Event: Bendigo Writers Festival.

The month of August is chock full of writers festivals (okay, two, but I’m going to a lot of sessions!), so much so that I’ve taken time off paid work to further my currently unpaid writing career.

Over the weekend I ventured to Bendigo for their writers festival, which boasted big names like Ita Buttrose. I decided to give her talk a miss as it coincided with another talk I wanted to go to about blogging and writing online which is more relevant to me, and frankly, some of the things Ita’s said recently have really rubbed me the wrong way. I think I like her better as portrayed by Asher Keddie than in real life!

While Megan Burke (my new idol) and ABC Open’s Jane Curtis were great speakers (and great bloggers), I felt the audience were all middle aged aspiring mummy bloggers and the content was relevant to them, who are interested in starting a blog, not me. Maybe three years ago, but not now.

The second talk I went to on Saturday was “Are We There Yet?”, featuring Indigenous writer Alexis Wright, astrophysicist turned lawyer turned writer Sulari Gentill, Muslim writer Hanifa Deen, and author Arnold Zable, and facilitated by Shannon Kerrigan, was promising in theory but failed to live up to the hype in practice. I thought all the writers were great and had valuable things to say about how writing contributes to social change but the format of the session was all wrong: I’m not a fan of each speaker telling a story about their take on the subject for a third or a quarter of the time and then it’s over. I much prefer pre-determined questions being posed to the panel and then opening them up for discussion. Suggestion for further panels: use social media to tally up the questions and thought threads attendees want to hear about and incorporate those into the talk, instead of stuffing them into a ten minute question and answer session at the end.

Speaking of, the last talk I went to on Sunday afternoon was about “His & Hers” writing, which had the potential to really delve into the notion that women write about shopping and sex and men write about serious things. When the facilitator, Sofia Ahlberg, asked if women can write a “great Australian novel” and insinuated that they can’t (not because that’s her personal view, I don’t think, but because our society just doesn’t allow for that with, perhaps, the exception of Kate Grenville), a man from the audience and his wife audibly retorted and rudely told Ahlberg to open the discussion up to questions from the audience.

What I got out of the session was an interest in 50 Shades of Grey that I didn’t have before, thanks to John Flaus’ comments that he didn’t think it was written by a woman due to its “clinical”, “outsider” perspective on sex. Either that, or an incredibly narcissistic woman. Interesting.

Also on Sunday was the “What Makes a Hero” session, with Janine Bourke, sports writer Gideon Haigh (sportspeople as heroes is one of my pet topics), Ned Kelly biographer Ian Jones and Hanifa Deen, who asked where minorities get their heroes from if they’re a primarily “conservative construct”, as Haigh asserted. Deen also talked about “cultural amnesia” which I found interesting as we so often put people on a pedestal after—and sometimes despite—committing indiscretions (Ned Kelly, Chopper Reid, and countless football players, to name some Australian “heroes”): “we remember and admire the things we want to”.

Finally, there was a horror panel featuring horror writers Brett McBean and Cameron Oliver, reviewer Lucy Sussex and president of the Australian Horror Writers Association, Geoff Brown. This was probably the best panel in terms of actually addressing the topic and opening the discussion up to questions and comments about “what scares us”. Interestingly, Bendigo is one of the most haunted cities in the world, with more ghosts per person than anywhere else! They talked about the canonical horror films of the late ’70s and ’80s like Carrie, The Shining and The Exorcist and how filmmakers are “scared to scare people” now and that the current zombie, vampire and werewolf trend reflects our xenophobia and fear of the “other”; more so, that they will “turn us into them”. If that doesn’t some up what we’re scared of, I don’t know what does.

Related: Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo Review.

In Defence of Mia Freedman.

Elsewhere: [MamaMia] Was “Girls on Show” Slut-Shaming?

Profile: Sarah Ayoub of Wordsmith Lane.

 

In The Scarlett Woman’s first profile, I interview Wordsmith Lane and Chasing Aphrodite creator Sarah Ayoub about blogging, brides and books.

How long have you been blogging at Wordsmith Lane and what made you decide to start a blog?

The idea came to me in June 2009, and the blog officially launched (if you will) in July 2010. I decided to start a blog because I wanted to do something when I was not writing, especially because I was no longer working full-time and I sort of wanted to chronicle my writing journey.

What has been your proudest writing-related achievement to date?

It’s hard to say. Getting published in madison was a high for me, because it is what I consider a high-brow women’s publication. I guess being asked to be a host/panellist at events held by organisations like the Walkley Foundation and The Emerging Writer’s festivals was also a massive achievement for me.

And your proudest non-writing achievement?

This is going to sound silly, but getting engaged! I tend to worry about commitment.

How are preparations going for your wedding?

They are, I must say, proceeding very well considering the timing. I am indebted to my sisters though. My advice to everyone is to send out invites via email, or at least don’t go the DIY option. It’s a pain in the butt. I really wanted to have a big Lebanese wedding, but this one seems to be going along more to my parents’ agenda than my own. Serves me right for being their first born!

How did your appointment to bridal blogger for Bride to Be come about?

I basically pitched the idea to them and they bought it. It was as simple as that, which is why I try to be encouraging to my blog readers. Anything can happen if you try.

Your name has popped up on some other blogs (namely Musings of an Inappropriate Woman) in relation to workaholism and the work/life balance. How do you balance all your commitments?

I don’t. Something always gives out, like nights in front of the TV or deadlines for my thesis. I don’t have the time management thing down pat yet, and considering the size of my family, I don’t have a lot of time to myself either. I am hoping things will settle down a little after the wedding.

What is your favourite way to unwind?

Reading. Watching movies in my PJs and eating copious amounts of food works wonders.

Because most bloggers blog about things they’re passionate about, as I know both you and I do, do you find sometimes it’s a chore to churn out articles, book reviews and the like, as previously you would do those things for pleasure? Because that’s definitely something I struggle with from time to time.

I guess my readers can tell when I do something for pleasure because I gush about it, whether it’s a book or make-up and I do think I come across as fairly honest. If it’s not something I am interested in, it doesn’t get a review. Just a mention that it’s out and what it’s supposed to be about. I definitely think I should perhaps cut down to blogging about quality though. I really need to prioritise, as the blog doesn’t really provide a return investment for me at this stage, and there are some more pressing things to worry about, like my thesis, my freelancing and definitely my novel.

What are some of your favourite blogs?

I read Girl with a Satchel religiously, and follow Rachel Hills because she makes me feel smart. Once or twice a week, I read The Blog Stylist, Sarah Wilson and Holly J Curtis’ Am I There Yet? I’ve just got onto Nicole Haddow’s blog after a reader recommended it to me and I read Megan Burke’s Literary Life (she is my intern and she blogs about the creative writing industry which is good for me, as I’d like to get into it soon). And I love the way Liv Hambrett writes at A Big Life. I think I am her biggest fan, and I doubt that she knows how talented she is. She literally makes me see the world through different coloured glasses.

What advice do you have for other bloggers?

Write, network and comment on other blogs. Shamelessly promote on Twitter. And do it for love not money, at least in the beginning. It’s a lot of hard work.

And finally, where do you see yourself, writing-wise, in the future?

My dream job would be able to live off freelancing as a full-time features writer, while working on my novels in between and maybe doing something once a week on TV or radio. That’s not necessarily where I see myself, as opposed to where I would like to see myself.