City of Literature ILS Trip: Imminent Departure

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.

Speakers announced for Feminist Family Salon: What is Feminist Parenting


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.

City of Literature ILS Trip


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…

WILAA Steering Committee Announcement


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.

MICF 2015 – Three down, infinity to go…


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.

MICF 2015


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.

The outlook for 2015 and a look back at 2014

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.

Leaving Express Media

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After three and a half years, I leave behind this familiar (now empty) desk and set off on new adventures. My time at Express Media has been rewarding in so many ways, but it has also been exhausting and all-consuming. It was well and truly time to move on, but I’m sad to draw a close to this chapter of my life.

When I started at Express Media, working with Joe Toohey as General Manager, my son was barely one, my CFS/ME was in remission, I hadn’t yet been diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder and I had been working freelance for many years. I stumbled upon the job advertisement by accident, I wasn’t looking for work. But when I read the ad, I knew I had to apply. I’d applied to work at Express years before, and had always had it on my radar as a place that perfectly aligned with my interests in emerging writers/writing, nimble not-for-profit arts organisations who weren’t afraid to try new things and a dedication to responding to the needs of communities of artists. I was so excited to get the job.

When I walked in the door, Express was undergoing a period of change. They were moving from a co-CEO model with an Artistic Director and General Manager, new projects were at infancy stage and Joe was fresh to his role six months earlier. The role was three days per week for my predecessor, the amazing Bel Schenk, and for me in the first two years, but in my time the projects grew exponentially. I started off by launching The Signal Express, The Under Age and National Young Writers’ Month (which Bel had conceived of and found partners and funding for). As the years went on Joe and I also conceived, launched and administered an expanded Buzzcuts program, Hologram (Jojo Jakob’s project which launched us into publishing novellas), Signal at EWF, Global Express, Scribe Non-fiction Prize, Young Writers Innovation Prize, Literary Salon public events, an annual Best of Express ebook, an education program for schools to create their own publication, a new website, the State Representatives program and numerous small or one-off events and projects.

Having the freedom to create projects from scratch, or bring to fruition amazing endeavours like The Under Age was an amazing opportunity. I also had the great pleasure of working with partner organisations such as 100 Story Building, EWF, MWF, Melbourne Fringe Festival, Writers Victoria, SYN FM, Scribe Publishing, Hachette, State Library of Victoria, Centre for Youth Literature, Triple R, RMIT, Centre for Multicultural Youth, Australian Poetry, Small Press Network and The Wheeler Centre.

Now is the time to move on for a few key reasons. Firstly, I strongly believe that in a youth organisation young people should be making the decisions and be in control. I’m not ancient by any stretch, but I’m now four years too old for any of the programs Express runs. I was lucky enough to sneak in a few years in before it felt disingenuous to be doing ‘youth’ work anymore, which I’ll be forever glad for. In addition, the current General Manager, Steve Lamattina, has been in the role for over a year. Joe Toohey kind of beat me to the punch leaving when he did, and once he was gone I felt responsible to stick around long enough for his replacement to be settled and provide the organisation with some stability. I’m sure Steve will enjoy having a new partner to imagine the future of Express Media with. Lastly, there are also the factors that come with working in small, under-resourced arts organisations. I remember Bel telling me when I took over the role that she felt like there were so many projects she was always dividing her attention between things, and it got too wearing. After adding on so many projects to the workload, I also felt divided all the time. I also felt like I never had the time to do each project justice. I felt eternally behind on emails and administration. I started to feel like I wasn’t meeting my own standards for the work we were able to do. And I think I just got plain old tired.

I’ve been lucky to have two jobs now that have felt like they challenged me and made me exponentially better than I was before I entered the roles. The first was editing Rabelais for two years, and the second is Express. You leave these positions knowing how lucky you were to have the autonomy, the support, the opportunity. And you wonder if you’ll ever find it again.

My time with Express has been invaluable for my professional development, and I’ve found great friends here as well as colleagues. I’m sure many of the people I have worked with will be future collaborators at other organisations and projects. I’m proud of what I and the people I worked with have achieved. I feel like I’ve made valuable contributions. I suspect I’ve gained more than I gave. My replacement is yet to be appointed, but I look forward to seeing who they will be and what they bring to a brilliant development role.