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‘Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.’ – Groucho Marx

Writers’ Festivals and Why You Should Go To Them

Guest post: Wendy Chen

I first started attending writers’ festivals around two years ago, and in that time they have made a huge difference to me in terms of the new friends I’ve made and the learning experiences I’ve gained. The festivals below are the ones I particularly recommend because of how accessible, inclusive and innovative they are; perfect for young people. Additionally, all of these have open callouts for artists, so it’s definitely worth applying if you are passionate and have something you would like to share.

Emerging Writers’ Festival

Held for around ten days in June each year in Melbourne, and including a two-day National Writers’ Conference. EWF always has incredible ambassadors and artists, with both emerging and more established ones presenting and appearing side-by-side.

National Young Writers’ Festival

NYWF’s main event artists are eighteen to thirty-five years old, and there is also a Younger Young Writers’ Program specifically for thirteen to seventeen year olds. It is held in Newcastle, NSW over the Labour Day weekend in September/October each year, and described as ‘the country’s largest gathering of young and innovative writers working in both new and traditional forms.’

What’s great about writers’ festivals

The events

Generally, writers’ festivals are focused on panels, comprised of multiple writers sharing their views and experiences on a certain topic. It’s always so inspiring to hear my favourite authors speak, and panels can also introduce me to books and authors I hadn’t heard of before. At Sydney Writers’ Festival 2017, attending the event ‘Borders of Our Writing’ really piqued my interest in Rajith Savanadasa’s Ruins; and knowing I would be attending a few of Mariko Tamaki’s events motivated me to pick up more of her books, too.

I also love the way that the discussions can prompt me to expand my mind, and the insight I always feel I have gained afterwards. For example, the NYWF 2016 panel ‘Writing for People Without a Voice’ was a powerful discussion of the ethics involved in advocacy and speaking for others, and uplifting others’ voices. The range of topics I’ve seen covered by panels at writers’ festivals vary widely, so you’ll be sure to find one that you’re interested in.

Most festivals also have workshops, which are a great way to learn and improve your creative skills, and they can be especially valuable because of the opportunity to learn from specific authors you know. I’ve been at festivals where there have been workshops on starting your story, poetry, podcasting, programming events, and creativity through multiple mediums, amongst others.

Finally, writers’ festivals commonly hold events with readings and performances, such as the recurring EWF event ‘Amazing Babes,’ and NYWF’s ‘Late Night Readings.’ Again, the content varies widely – I’ve loved the moving, funny, and insightful performances I’ve witnessed at these readings.

The community

As with many other people in the writing and book community, most of my connections have been formed online rather than in person. Writers’ festivals are an exception to this, as a great opportunity for people to come together at once. The sense of community at these festivals has always been so strong, and people are always friendly and welcoming – so it’s a great opportunity to make new friends, too.

 

Have you been to any writers’ festivals before? What have been some of the highlights?

 

WENDY CHEN  is a Sydney-based writer who has appeared as an artist at the Emerging Writers’ Festival, National Young Writers’ Festival and Noted Festival. She is a co-host of the book blogger collective Lit CelebrAsian, and has been a subeditor and contributor for the literary magazine Pencilled In. She has a particular interest in diasporic stories and historical fiction. Find her webiste here.

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