced similar challenges, if the gender inequality we are addressing in Australia is found elsewhere, and if so what initiatives, programs or organisations are working to address this.

The short answer appears to be yes, the challenges faced by women writers in Australia are similar in many other parts of the world. Having said that, there are also countries where women face additional pressures that most women in our country do not, often related to government censorship. It’s also clear that some of our initiatives and organisations are doing work above and beyond what other countries are currently attempting, which is heartening.

I will be returning home with some surprising findings, and some excellent opportunities for international collaboration and learning. I have confidence that we can offer support to each other, and have already seen the generosity of spirit from organisations such as the Glasgow Women’s Library and WoMentoring Project who have offered resources and information to follow up on.

It’s worth noting that as always whenever I talk to women writers there is a genuine desire to help each other out in individual and institutional ways. The sheer volume of volunteer hours and unwavering support is remarkable.


City of Literature ILS Trip: Glasgow Women’s Library

A quick visit to Glasgow allowed just enough time to pop in to the Glasgow Women’s Library. This facility has recently moved to its permanent home in a gorgeous building housing a lending library, archive, craft space, gorgeous function space and offices. Around 20 staff (some part time) work on the programs run by the centre.

Imagine a place where feminism, literature, words, collectivism, politics, community and access are at the heart. The Glasgow Women’s Library is this utopia. I had a tour from one of the staff, Katie, who told me the history of the library and took me into the archive space for a behind-the-scenes tour. We pulled out a box at random, one of the many collected zines, and I poured through finding gem after gem. The collection immortalises the work of women activists and provides a record of the wonderful work women writers have contributed to Scottish society. I could have stayed for days.

My visit made me wonder what a Women’s Library would look like in Melbourne. Would we benefit from a centralised collection of feminist writing and history? Would a space for women to work and draw on these resources be valuable? I head to my next City of Literature (Nottingham) shortly, who also have a Women’s Library I plan to visit. It will be interesting to compare and contrast the two.

City of Literature ILS Trip: Edinburgh

I visited these two fine literary establishments yesterday before leaving Edinburgh. Between the laneway location, cobblestones and dumpster I felt like I could have been in Melbourne. I think the five books I left with (despite my determination not to buy more than one) are a testament to the quality of the stores.

Deadhead Comics had a great display of independent comics, from which I managed to select a pair made by local artists.

Lighthouse Books (formerly Word Power Books) is a really special find, beautifully curated stock with easily the best selection of politics and non-fiction I’ve seen in the U.K.

Had a lovely chat to the owner about our sister cities of literature (she has visited Melbourne and been caught in the Readings trap!) and some of the Australian gems I had noticed on her shelves: Judy Horacek’s Women of Altitude prints on mugs and one of my favourite kids books, Introducing Teddy.

It was a perfect way to end my time in Edinburgh. Off to Glasgow next.

Feminist Family Salon: What is Feminist Parenting?

Yesterday an idea that has slowly germinated and grown finally reached full bloom. Our first Feminist Family Salon took place with a sold out audience and over 100 people watching the live stream of our event.

Our guests Joyce Watts, Nelly Thomas and Amy Gray spent the better part of two hours talking with me about feminist parenting and the many aspects that we consider as we go about the business of helping our kids navigate the world.

If you would like to watch the panel it is available as a Facebook video. Within the next month I will have it captioned so that our hearing impaired and deaf community members can enjoy it as well.

It was frustrating not to be able to get too deep on some of the territory we ventured into, but as my co-creator Pia and I knew, there is too much to explore to ever feel like you’ve done it justice.

After such a resounding success for our first panel we’re keen to get our next event happening soon. There are a list of topics sitting there tempting us, so as soon as we can find the right venue (if only Farouk’s Olive could fit more people in!) we will be back with a new question to interrogate and a new panel to get our community thinking.