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Emerging Writers’ Festival 2013: an interview with Director Sam Twyford-Moore

Beginning as a one-day zine fair in 2004, the Emerging Writers Festival has expanded to ten days of events, workshops, panel discussions and gala nights, as well as digital events using the #ewf13 hashtag — and it all begins next week!

I’m very excited to be a part of two events this year: hosting a masterclass on The Business of Being a Writer, as well as the Signal Express Young Writers’ Program for under 25s on freelance writing and publishing.

Before it all kicks off, I asked new Director Sam Twyford-Moore a few questions about this year’s program.

BETHANIE BLANCHARD | May 13, 2013 | NEWS | 5 |

Tony Abbott, ebook author

Today, Tony Abbott, like Australia’s own Hannah Horvath, announced the publication of an ebook.

Titled The Little Book of Big Labor Waste invoking perhaps the wildly successful late-90s Little Book of Calm — the Coalition’s new work takes as its theme “60 examples of Labor waste and mismanagement from the Gillard Government,” an ironic inversion of the meditation book.

From Quarterly Essays to manifestos, to memoirs or exposés, there’s a long and proud tradition of politicians as authors. But the Little Book of Big Labor Waste is less a “book” than a series of numbered, brightly coloured Power Point slides. Perhaps crippled by writers block or ennui, TLBOBLW gives us a sweeping overview rather than extended prose or analysis. The text, with a foreward by Jamie Briggs, takes us on a journey from a $6.6 billion “Immigration budget blow out,” to $2.4 million spent on “Public servants receiving advice on ‘getting a good night’s sleep,’” but has the sort of reliance on newspaper clippings that brings to mind a scene from Ron Howard’s A Beautiful Mind.


Trying and Failing at Febfast: on Jill Stark’s High Sobriety

Guest Post by Stephanie Van Schilt

Minutes after finishing High Sobriety – Jill Stark’s memoir about her year without alcohol – I attended a birthday party…for a bar. I literally put the book down, got dressed up and ran out the door to celebrate the liquor loving life.

In the past, this obvious irony would have been useful fodder for some social stand up: bringing a cigarette to my lips, I could have condemned the boring sober life with a Patsy and Eddie style tirade, swilling (and spilling) my giant cocktail before throwing Stark’s book onto a fire fuelled by ethanol (that I was also sipping). But I opted out of a self-depreciating routine because this wasn’t a high point for me.

BETHANIE BLANCHARD | April 30, 2013 | AWARDS | 1 |

The persistence of gender: a Stella Miles Franklin shortlist

When the Stella Prize was being founded I remember listening to the debates surrounding the naming of the award. The prize was in some ways emulating what was then still known as the Orange Prize in the UK, and people bandied about humorous names such as the ‘Mango’ for our antipodean version. Stella was ultimately chosen because it was a reclamation of the first name of Miles Franklin. ‘Miles’ was a name adopted by the author, like so many female writers before her, to disguise the fact of her gender. To give the new all-female literary award Franklin’s true first name was an appropriate mirroring of the purpose of the award itself – a reclamation of a prize which had gone to male authors far too many times since its founding in 1957.

It’s hard not to see a rivalry between the two prizes now, with the Miles Franklin clearly on the back foot since the accusations of gender bias.

The prize money for the Stella is $50,000. Such an amount would have been identical to that of the Miles – a deliberate choice to put the Stella on an equal footing, achieving the equivalent prestige and equally rewarding its winner. But the Miles Franklin’s Trust Company this year increased their prize to $60,000, in what is difficult not to regard as an attempt to remain on top.

BETHANIE BLANCHARD | April 30, 2013 | AWARDS | 1 |

All-female 2013 Miles Franklin shortlist announced

The shortlist for the Miles Franklin, Australia’s most prestigious literary prize, has been announced today at the State Library of NSW and it’s a list devoid of either of the two male authors that made the longlist: Brian Castro and former (double) Miles Franklin winner Tom Keneally.

The all-female shortlist includes several Stella Prize longlisted authors: Romy Ash, Michelle de Kretser, as well as Carrie Tiffany who took out the Stella Prize earlier this month. Tiffany is now in contention to win two major national literary awards for her novel Mateship with Birds.


Chris Somerville’s We Are Not The Same Anymore: an interview

“He thought of a drawing class he’d done a few years back where they’d sat at their easels in a loose circle around a girl and been instructed that, instead of drawing the model, they had to draw the space around her body, the white negative that her body cut out of the room.” Chris Somerville’s debut We Are Not The Same Anymore focuses on the spaces cut out of lives and rooms and relationships once people have left. A collection of short stories of usually single characters encountering small moments of failure or loss.

The title of Somerville’s collection is from a story in which a man’s brother has just been broken up with, “The note read, in pencil We are not the same anymore, and even though Beckman knew the other side was blank, he flipped the paper over to see if there was anything more to the message.”

BETHANIE BLANCHARD | April 17, 2013 | AWARDS | |

Notes from the Stella Prize

Last night, amid a packed room at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art in Melbourne, Carrie Tiffany was awarded the inaugural Stella Prize for her novel Mateship with Birds.

