SOUTH AUSSIES AT THE NATIONAL YOUNG WRITERS FESTIVAL 2016

Now in its 19th year, the National Young Writers’ Festival, creative partner of the much celebrated TiNA (This is Not Art festival), just keeps getting better.

This year, South Australian co-director, Annie Waters and her team upheld the long-running festival tradition of diversity and inclusion. They were looking for minority voices, multi-disciplinary workshops, fresh conversations and creative interpretations on theme. No conversation was too taboo. No pitch was left unturned. This resulted in a fascinating variety of workshops, round-table discussions, panels, games, debates and stalls.

And South Australian voices were not in short supply. South Aussies and SA Writers Centre members in attendance included Sarah Gates, Royce Kurmelovs, Phoebe Paterson de Heer, Anthony Nocera (current Digital Writer-in-Residence), Shaylee Leach, Simone Corletto and Joshua Mensch to name a few – all were glad to escape the blackouts, storms and flooding for 26 degrees and blue skies.

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The 2016 festival theme, ‘Get Lost,’ attracted over 117 presenters (not to mention attendees), 23 pop-up venues, labyrinth-inspired parties and mysterious Amazing Race-esque games. So jam-packed was the program, it was hard not to get lost in the creative pandemonium. In other words, I was not the only one who was wishing for a time-turner in order to make it to all the amazing events.

“The only possible way to fit everything I want to see at this festival is to constantly rock up halfway through [each event]” – Simone Corletto

From the very first night of readings on Thursday 29th September (back by popular demand), the high standard was set. Special guest writers exchanged childhood photos and had the crowd laughing, crying and exclaiming in delight over their astounding interpretations of character, narrative and voice.

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Then came a full day of bike-decorating, learning how to produce a podcast on the museum tram with the talented crew at ‘All The Best Radio,’ writing for television with Neighbours screen writer Magda Wozniak, fortune telling through native flowers, and the heated debates of ‘Science Fiction versus Science’ over who can ‘tell us more’ about the end of the world.

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Minds warmed up as we delved into the uncertain future of arts funding and journalism, and were soothed again by poetry inspired by place and landscape. We talked about gender representation in fashion and threw away traditional ‘stand up’ comedy forms at Friday night’s open mic event.

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And then of course, there was the much loved festival ball. Labyrinth themed, showcasing some serious glitter, fairy lights and ‘out of this world’ dance moves and ending with late night dips in the Sea Baths.

There was something for everyone. Even those who were simply after some quaint sea-side reflective calm or coffee chats with other artists at the many cute cafes along the main street.

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While the future of the writing industry might be the Labyrinth of all Labyrinths, creativity isn’t going anywhere. And neither is this festival. Due to the passion and drive of its organisers and contributing artists, it’s only getting bigger and better. So, keep an eye out for the next one!

“It’s been really beautiful to be amongst what feels like … a community and where art doesn’t feel like a beauty pageant. #NYWF ” – Shaylee Leach

For more information on how and when to apply for next year’s festival:

Twitter: @NYWF

Website: www.youngwritersfestival.org

Facebook: www.facebook.com/youngwritersfestival

 

 

Article first published on the SA Writers Centre website

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NYWF – Implementing Professional Advice and Feedback

Interpreting and implementing Professional Advice and Feedback­

*Fact sheet prepared for National Young Writers Festival, Sydney, September 2016

Downloadable PDF

Reading is highly subjective and so finding the right set of eyes to give feedback on a new piece of writing can be both instructive and detrimental, making the process of interpreting and implementing feedback daunting for any writer.

Listed below are sources of feedback a writer might expect to receive:

Writing mentor:

One of the most valuable and accurate sources of feedback can come from a writing mentor (see blog post ‘Professional Mentorships’ for more information on sourcing a mentorship). This process guarantees personalised and targeted feedback from a professional in the field who may be working in a similar style and genre for a target audience. Forms of feedback can include industry, structural, copy or proof as well as general personal support (as outlined in next section).

In-house editor / publisher / agent:

If you’re at the stage where you have gained the attention of an in-house editor or publisher, some agents and publishers will request a ‘revise and submit’ from an author before signing them. This is as much to identify how well an author receives feedback as it is to determine how successfully they can integrate that feedback into their manuscript.

Critique partner / critique group / beta-readers:

This is a great way to ‘cast the net wide’ and collect the opinions of a sample of readers. Sometimes the collective opinions of a group can help a writer better identify any weaknesses / trends in their work. Formal critique partners can be sourced through most writing institutions such as state writing centres, Australian Society of Authors and through writing memberships such as Romance Writers of Australia.

