I’ve always enjoyed the Emerging Writers’ Festival (EWF) in Melbourne and this year their events, held from 16 to 23 June, are accessible to an even wider audience through their mostly free online programme. Here I’ve outlined a few of the sessions that I’m excited about for 2020. 

The opening night is always a must see and this year it features four First Nations artists who present speculative visions for the future. The National Writers’ Conference also has a great line-up of writers covering a range of genres.

Exploring poetry

As always, my eye was drawn to the poetry events. This year there are several interesting options. Tell Me Like You Mean It explores of what it means to be a poet, in which three poets present their unpublished works in progress in an audio project in collaboration with Cordite and Australian Poetry. Poetry in Motion, is a digital exhibition co-curated with Poetry Film Portal, which presents film poetry shorts from five different artists on the theme of movement. And what would a Melbourne-based literature festival be without spoken word? LittleFoot & Co. Spoken Word, held on Thursday 18 June, is curated by Littlefoot and Company, a creative events and art therapy company that run events, spaces and workshops focused on community engagement, mental wellness, creative expression and safe spaces. It will be interesting to see what they have in store. 

Diverse perspectives 

A highlight of the EWF is their focus on presenting diverse perspectives. The festival is a chance to engage with ideas that are far from my own experiences, always an enriching encounter. Some of the events I’m particularly excited about this year are: 

The Next Chapter: Writing Blak – Four emerging First Nations writers from The Next Chapter scheme – Meleika Gesa-Fatafehi, Jasmin McGaughey, Lorna Munro and Racheal Oak Butler – discuss the creative process, writing for blak and settler readerships, and how they respond to expectations of genre, character and identity.

EWF X Pasifika Storytellers Collective – Every year EWF teams up with emerging artists who have community action and collective art at the heart of their practices and this year it’s Pasifika Storytellers Collective, who will unravel Western concepts of Pasifika representation in creative media. 

Bittersweet: Women of Colour on Creativity – A podcast that explores ideas around creativity, building creative communities and building sustainable careers in the arts as women of colour, with Wintana Kidane and Rahel Davies in conversation with Rosie Kalina and Aisha Trambas.

Lunchtime Lit: Growing Up Disabled in Australia – Contributors from Growing Up Disabled in Australia discuss the specific barriers and complexities that writers with disabilities face during this pandemic. What has changed and what remains the same for chronically ill and disabled writers during the time of COVID-19?

Challenges of our times 

I imagine there has been a lot of work going on behind the scenes this year at the EWF in order to adapt the festival to an online space. So it’s not surprising that there are several events that touch upon the unique challenges of our times. Two that stand out are Writing Through Crisis (where three writers will look at the year so far to discuss the act of writing during crisis, and to ask: how can writing help us process everything that is happening in the world right now?) and Creative Responses to Climate Crisis (where artists grapple with one of the biggest issues humanity is facing in 20 slides of 20 seconds). 

Professional development

As always, given it’s a festival targeted at emerging writers, there are a good number of workskops and professional development sessions. If you need a nudge to get writing, there are several daily sessions throughout the festival, including the Daily Write-In, with exercise to get you started, and a daily screenwriting task written by Alistair Baldwin, shared by EWF to audiences across 7 days of the festival. The latter seems like an interesting variation on a workshop format, where you can take little but regular steps towards learning a new form, an ongoing encouragement to write consistently. 

Some other interesting workshops include: 

What are you looking forward to this festival? 

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