Emerging Writers’ Festival

Business of Being a Writer

Finding work, filing tax, managing deadlines, sending invoices… welcome to the life of a writer. We know how confusing it can be trying to navigate the business side of creativity so we’ve designed this special masterclass to give you the tools and confidence to work as a writer.

With five sessions, two inspiring keynote addresses, handouts, and plenty of time for questions, we’ll help you navigate the business of being a writer. Sessions will cover:

  • Business & legals – from getting an ABN to sorting out tax and insurance
  • Getting the money in – setting rates, how to invoice and managing tax flow
  • Process & organisation – juggling projects, time management and good work practices
  • Relationships – maintaining good relationships, finding work and support networks
  • Marketing & self-promotion – how to get your name out there and keep it out there

Upcoming events…

Flurry of activity before I disappear into a Freeplay wrangling flurry.

I’ll be running a session at the Emerging Writers’ Festival as part of their Business of Being a Writer Masterclass on Process and Organisation. This event has sold out (hurrah), but there are still tickets available for their myriad other events.

I’ll also be running on of their TwitterFEST sessions on play and the creative process, building on and discussing my piece in The Reader that you can read online here.

Through Freeplay, we’ve also organised a few playful storytelling things with them. Head over to the event on their website or Freeplay to learn more.

Early June, I’ll be up in Brisbane to talk at the IGDA / Creative Industry Precinct’s Game On program. There isn’t much detail on the site, but this is what I’ll be talking about:

The words we use to describe the space we work in – development, industry, culture, community – all describe structures built, either deliberately or as a byproduct of other processes, by people. In the face of a shifting industrial landscape, how can we build new structures that might better reflect how we’d like to live and work, what would the values of such a community look like, and what does it mean to connect with a wider creative, critical, and artistic culture? This year’s Freeplay will explore these ideas – along with many others – but before it does, co-director Paul Callaghan will talk about some of the history and philosophy behind Freeplay, what to expect from this year’s event, and what to think about into 2012 and beyond.

After that,  I’m going to be at the Continuum Speculative Fiction and Pop Culture Convention talking games and storytelling. Look out for the launch of their full program here.

And lastly, I’ll be running a workshop with ExpressMedia on Innovative Storytelling as part of their Big Splash series.

Play is the Wrong Word

This is a piece that originally appeared in the Emerging Writers’ Festival Reader.

Every piece of writing – in fact every act of creation – is an exploration, a mapping of elusive contours of thought, a process of divination and excavation. At the other end, every experience of a piece of writing – or every creative work – is the same: a scrabble through uncharted caves, a handheld guide through an unknown city, a slow resonant unveiling of how things are and how they came to be.

But mention the word play in association with either of these processes and the arguments come at you hard and fast. We are serious writers and thinkers, they say, explorers of uncharted territory. We stalk the wilderness and return with wisdom, heroes of our own creative journey. We are adults struggling against the dark, and we have no time for such trivial things.

Perhaps play is the wrong word then? Or perhaps it’s something that needs reclaiming through reflection and re-examination of how creativity works.

Continue reading “Play is the Wrong Word”

Emerging Writers’ Festival Reader

One bright spot in a difficult few weeks is the launch tonight in Sydney and then on Tuesday in Melbourne of the Emerging Writers’ Festival Reader.  In it is my first ever book-published piece titled Play is the Wrong Word, which takes a look at the importance of play as part of the creative process. Here’s an excerpt, but please buy the full book to support emerging writers & future editions.

Continue reading “Emerging Writers’ Festival Reader”

Emerging Writers’ Festival

Never Surrender

Writing isn’t all about success stories! Join our writers as they speak candidly about rejection, creative risk-taking and projects that took ten years from creation to publication. Why do they stick with it, and is it all worth it in the end?

With — Paul Callaghan, Elizabeth Campbell, Sean Condon and Dee White. Hosted by Stu Hatton.

The Emerging Writers’ Festival…(& podcasts, interviews, and reviews…)

The Emerging Writers’ Festival just launched their program, so it’s time for the obligatory spruiking blog-post.

I’m running a 2-hour writing for games workshop with Express Media on May 22nd from 2-4.  Details here.  I’m going to cover the key similarities and differences between games & more traditional media and how to approach the process of games writing.

I’ll also be on the panel ‘Never Surrender’ on May 29th at 1:45.

Never surrender
Writing isn’t all about success stories! Join our writers as they speak candidly about rejection, creative risk-taking and projects that took ten years from creation to publication. Why do they stick with it, and is it all worth it in the end?
With — Paul Callaghan, Elizabeth Campbell, Sean Condon and Dee White. Hosted by Simonne Michelle-Wells.

And 20 minutes before the program launch, I was interviewed for the Arts Alive program about my experiences with the festival and why I think it’s a Good Thing(tm).  (Summary: Writers > Readers for inspiration!)

Thanks to Lisa Dempster, I was at last month’s Format Festival in Adelaide talking about writing & technology on the Non-Paper Publishing panel.  One of the other speakers, Estelle Tang, recently interviewed me about games writing for the Kill Your Darlings podcast.  You can listen to it here.

And lastly, I reviewed The Pleasures of Computer Gaming for RMIT‘s Second Nature Journal.  You can read that review here.

Writing for games workshop…

I’m running a writing for games workshop with Express Media and the Emerging Writers’ Festival on May 22nd.

Details from the Express Media site are:

Express Media in partnership with the Emerging Writers’ Festival presents:

How To Write Computer Games with Paul Callaghan, 2-4pm. The Wheeler Centre, 176 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne.