Freelance Editor:

Freelance feedback services are available from most writing institutions (State Writers Centres, Australian Society of Authors) and come at a cost. Rates vary depending on the editor and the type of service (structural or other). The South Australian ‘Society of Editors’ has a list of registered editors on their website and the kinds of services they offer. Registered means that each editor has undergone and passed state standards to receive qualification. http://www.editors-sa.org.au/

Manuscript assessment services:

Manuscript assessment is usually a combination of industry, structural, copy advice on a manuscript, with a focus on the big-picture—content, voice, tone, style, plot pace, characterisation, setting, dialogue, market, audience, theme. More on these categories outlined below.

Types of advice that may be contracted or received:

Industry advice:

  • Will the story idea appeal to the market in which it’s intended?
  • Does the story idea identify a target audience in tone, theme, voice, plot, character?
  • Does the story idea hold its own in the current marketplace? (Has it been overdone? Does it offer something new? Is it following a trend?)

Structural advice:

  • How does the work read as a whole?
  • Are events logical and consistent?
  • Are there any obvious plot holes?
  • Does the world/setting/characters work? Do the characters and relationships work?
  • Does the book begin/end in a satisfactory manner?
  • Does the author’s choice of tense and voice work?

Copy advice:

  • Is spelling, grammar consistent and accurate?

Personal advice:

  • Personal advice, usually given in an informal fashion (through mentorships, discussion panels). May include advice on how to handle rejection, stress, career pressures. This can be just as important as craft, industry and career advice to some writers.

Some thoughts on interpreting and implementing feedback

It is important to be open to feedback in order to learn and improve. However, being too influenced by feedback, or making uninformed changes based on mixed feedback can confuse and water down the intended effect of a particular work. It is important to develop a strong sense of intention before approaching feedback so that subjective opinion may be strategically and implemented or considered and, sometimes, disregarded.

Remember, as Neil Gaiman stated:

“…when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/477087-remember-when-people-tell-you-something-s-wrong-or-doesn-t-work

How to chair a panel at a writing festival

Saturday 7th of May 2016 – I had the opportunity to chair my very first panel at the speculative fiction/fantasy festival held at SA Writers Centre with the lovely Gillian Rubinstein aka Lian Hearn and our very own South Australian writer, Tony Shillitoe.

Getting to meet two incredible writers with very different experiences and opinions, and to engage them in a discussion about the growing number of crossover readers that comprise the current YA market – a percentage believed to be as high as 55% – was enlightening and one which I can’t wait to repeat should the opportunity present itself again.

While I was extremely nervous about hosting a panel, I quickly learnt that writers are not only generous with their knowledge of the industry and their craft, but with their understanding and helpfulness. Most have been on both sides of the table and are more than willing to help steer the conversation. Here are some of the most important things I learnt from the experience:

  • Research the authors. Make sure you have a good knowledge of their work, their views, their expertise. Watch previous interviews (podcasts are great) to see how they address questions. Ie: Are they softly spoken? Are they animated? Do they like to joke around? Do they give short answer questions or do they elaborate on topics?
  • Research the topic. Example: When thinking about YA crossovers, I made sure to have a thorough knowledge of the main conversations concerning YA literature such as censorship, marketing, themes and changing technologies. I looked at past and current trends as well as future outlooks for the market.
  • Know your audience. What’s the demographic? Are they majority writers or majority readers? What specific areas would they be interested in? Craft-related advice? Industry knowledge? Or do they just want to hear from their favourite authors and learn more about their books and lives?
  • For a 40-60 minute panel, write around 4-5 open-ended questions that could lead to smaller investigative follow-up questions. Try to vary question depth and involvement required by the panelists. Start with some easier, ‘warm-up’ questions and build to the high concept questions. Try to vary mode of questioning (How do you feel about … ? Why do you think … ? Do you agree with … ? What are your thoughts/opinions …? Can you explain … ? Have you done …. ? Is there an example of … ?)
  • If possible, try to introduce yourself to the panelists at least twenty minutes prior to the session to get to know them, to discuss few key topics that both parties would like to cover and, most importantly, to get a feel the group dynamics.
  • When introducing the panelists, keep their introductions brief and relevant to the topic being discussed. Example: if you’re talking about YA crossovers, reference their YA works. The audience wants to know that the author they’re listening to actually has experience in the field they are discussing.
  • During the session, allow the conversation to flow naturally and for the authors to explore larger concepts and ideas. However, try not to let the conversation go too off topic or else the audience isn’t getting what they came to hear.
  • Listen to what the panelists are saying but feel confident to offer alternative views or opinions in a way that encourages interesting and positive discussion.
  • Try to avoid talking about yourself or monopolising the conversation. This isn’t about you.
  • Keep track of the time. If you’re using a watch, place it on the table so you can see it without being obvious. You don’t want to be bringing your wrist to your face every time you need to check the time. It’s distracting and can make people think they need to wrap up.
  • Bring a pen to jot down key words or ideas should the conversation spark a new question or concept.
  • Allow 10-15 minutes for audience questions at the end.
  • Be prepared to clarify/repeat audience questions.