I wrote this a few hours ago while eating blowtorched pineapple salad at The Moat, a low lit restaurant with gold on the walls and dark red carpet. (You see what I did there? Setting the scene. #emerging ) It’s underneath the Wheeler Centre, where for the last hour I’d grinned with recognition as Jack Colwell spoke about the narratives we write and the characters we play through online dating apps and sites. The curation and creation of our online selves as we ‘window shop for soul mates.’
In between awkwardly handing out business cards and scouring each venue for #sexydorks, I learnt a lot at the Emerging Writers Festival.
Last week I discovered Scum Magazine, about honest, average or complicated sex, by people who are still figuring it all out, who offer digestible snippets of familiarity. From Editor Sam George-Allen I learnt how to be ethical, respectful and brutally honest when writing about ordinary, real sex with ordinary, real people.
On the weekend I asked a memoir-focused panel how they knew if their stories were worth telling or if they just lived really boring lives. Liam Pieper said “All Proust ever did was eat a biscuit. Just have a point of difference and write well.” Then I tried to awkwardly pick him up by handing him this business card and walking away:
From Felix Nobis I learnt to take writing seriously, to find out how I write best and do it- if its waking up early or long train journeys. I learnt that ‘sex romp’ is an actual literary genre from my potential new idol Krissy Kneen. She also taught me to read ‘up’, read books that are good, that are better, that resonate with your own voice without squashing it. I gave her this business card:
From Benjamin Law I learnt that all writing is vomiting and then cleaning it up, to never do the same job for free twice, to always only take jobs if they tick two of these three boxes: Fun, Interesting, Well Paid. He also said to write with the door closed but edit with it open. Krissy Kneen echoed this, saying ‘When you’re at the desk, fuck everyone else, it’s personal. Write for an audience of one.’ From Zoe Norton Lodge I learnt that to write about other people when they’re part of her story, she just makes herself look worse than anyone else, then she can say whatever she likes, aiming for ‘surprise without malice.’
I unintentionally made myself look worse than anyone, when in the final conference panel aimed at getting to know the audience, I got up on the mic. I planned to rep the ‘unemerged emerging writers’, but ended up proclaiming ‘I got aint got nothing to pimp but myself. I’ve never been published but gentlemen, I am single.’ When asked what my festival highlight was I answered ‘Benjamin Law chuckling at my aspirational business card.’
From total #sexydork Justin Wolfers I learnt that it’s OK to not be ‘techy,’ ‘niche’ or ‘cultural’, that traditional or nostalgic forms (like bush poetry) will go down alright online if they’re good. From Oliver Mol I was reassured that good young writers are coming out of my hometown. From Michelle Law I learnt that we laugh at the truth because there is nothing funnier or more ridiculous than human behaviour, and that if I’m doing something, and I think it’s good,
I learnt that I probably have enough words and enough points of difference for a book. I learnt that all I really need to do first is just write. Write and fail. Write crap but trust my own good taste to know when it’s crap. To keep on writing. So maybe I will. Maybe at the end of the year I’ll book myself on The Ghan…
Someone at some point said ‘All you can write is what’s true for you.’
From Hannah Kent I learnt to be diligent and industrious, that it will always be hard and I’ll never be ready, so
I learnt that life is strange and wonderful and beautiful and that we are each the authors of our own narratives.
I learnt that if you walk into the most boring conference panel ever and sit next to a man who looks good in leather, 48 hours and a few pages later you may find yourself tucking not a business card, but a hand written love letter into his luggage, before he flies north.
I learnt that even if your mind is full of writing and writers and words your mind may wander and you may wonder what this chapter will be called. One day you may wonder how the story ends but for now, you’re happy to bask in the glow of the last couple of pages, because even if you never write about them,
They really happened
And they were fucking wonderful.