I felt incredibly privileged to be invited to the awards and to stand there amongst so many talented, influential, bookish people – somehow juggling champagne glass, clutch bag and iphone as I live-tweeted the event.

Someone described standing in that room to me last night as “like being on a packed tram,” a particularly apt Melbourne phrase. Zora from Meanjin had a betting pool going, with Lanagan and de Kretser among the favourites. I never heard the odds on Mateship with Birds but Chloe Wilson left $115 richer.


Sydney Writers’ Festival 2013 program highlights

The full Sydney Writers’ Festival program has just been released and new Director Jemma Birrell has curated a wonderful line up.

As well as showcasing our incredible Australian writers and authors, I’m particularly excited about the international guests coming out — such as Diego Marani, Anis Mojgani, Naomi Wolf, James Wood, Karl Ove Knausgaard, even Molly Ringwald.

I’ll be covering the festival for Crikey again this year and I’ve been putting together my own festival schedule this morning, so I thought I’d share here a few of my highlights:


‘I know when I am writing erotica or literary fiction. I feel it in my body’: an interview with Krissy Kneen

Krissy Kneen’s new novel Steeplechase is a claustrophobic, unsettling story of two sisters linked by art and madness. It is also her first non-erotic work.

Before the Melbourne launch of the novel at Readings tonight, I interviewed Kneen on the line between erotic and non-erotic literature, equine metaphors, and her fascination with the taboo.

PAUL DONOUGHUE | April 08, 2013 | GUEST POSTS | 1 |

There’s No Such Thing As Real America: Ron Rash’s Nothing Gold Can Stay

Guest Post

I’ve visited Charleston, South Carolina, a few times. It’s a beautiful city: old, by US standards, retaining some of the aesthetic quirks of British and French colonialism. There’s narrow cobblestone streets, Art Deco buildings and elaborate white mansions. Strangers on the street ask about your day. And there’s the location: the lower half of the country, on the Atlantic, meaning that if ever there is cause to be despondent, it’s got nothing to do with the weather.


The female protagonist as writer — Girls part II

“Usually when people say they want to be a writer, they really don’t want to do anything except eat and masturbate.” – Ray.

The second season of HBO’s Girls has been consistently amusing in its representation of the experience of life as a writer. Though the series has again provoked debates about sex (and, this season, issues of consent), relationships, friendship, and has probably led to a downturn in q-tip sales for the foreseeable future, it is Dunham’s depiction of her female protagonist as writer that has continued to fascinate me.

At the end of the first season I examined the way Girls had routinely – and I think unfairly – been compared to Sex and the City due to their numerous superficial similarities. The most glaring, though less examined, parallel was the creative occupation of their two central characters. As I wrote last year, “It seems to me that what makes Girls interesting, and more real than anything Carrie did in her six seasons and two films, is Hannah’s wish to live a life worthy of being written about.”

BETHANIE BLANCHARD | March 26, 2013 | AWARDS | 1 |

Female dominated Miles Franklin longlist

This year the Miles Franklin longlist was released via a slow literary striptease from the Trust Company – revealing, one twitpic at a time, the covers of the ten novels.

And what an interesting longlist it is. Not only decidedly free from the controversy that plagued it in 2009 and 2011 following all-male shortlists that saw Australia’s most prestigious literary prize described variously as a “sausage fest” and “cock-forest,” the list is dominated by females, with just two male authors represented: Brian Castro and Tom Keneally.

(Though I can’t actually print the female equivalent of cock-forest, Twitter has helpfully provided me with some potential new terms. Enjoy.)

BETHANIE BLANCHARD | March 20, 2013 | AWARDS | |

All-fiction Stella Prize shortlist announced

It’s an all-fiction shortlist for the inaugural Stella Prize, Australia’s first major new literary award for women’s writing that aims to “celebrate women’s contributions to Australian literature.”

Six works make it to the list, down from a longlist of twelve. While all are fiction, there is a variety of genres — with a collection of short stories (Like A House On Fire) and a verse novel (The Sunlit Zone) as well as speculative and historical fiction.

Chair of judges Kerryn Goldsworthy told Liticism “of the original almost-200 entries for the prize, the fiction entries outnumbered the nonfiction entries by almost 4 to 1.”

BETHANIE BLANCHARD | March 13, 2013 | AWARDS | |

An Orange by another name: Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist announced

The longlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, formerly known as the Orange Prize, was announced today in the UK. The prize is an international award for women’s writing in English, that aims to celebrate “the very best full length fiction written by women throughout the world.”

Telecommunications company Orange, who worked in developing and supporting the Prize since its inception for over seventeen years, parted company with the Prize in May last year, reportedly in order to focus their arts sponsorship efforts on film.

ERIN HANDLEY | February 27, 2013 | GUEST POSTS | |

Unearthing herstory: Courtney Collins’ The Burial

Guest Post 

“If the dirt could speak, whose story would it tell?”

In her debut novel The Burial, Courtney Collins supposes that the earth would favour the stories of those who are furthest from it, ‘the ones who are suspended in flight’. The dirt must long for these distant stories the way a child yearns for an absent mother. Collins chooses to literalise this longing; her fictional tale about the historical Jessie Hickman, Australia’s last bushranger, is told through the dead eyes of Jessie’s newborn child.