EWF Creative Producer: Joshua Barnes

Joshua Barnes is a Creative Producer for us this year! A writer and editor himself, he is currently working hard on the EWF 2016 program that you will get to see on Tuesday 10 May. He’s kindly answered some questions for us about  programming and what’s got him excited in the Australian literary landscape, and in so doing convinced us that he is probably the best-read person at The Wheeler Centre.

What was the first thing about becoming a Creative Producer that stood out to you the most and made you want to apply?
I volunteered for EWF last year, which involved wearing a purple t-shirt and greeting people in hallways—when I saw the creative producer callout, I thought, Why not more of this? But also: last year I attended the festival like a maniac, and participated in an event called 9 Slices, co-run with RMIT, which had nine of us sitting in Thousand Pound Bend over nine days writing a book. There are lots of literary festivals in Melbourne, but EWF is a special one. I wanted to help put this year’s festival together, and learn stuff along the way—the creative producer internship seemed like a good way to do both of those things, and souvenir another t-shirt.

How are you finding the experience of being a Creative Producer so far?
I’ve been coming into the Wheeler on Thursdays for a little over a month now, and it’s been a blast: working on my little corner of the EWF program has allowed me to think about how to engage diverse audiences with all the tremendous, terrifically terrific work Australian writers are doing right now, right at this very moment, right under our very noses and before our very eyes.

Who are some of the writers and artists that you’re excited about at the moment?
I’m excited about the work of Bri Lee, who just received Express Media’s inaugural Kat Muscat Fellowship, and is using it to develop her first book. She’s the author of a hilarious webseries for the Writers Bloc about what it’s like to defect from a Real Job in favour a purgatorial life in the literary sector. Happily, everything is less purgatorial than expected: fun is had, lessons are learned, hard choices are vindicated, etcetera.

Another remarkable webseries I’ve been watching and obsessively recommending to everyone is Strolling, created by Cecile Emeke, which traces the African diaspora across the world—from Jamaica to Britain and beyond—with a series of frank, discursive, first-person discussions about oppression, colonialism, racism, identity, nationhood, empire and feminism (and lots of other stuff). I used to associate the term ‘webseries’ with amusing triviality, a la Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee—now I’m like, Oh, this is art.

I’m also super impressed by the work of Paul Dalla Rosa, whose brilliant essay ‘Writing the Vanishing Body’ was just published in The Lifted Brow (#29), and by the short fiction of Jennifer Down, whose first novel, Our Magic Hour, was recently published by Text (which I haven’t quite yet had the chance to read but am nonetheless busily anticipating). I’m also a big fan of the work of Eloise Grills, who’s just started a monthly diary comic for Scum called Diary of a Post-Teenage Girl.

I’d also just like to plug this essay, ‘Kalamazoo’, by Joseph Livingstone, which I read in the latest issue of The Point, a US journal. It’s about a medievalist conference in Michigan, which is not, admittedly, an inherently interesting subject. But it’s just so good. Read it.

What have you found thought-provoking lately?
The Blak and Bright Indigenous Literary Festival, which ran in February at the Wheeler Centre, was a terrific demonstration of the liveliness and ferocity of Indigenous literature in contemporary Australia. Anyone who missed it would do well to check out Hannah Donnelly’s recap blogs for Writers Victoria or the Wheeler Centre’s recording of Anita Heiss’s opening address, 20 Reasons Why You Should Read Blak.

Can you tell us about the last book you read and loved, and what’s currently on your to-read pile?
I’ve been reading Geordie Williamson’s book The Burning Library, a collection of essays on various Australian writers, many of whom have been direly neglected by the reading public (although this situation has improved a lot, in large part because of the efforts of Text’s Classics series, the Stella Prize and the Wheeler Centre). I’ve also been reading Telling Stories: Australian Life and Literature 1935–2012, a very cool anthology of essays (albeit one with a poor title and a not-great cover) about Australian literature and its intersections with public life over the last century or so. A personal favourite, so far, is an essay by Rebecca Giggs on the disastrous effects of British nuclear testing in Maralinga, South Australia, and its influence on later Australian ‘nuclear literature’. Other books I read and loved recently include Fiona Wright’s Small Acts of Disappearance, Chloe Wilson’s Not Fox Nor Axe and Gerald Murnane’s Something for the Pain.

My to-read pile is unruly, but includes the following: The Glass Canoe by David Ireland, The Salzburg Tales by Christina Stead, The Sense of Sight by John Berger, and Palomino by Elizabeth Jolley.

Have you got any advice for other emerging writers/creators?

Subscribe to literary magazines!

Lastly, can you give us three words that best describe the event/s you’re working on?
Maybe: ‘Criticism: what? how?’

Joshua Barnes is a writer and editor from Melbourne. His work has appeared in Kill Your Darlings, The Suburban Review, Junkee, The Point, Voiceworks and on All the Best Radio. As well as being a creative producer for the 2016 Emerging Writers’ Festival, he is also a fiction editor at Voiceworks. He tweets from @j___barnes.

The 2016 Emerging Writers’ Festival program launches on Tuesday, 10 May at The Wheeler Centre. Tickets are free but are booking out fast.

Early Bird Tickets to The National Writers’ Conference are available now. Taking place over two days, with over seventy speakers, The National Writers’ Conference features panels, conversations, and performances, allowing you meet this year’s Ambassadors and other writers from around Australia.

Golden Tickets to the Emerging Writers’ Festival are also available now. Golden Tickets are your passport to the Emerging Writers’ Festival. They will give you access to the National Writers’ Conference, plus the rest of the festival including all panels, talks, performances and selected workshops.