There are some gigs you get asked to do and you do a little fist pump sitting at your desk. For me, Reading Matters is one of those. For those who don’t know, Reading Matters comes around every two years and is the Centre for Youth Literature’s conference on all things YA for librarians, booksellers, teachers and YA artists. The CYL team always put together an exceptional program – informative, engaging and surprising – and I’ve been lucky enough to be asked to host panels for the past two years.
This year I facilitated a panel on politics in YA fiction with local authors Lili Wilkinson and Jane Harrison, and American author AS King. The conversation was as excellent as I hoped it would be. All three authors write books where their protagonists (all women) are living and breathing social justice and politics. The discussion explored domestic violence, environmentalism, teens as agents of social change, racism in fantasy works vs racism in realism (and why we are more comfortable with the former than the latter), feminism and why personal stories can engage more fully with a political concept than dystopian trilogies do.
I left the session feeling really positive. Life is mostly about keeping a seven month old alive and happy at this point than it is engaging with politics, literature and words. That’s okay, but it felt damn good to be back using my brain to tease out a really juicy topic with three writers I admire. I recently received a request to chair some sessions at another upcoming festival and after yesterday I’m even more excited to start preparing for those.
I’m about to embark on a trip to the UK to attend the International Literary Showcase as a delegate from the Melbourne City of Literature. It has snuck up so quickly that I haven’t had much time to take in what a huge opportunity it is and what it will feel like to immerse myself in a conference like this.
At the moment my work schedule is very very part time, which is as close as you get to maternity leave when you’re a freelancer who is passionate about their work. I’ve written some articles, facilitated some panels, launched a passion project (Feminist Family Salon) and can now add participated in an international showcase event. Not bad for a year where I have no childcare, an under one year old and a sleep deprived brain.
As well as the showcase in Norwich I will be popping into another sister City of Literature, Edinburgh, where I plan to re-visit some lovely literary spots like the Scottish Storytelling Centre. I’ll pop in to the Glasgow Women’s Library before heading to the next City of Literature spot, Nottingham. After the ILS in Nottingham I will head to London and hopefully meet with some organisations there too.
It’s an understatement to say this trip will be a great opportunity for me to develop my own skills and networks. I’m so grateful to the Melbourne City of Literature Travel Fund and the Norwich International Literature Showcase for making it possible.
Our first salon is fast approaching and I’m proud to be hosting such an excellent lineup of speakers. We announced over on the Facebook page that Amy Gray, Joyce Watts and Nelly Thomas will be our guests, diving into a conversation which we hope will set the scene for many salons to come.
Nelly Thomas is an accomplished comedian, writer and social commentator. Her book What Women Want was an erudite exploration of being a feminist in Australia. If you’ve seen her on stage, you know we are in for a treat hearing her thoughts on feminist parenting.
Here’s a taste of the kind of satire and insight Nelly is known for, an article in New Matilda earlier this year about childcare and working parents.
Amy Gray is a writer covering topics including feminism, motherhood, pop culture and technology. You’d be hard pressed to have missed her work if feminism and families are your thing. We’re so pleased she can join us for the inaugural salon.
Here’s one of Amy’s recent articles which is a great taste of why we’re looking forward to hearing her thoughts on June 3.
Joyce Watts is the author of the wildly popular TOT: HOT OR NOT site, an invaluable resource for families looking to find welcoming places and events around Melbourne and beyond. Joyce also owns online bike store CycleStyle, produces site-specific creative play events for kids and is a former lawyer.
You can check out TOT: HOT OR NOT to see what Joyce has been up to lately.
I had exciting news this week. I’ve been accepted as a delegate to the International Literature Showcase in Norwich, England. The event takes place in June 2017, with a focus on creating opportunities for cross-cultural collaboration between writers from the UK and the rest of the world. Norwich is a sister UNESCO City of Literature to Melbourne, so visiting has been on my wish list for some time.
In a year when work is on the backburner thanks to baby Linus joining our family it is heartening to receive a professional development opportunity like this one. There are so many exceptional people taking part and the outline for what we will be doing while there is exciting. I’ll be plotting what other literary joy I can fit in on the trip too. I feel a tour of libraries and literary magazines coming on…
Seeing Women in Literary Arts Australia come to life has been one of the proudest moments of my professional life. We launched back in June, and since then my co-conspirators Lisa Dempster and Kate Callingham and I have been quietly working behind the scenes pushing things along. The most important part of this was forming a steering committee to shape what WILAA will become.
