Ghosts of Festivals Past

Emerging Writers’ Festival is right around the corner! Head straight to your screen from 16 – 23 June for a week of innovative performances, professional development, and digital programming for writers of all genres and forms. Be sure to block off Saturday 20 June for a day of industry insights and inspiration with the National Writers’ Conference.

While we can’t wait to delve into these digital events, EWF’s dazzling program launch had us reminiscing about our past (physical) festival connections. Reading and Writing enthusiasts Laura Elvery, Jasmin McGaughey, and Shastra Deo reflect on their favourite festival memories.

Sydney Writers Festival 2019

One of my favourite writers, American novelist and short story master George Saunders, came to Sydney Writers Festival in 2019. I could have listened to George for hours and hours, just him, onstage. I find his writing so warm and hopeful and funny, even as he skewers those in power and points out human failures. You can listen here. At the signing table, George told me my dress was cool so of course I panicked and half-crouched awkwardly near his shoulder for a not-great photo. (Photo not shown.) Another highlight of SWF2019 was Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, also from America, also a brilliant short story writer. A former student of Saunders’, Adjei-Brenyah’s book is Friday Black. —LAURA ELVERY

Laura Elvery's signed copy of George Saunders's In Persuasion Nation

Brisbane Writers Festival 2019

I had a deeply moving experience at the Brisbane Writers Festival in 2019 at the panel for ‘Growing up African in Australia’ (Black Inc.) with then fellow black&write! intern, Allanah Hunt. At the festival, which was held at State Library, Maxine Beneba Clarke, Sara El Sayed, and moderator Kathomi Gatwiri spoke truthfully about their own experiences and those within the anthology. I saw my own life reflected in their words. It was a special moment that made me realise the community of people who share similarities to me is bigger than I thought. —JASMIN MCGAUGHEY

"Growing Up African in Australia" at Brisbane Writers Festival 2019

Queensland Poetry Festival 2019

I had the best time at last year’s Queensland Poetry Festival! 2019 was the first year I had enough time to participate in workshops and spend quality time with my friends. On day one I attended Selina Tusitala Marsh’s workshop ‘Take a Chants on Me’, and got to collab with Brisbane-based poet and absolute genius Raelee Lancaster. I’m obsessed with Raelee’s writing (read her poem “Haunted House” in Fire Front: First Nations Poetry and Power Today) and am still so stoked about the poems we wrote together—I hope we’ll get to conspire again in future! —SHASTRA DEO

Shastra and Raelee at Queensland Poetry Festival 2019

Have you planned your 2020 Emerging Writers' Festival itinerary? We’ve filled up our lunch breaks and weekends with our top program picks:

Check out the full programs from Emerging Writers’ Festival and National Writers’ Conference—there’s something for every writer, reader, and creator. See you online!

About the authors

  • Laura Elvery is a Project Officer in the Reading and Writing team at State Library of Queensland. She is the author of two short story collections: Trick of the Light (UQP, 2018) and Ordinary Matter (UQP, forthcoming August 2020). Her work has won the Josephine Ulrick Prize for Literature, the Margaret River Short Story Competition, the Neilma Sidney Short Story Prize, and the Fair Australia Prize for Fiction. Learn more about Laura here.

  • Jasmin McGaughey is a Junior Editor with black&write! She completed a Master of Writing, Editing and Publishing through the University of Queensland and is currently in the midst of a Master of Philosophy. She is a recipient of the Wheeler Centre’s 2019 Next Chapter Fellowship and is currently Kill Your Darlings's First Nations Editor-in-Residence. Read Jasmin's essay on the need for more young adult Torres Strait Islander writing here.

  • Shastra Deo was State Library of Queensland’s first Reader in Residence. Her poetry collection, The Agonist (UQP, 2017), won the 2016 Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize and the 2018 Australian Literature Society Gold Medal. Shastra’s short story, The Minutes Turn to Ours, was runner up in the 2012 State Library of Queensland Young Writers Award. Learn more about Shastra here.


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