I spent this weekend in Brisbane at the Emerging Writers’ Festival Digital Writing Conference and it was a top weekend of excellent information and quality company.
The event started on the Friday evening, with a meet and greet of attending writers, editors, artists and organisers at Greystones Bar. It was great to put 3D fleshforms to Twitter personas, some of whom I’ve known online for a long time, as well as making new friends right off the bat.
The Conference itself started the following day at the Queensland State Library. Lisa Dempster (@lisadempster) opened proceedings and we were then supposed to cut to a video presentation from Christy Dena (@christydena). However, library technofail meant there were problems with the wifi. For me, a certain degree of technofail at a digital writing conference seemed somehow fitting. So we had a presentation from Morgan Jaffit (@morganjaffit) on writing for videogames.
This presentation was excellent, especially as I’m involved with some game writing now. One of the simple yet very important things Morgan said in reference to game writing was that, whereas with prose writing we’re told to “Show, not tell”, with games it’s “Do, don’t show”. In other words, let players actively participate in the story rather than showing them all the story in elegant cutscenes. Gamers remember the stuff they do in a game more than the stuff they watch. This is a Very True Thing.
Then we kicked into the first panel.
Sophie Black (@sophblack), Andrew McMillen (@niteshok), Jason Nelson and Sarah Werkmeister (@fourThousand) discussed the nature of writing online, hosted by the wonderful Alex Adsett (@alexadsett). It was interesting and varied stuff. Andrew McMillen told a tale of caution when it comes to the organic nature of online journalism and how important it is to fact-check and maintain your integrity and ethics as a writer. Jason Nelson blew us away with a variety of interactive online poetry and games that has to be seen to be believed. He’s also on the board offering grants to digital writers, and it’s worth your time investigating that as it seems very few people are applying and there’s money to be had. Real spending cash. A rare treat for any kind of writer. Sophie Black, editor of Crikey, talked about how online journalism is different to the print journalism of old, and how they source material from all over the world. Sarah Werkmeister drew interesting comparisons as well. And this is, of course, only a fraction of the stuff covered.
Following that panel was another moment of technofail (which, I should point out, was again the fault of the venue, not the conference or organisers!) and so we had an early break. Then we came back to the next panel, which included myself, Simon Groth (@simongroth), Charlotte Harper (@ebookish), and Festival director, Lisa Dempster. It was hosted by the inimitable Karen Pickering (@jevoislafemme). We were talking about using the online environment to promote your work, to get work and to work for you. I used my own website as an example of how to manage a central online hub, where people can find you and your work and contact you if they want to. Of course, it was also a moment of shameless self-promotion, with my site projected behemoth-like behind me. Here’s a photo from Amanda Greenslade (@greensladecreat):
From L to R – Karen Pickering, Lisa Dempster, Simon Groth, Charlotte Haper, and me at the lectern
The other panelists presented very interesting stuff, important to all writers – concepts like “Know your niche”, “be an expert”, “define your audience”, “don’t be a dick”, “don’t spam people”, “engage with people online, don’t preach to them” and so on. The panel and subsequent Q&A wandered all over the place and covered a lot of ground, which I won’t try to replicate here.
Suffice to say that these two 75 minute panels were jam-packed with juicy tidbits of writerly wisdom and, judging by the feedback when I was chatting with people afterwards, most attendees got a lot out of it. I certainly learned some new stuff and had some old stuff reaffirmed. The truth is, no matter how emerging or emerged you may be as a writer, these things are invaluable.
After that panel we recovered somewhat from earlier technofail and had Christy Dena’s video speech – “7 things I wish I had known at the beginning of my digital writing career”. I’ve embedded that video here as it’s fucking brilliant. Absolutely solid advice, well worth your 15 mintes:
See, how good was that?
Then we mingled and drank, often the best part of any writers’ event as people are the engine of this industry and socialising with them is invariably fascinating and entertaining.
The following day there was a talk at Avid Reader bookshop (@avidreader4101), where Karen Pickering and Chris Currie (@furioushorses) talked to writers about writing about writing. Yes, all very meta. Here they are, in the sunny courtyard out the back of the bookshop/cafe. There were periodic pigeon attacks to keep them on their toes:
It was a fascinating chat, but sadly I had to leave early to catch my flight. However, due to the frenzied tweeting throughout the entire conference, I was still able to keep a bit of an ear to what was happening. And I got to follow the excitement of the spelling bee that evening, which rounded out the Festival.
A truly spectacular event that I was proud to be a part of. Given that most of my conference activity is quite genre-focused, I always enjoy these wide open writers’ events, with everyone from journalists to fiction writers and beyond all mixing together, all styles, all media, all slightly crazy. It’s inspiring and motivating in so many ways, I can’t recommend it highly enough. If you want to be a writer or you already are one, get out there and mix with these overlapping tribes. We’ve all got our love of writing and reading in common, after all.
You’ve hopefully noticed that throughout this post I’ve been linking Twitter handles. Go and follow them all – they’re very interesting people.
If I got one over-riding thing from this conference it was that right now is an exciting and invigorating time to be a writer. I couldn’t agree more with that perception. Vive le Worditude!