What to see at the National Writers’ Conference

Our two-day National Writers’ Conference (June 17 – 18) is packed with panels and talks delving into the art and the craft of being a writer. There’s lots to see. If you’re feeling *emotions* about making choices, we’ve got you. Here are some highlights you won’t want to miss from our team of experts (EWF staff).

Will – General Manager

There’s two panels I’m particularly excited about. The first is Writing the Environment, which has a pretty all-star lineup of Anna Krien, Inga Simpson, Sally Abbott and Tony Birch. With everything going on in the world right now it feels like a particularly pertinent topic! When so much of the mainstream media blatantly refuses to talk honestly about climate change, these writers are the ones telling the stories others won’t, and I’m really excited to hear how they go about it. Plus I’ve just finished Sally Abbott’s book Closing Down, which I loved, and now I feel like I need to get tips on how to prepare for the impending climate apocalypse.

The other panel I’m looking forward to is Emerging Programmers. With so many amazing literary events happening in Melbourne, it can be easy to forget about everything that goes on behind the scenes (but I would say that, wouldn’t I?). There’s so much that goes into producing events, from curation of artists to budgeting to logistics; I’m particularly interested in hearing about how the panel juggles the artistic vs. the business sides of running events.

Bella – Marketing and PR

Looking at my job title, Pop Culture – obvs? Celebrity news is my emotional salve. Without the Kardashians I’d have lots of *realising things* left to do. Brodie, Hera and Bri are kickass babes that treat pop culture with intelligence by looking it straight it the face rather than belittling it. Pop culture can be serious and smart, fam.

Knock Knock featuring Deirdre Fidge, Laura Davis, Rebecca Varcoe and Lawrence Leung is all about the funnies and my second hot tip for some *fire comedy*. These are all some very Funny People, and as a failed Funny Person I’d like know how they do it.

Izzy – Artistic Director

It might be an Australian cliche, but I find work that engages with place and the environment really exciting. Poetics of Place features an incredible line-up of emerging poets speaking about the work they create which speaks to the many histories and psychogeography of our landscape. We have a strong legacy of place-based writing here in Aus, and I can’t wait to hear from these poets about how they are reshaping these narratives.

The realm of ~literature~ can sometimes seem elitist and impenetrable when it preferences particular forms of English and the written word. The idea of ‘acceptable’ or a ‘correct’ English can limit the stories we share. A remarkable line-up of writers who work in other Englishes will explore the ways we can broaden the scope of contemporary English writing and storytelling in Nuanced Voices. For example, I’m really excited to hear about Ross Onley-Zerkel’s experiences writing in Auslan!

Else – Program Manager

I’m really fascinated by the mechanics of language and I’m interested in the ways we can challenge/play with/experiment with language in our writing. The session Mother Tongue with Alison Whittaker and Elizabeth Bryer is a top pick for me, exploring how being multi-lingual plays into writing and how the act of translation might be used as a tool of decolonisation. Alison’s poetry book Lemons in the Chicken Wire was a stand out read for me last year, so I’m really keen to hear she and Elizabeth discussing this subject.

I’m also really keen to catch Out of Town, a panel discussing being a writer from a smaller city or a regional town. I moved to Melbourne ten years ago and I remember how at times it felt really difficult to find my community (which now I feel so much a part of thanks, in large part, to EWF!). This panel features a great line-up of writers from around Australia, and I’ve been privy to some of their early discussions on this topic so hot tip this will be a great conversation!

Georgia – Production Manager

When I saw the line-up for the Game On, my jaw dropped – the folks on this panel represent everything that is exciting about game design in Melbourne. If the main exposure you’ve had to gamer culture is neckbeards playing round-the-clock shoot-em-up games and abusing women online, you’ve just GOTTA GO to this panel! Games have the power to give audiences embodied experiences in magical and unusual worlds, and to explore complex ideas through the myriad poetries of interactivity and agency. By the time you’re done at this panel, you’ll want to make a game of your own (and so you should!)

The Script to Stage panel is also a big highlight for me. As someone who writes and makes theatre, I can’t help but think about how words will feel in space, rather than just on the page. So I’m really excited to see this panel programmed as part of the festival – I think it’s really valuable for writers of any ilk to think about the myriad possibilities for their words, whether you’re reading out a short story at an event or trying your hand at playwriting. Plus, every single person on this panel is a 10-out-of-10 legend, and I can guarantee that Liv Satchell’s pun game will be worth the price of admission in and of itself.

Katie – Program Assistant

Sometimes I think about getting out of Melbourne one day – away from the traffic, closer to the water, surrounded by more trees and less roads. But then I think about work and wonder if it’s an impossible dream!  I’m so excited to hear the the writers in Out of Town talk about how they found their communities outside the big smoke, and share some pearls of wisdom about where the opportunities are.

I love how many gutsy, strong and intelligent women we have featured in this year’s festival. What better way to spend an afternoon than listening to four of them chat about gender politics in the arts? Us ladies have come a long way, but we can still make more space. The Female Gaze panelists are going to talk about how it might be possible to overthrow the patriarchy – and I can’t wait to hear what they’ve got to say.

Hiroki – Program Producer

Delving into questions that examine the writer’s responsibility to physicality, I’m very keen to hear the conversations that will take place at the On Bodies panel. Can any writer create stories about any type of body? How do we write characters whose experiences are not our own? This is sure to be an insightful discussion exploring pertinent questions around representation, stereotypes and diversity within the literary landscape.

With an incredibly talented and experienced line up of artists including Olivia Satchell, Christopher Bryant, Michelle Law and Mark Pritchard, I’m very excited to attend the Script to Stage panel. This is a must see for any playwrights, theatre makers or stage enthusiasts in Melbourne!

Purchase a conference pass for the entire weekend ($80 concession, $90 full) or day passes for each separate day of the conference ($50 concession, $60 full). Selected events are available as a single-ticket. Book here! 

If you’re planning to attend the entire weekend you can upgrade to a Golden Ticket for $200 – a ticket to every EWF event (plus a seat with your name on it). Book here!