Our aim is deceptively simple — to foster community and promote women in the literary arts — but cannot be authentic unless it engages with a broad range of women, many of whom identify as having other intersecting identities which inform their experiences as writers. It is vital that our steering committee reflects the diverse communities we endeavour to work with and for. Out of the individuals we approached only one was unable to join us. We have literally assembled our dream team. The people we felt would take this concept and give it a heart and soul. Some I have worked with before, most I have not. I can’t wait to see where they take WILAA.
So here they are, our steering committee.
This morning I joined the Breakfasters on Triple RRR to review Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things. It was a pleasure to talk about a book that has settled so uncomfortably (in a good way) into my mind.
You can listen to the podcast if you missed it.
This morning I joined the Breakfasters on Triple RRR to review Jane Harrison’s Becoming Kirrali Lewis. This gem of a book hasn’t had nearly the coverage it deserves, so I was pleased to sing its praises on air.
You can listen to the podcast if you missed it.
I started my MICF 2015 off with a great night. This photo was captured by the MICF official Jeez Louise photographer, who is dashing around asking audiences about their favourite female comics. I usually avoid being photographed like the plague, but couldn’t resist sharing how I’d enjoyed my darling friend Sarah Bennetto’s show. It was the first I saw this year, in the Ladies Lounge at the Forum, and it was such a heartwarmingly lovely way to kick off my festival. Sarah is an effervescent joy on and off stage, and audiences adore her.
After Sarah’s show I headed up to Trades Hall to see Lawrence Leung and Andrew McClelland’s shows, both of which were the best I have seen from either of them in years, perhaps ever (and that’s saying something). I love, love, loved them. Lawrence’s show was a return to a more pared-back, standup format. It allowed him to focus on delivering a high-energy, high-laugh performance which the audience ate up. He’s been getting consistently good reviews, and it is easy to see why. Andy’s show nearly killed me. Literally. I laughed so hard I choked. I left with my stomach aching and my cheeks hurting. I can’t speak highly enough of it.
With shows like this on my first night, the bar has been set very high for the rest of the season.
Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2015 kicks off today, and it looks to be a bumper year. I have managed to create an ambitious schedule where I attempt to fit in all the shows I would like to see, but it is hard to balance the realistic aims of seeing as many as I would like with the reality of writing reviews and features on them all.
I’ll be updating here with reviews after they have been published on their original sites (I’m reviewing for Arts Hub and Lip), and I hope to have a long-form essay on an aspect of comedy/the festival at some stage.
At the precipice of a new year it is often tempting to set enormous goals, or to think about radical change. For the past few years the outlook at this time of the year could be boiled down to ‘more of the same’. That wasn’t a bad thing, per say, it was just that with my main work focus being Express Media I didn’t have a great deal of wiggle room in setting ambitious goals in other areas. The thing I most keenly wanted, and aimed for, in 2014 was professional development.
I wanted to be challenged to think about the big picture of my programming and curatorial work. I wanted to have the space to learn, rather than do. I wasn’t set on what kind of professional development it needed to be — a course, a conference, a mentorship — but I did know if I was going to do another year (or part thereof) doing programs I’d already done multiple times before, I needed this kind of engagement. To that end I applied for multiple opportunities, and multiple streams of funding. I was lucky enough to be accepted into the European Festivals Association Atelier for Young Festival Managers. This was a really exciting opportunity; a week to immerse myself in workshops, discussions and presentations on the finer points of creating and running cultural events. On top of this, I was also lucky enough to receive support in the form of funding to take the trip to Poznan from Copyright Agency. They receive so many applications for funding, so to have mine accepted was a wonderful surprise. It made the difference between the Atelier eating all of my savings and only part of them. I’ve written a bit about my Atelier experience, so I won’t go in to it now, but suffice to say it was certainly a great professional development opportunity. I’ll be thinking about the discussions and lessons for a long time. I also found that while I was there my synapses were firing and I came up with lots of exciting ideas I’d love to bring to fruition.
I had also set myself some other goals for myself in 2014. I wanted to have another contribution to a book, as I had done in 2013 with The Emerging Writer. This lead to my inclusion in The Noobz. I wanted to do more facilitating of panels and live events, which is one of my favourite things to do, and was fortunate enough to speak with truly wonderful writers and industry experts such as John Marsden, Paul French, Briohny Doyle, Rosanna Stevens and Oliver Mol. I also chaired a panel of Australian women writers at the Emerging Writers’ Festival and presented our manifesto at the EWF closing night party.
So what is ahead in 2015? A very different picture. A return to freelance writing, a big new long-form project I hope to start, more work on the issues of women writers, maybe some producing work… it’s all pretty fluid at this stage. Which is wonderful. Since returning from the Atelier I have focused on having family time, resting my body, tying up lose ends from 2014 and thinking about what I will expend my energy on in 2015. I feel ready to set some goals and move into a different kind of year.