On Friday the Melbourne Writers Festival program was a hefty insert in the Age. In the past it came as part of Saturday’s weekend supplements, but it’s all part of the new energy buzzing through the festival. New director Steve Grimwade put his program out on Friday to coincide with online bookings and the program boasting more than 400 events has more in common with Friday’s hip EG than Saturday’s brunchable browser, A2.
The big news in the program is Joss Whedon as the second keynote. Tickets have probably already sold out but it does give an excuse to show off Joss Whedon on writing for new media:
Mark Scott presenting The Quest for Truth interests me less. We know where the ABC supremo is coming from already and there will be a lot of talking up ABC 24. Cory Doctrow on Copyright Vs Creativity speaks more to the challenges of our time: namely how can we continue to create quality content when it is free? The argument is often made that we should be giving away content, “getting it out there” will build an audience, but this argument is often advanced by established media practitioners who already have a place in traditional media. Doctrow can afford to give away his novels, but for the rest of us writing may no longer be a rent-payer.
And this is particularly relevant for small journals – how can they make the move online to free content and continue to publish? Fortunately MWF gives you the chance to get the lowdown from editors and contributors with their ongoing Magazine event. In suitably alternative shipping container, this event gives publications like Overland, Kill Your Darlings and The Big Issue a platform to put their writing centrestage and meet their readers. If you miss your chance there’s also a Birthday Stories event that features editors from Meanjin, Overland and Going Down Swinging – including the all important "where are they headed" question that seems like a good point to ask about their online direction.
Finally there’s two events I have to attend, because I’m in them. I’ve had a crush on Liner Notes for a long time but have been to coy to tell them. The idea is you get various spoken word and performance artists to produce a piece of writing based on a track from a particular album. Last year’s Thriller featured Linda Jaivan debuting her guitar playing skills and Sean M Whelan's inspired re-imagining of Mama Say a Ma Cu Sa. This year it’s Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 classic, Rumours, when the band was ripped apart by sexual tension and producing their biggest album ever. I’ve been given a track and have to write a piece for it, but more on that as I write it…
The next morning I’m in the backseat on The Long Road, a session with radio broadcaster Jon Faine with his son Jack as they discuss their drive from Melbourne to London. I think this means my job is to say “Are we there yet?” and ask to stop for the loo at the most difficult times.
That same Sunday morning, Ma Jian reads in Federation Square. As one of China’s best contemporary short story writers this will be one of my festival highlights.