$10

Games, like all mediums, have their own strengths and weaknesses as a storytelling medium. This workshop takes a look at what makes games tick, what you can learn from traditional forms, and what you should know about the expressive power of mechanics.

link

And so it begins…

2010 is shaping up to be a pretty interesting year…

I’ll be at the Format Festival – Academy of Words in Adelaide on March 13th. Definitely talking about non-paper publishing, but might also be chairing something else. Details here.

I’m also taking part in the next Meanland event – Reading in a Time of Technology – on May 19th at the Wheeler Centre.  Details here.

And, lastly,  I’ll once again be talking at the Emerging Writers’ Festival, sometime from May 21st to May 30th.

Emerging Writer’s Festival – Sunday

Sunday morning was spent rewriting my panel presentation – I’d decided late Saturday to change the focus of my talk from how great the collaborative process is, to talking about the collaborative relationship between author and audience and how that manifests in games.  This meant I missed seeing the speakers, but luckily through the wonders of technology, they had a speaker in the coffee room you could listen in on.

After lunch, I saw The Art vs Craft panel.  It was interesting structurally – having the panellists debate both sides of the argument against themselves – and the speakers were entertaining – Nathan Curnow wore a bunny suit to speak – but I came away with the same opinion I had going in: both Art & Craft are equally important.

Next up, was me speaking on the panel I Can Say Yes But In The End It Will Be No, talking about issues of collaboration and ownership as a writer with Liz Argall, Angela Bentzien, and Luke Devenish. Both Liz & Luke focused on the positives of the collaborative experience – an opinion that I share.  When it works, it’s brilliant, because other creative people take what’s in your head and make it better than you could have imagined it.  when it goes wrong, as I’ve seen it do, it can be incredibly frustrating though, but I think we all thought that the working with other artists had made us better writers.  Angela spoke about the practical nature of the work and of having ownership of it – especially as a theatre group, and having to come to a creative consensus.

I spoke about the role of collaboration between the author and the audience, and how that relates to ownership.  My theory is that you never really own the work, and that there’s always some form of collaboration, because writing – or storytelling – is about communication, and in order for communication to happen, you need at least 2 people.  In established media – prose, games, theatre, comics – the communication you have with your audience is one way –  it’s a creator / consumer relationship – but with games, you get the chance to turn that communication into more of a conversation.  Games are built in such a way that the audience actually has to engage with the telling of the story, they have to take action, they have to own their own agency, and they have to push through the game’s story.  Done well, narrative games have access to the audience’s emotions in a far more visceral form than the empathic response of prose or film because you aren’t watching someone on a screen do something, or reading about them doing it in a book, the audience is actively making a choice and then acting on that choice before seeing the consequences play out.  That’s something that’s really exciting and powerful to me as a writer, and hopefully I got that across in my allotted ten minutes – at least when I wasn’t suggesting members of the audience were stalking me, telling stories about mental illness, or talking about a girl who got away.

It was a lively panel, I thought.  From where I was sitting, everyone shared something of themselves, and I felt like I knew everyone a little bit better afterwards, which is exactly what I’m looking for when I hear people speak.

Next up, I went straight into my From Here to There session to talk about my experience writing games generally, and more specifically Doctor Who.  I think, a few years after the project ended, that this was a nice way to finally put the whole thing to bed.  I got to talk about how I got my start as a games writer, the greatest creative experience of my professional life (so far), the worst creative experience of my professional life (hopefully ever), and to talk in a bit more detail about the strengths and weaknesses of games as a storytelling medium.  It was tremendous fun, but also a little strange, because at times it felt like I was just having a conversation, but then I’d turn around and there would be 20 people in the same room, all listening to me, and all laughing in the right spots.

The last session was Letters to the Editor, a chance for David Ryding, the festival director, to bring back speakers and ask them questions from the audience.  It was a good way to finish up the festival – funny, insightful, and focused on the process of writing.

And that’s the strength of the emerging writers’ festival – it’s about writing, not writers.  I felt energised and inspired about my own work after hearing people speak.  I was reminded that there are as many ways of working as their are writers and that you need to find not only your own voice, but your own reasons for doing the work, and your own path through that.  I got to speak to some incredibly talented and interested people, who in turn, seemed to see me the same way – which left me with an insufferable ego for the following few days – and who also shared my drive to write and share and communicate and make it work in whatever way we need to.  That for me is the crux of the festival – bringing writers together and building a community, no matter what stage of your career you’re at.

Which brings me to a question I’ve been thinking about since I was asked to take part – am I an emerging writer?  Well, yes and no, I think.  I’m still learning.  I’m still finding my feet.  I’m still bluffing my way through some of it.  But, I know I can do it – at least for games.  So, in that area, I don’t know that I am emerging, but I don’t know that I’m established quite yet either.  Maybe we need another definition – something between emerging and emerged – but I suspect we’d then need two more definitions to bridge those, then 4 more to bridge those, then 8, then it would never stop and our dictionary would contain nothing but words to describe the stages of a writer’s career.

Maybe then, it’s enough to just say, I’m a writer, and I’m doing this work, and that’s where I’m at.  I think that’s what I’ll do.  At least until somebody stops me, takes my hand, shakes their head, and says, ‘sorry son, ‘fraid you’re not a writer.’

And I’ll look them in the eye, and there’ll be a moment between us that stretches out just a little bit too long but neither of us will say anything, and when they’re just about to pull away, their fingers losing their grip, their cold hand retreating, I’ll smile, and then I’ll kick them in the shins and run off down the street!