Monday musings on Australian literature: The inaugural Australian Short Story Festival
Promotion is hotting up for the inaugural Australian Short Story Festival (ASSF) to be held in Perth this year, from October 21st to 23rd. At least, it’s hotting up, if you follow them on social media, because they’ve been actively promoting the event on Twitter and Instagram*. ASSF Inc is a non-profit organisation, and they are aiming big: this is their first event but on their website they describe it as “an annual festival celebrating short stories in written as well as spoken form.” Annual! Good for them. I like the fact, too, that they are talking about spoken and written short stories.
Australian writers bring to the genre of the short story, a form so loose and so generous that almost anything can be attempted within its porous borders. (Amanda Lohrey, on ASSF’s Instagram, 27 July)
ASSF explains that theirs is “the first national event to focus exclusively on the short story form”. It therefore “offers a unique contribution to the nation’s literary culture, as well as a timely response to the current resurgence of this aesthetically exacting narrative form”. It certainly seems to be so – that is, I do sense that the form is enjoying a resurgence. Anyhow, to continue … they say that the festival will “bring together short story writers, storytellers, publishers, and editors of literary magazines, as well as readers, and will connect audiences with both Australian and international short story writers”. They are committed to being culturally-inclusive, both in terms of speakers and audiences. Let’s hope they achieve this – particularly in terms of the audience, because the program does look pretty positive in terms of diversity.
And, they are already planning the 2017 Festival which they advise will be held in Adelaide.
Short stories do not say this happened and this happened and this happened. They are a microcosm and a magnification rather than a linear progression. (Isabelle Carmody, on ASSF’s Instagram, 20 July)
The organising committee includes some Western Australians who’ve graced these pages before in some form or other. There’s Caroline Wood, who is Director of both the Centre for Stories and Margaret River Press. I’ve reviewed a few books, including two short story anthologies, from this lovely little press. There’s also MidnightSun publisher Anna Solding. I’ve reviewed a short story anthology of theirs too. There are also two authors, Laurie Steed and Susan Midalia (who has appeared in one of the anthologies I’ve reviewed and co-edited another), as well as Catherine Nose, editor of Westerly Magazine, and Ada Chung representing the City of Subiaco.
So, what will be happening at the Festival? They released their program a few days ago – and it looks good. The style is looks to be typical writers festival with “in conversation” sessions, workshops and panel discussions on contemporary topics. The opening address will be given by, arguably, the doyenne of Australian short story writing, Cate Kennedy, and the closing address by one of Western Australia’s best-known writers, Kim Scott. “In conversation” sessions are being held with writers like Ellen van Neerven, Fiona McFarlane and Paddy O’Reilly, all of whom I’ve reviewed here; the workshops include topics like editing; and there’s a whole slew of other sessions that sound inspired and inspiring, ranging from the practical like publishing, structure, and voice to general interest topics like emerging writers, adapting for stage and screen, flash fiction and poetry, and crossing the cultural divide. And of course there are spoken word sessions like the “street side readings walk trail”.
Write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best as you can. I’m not sure there are any other rules. Not ones that matter. (Neil Gaiman, on ASSF’s Instagram, 31 May)
It all sounds wonderfully interesting and exciting – and not overly expensive (as you’ll see if you check out the website links I’ve provided). I wish the Festival great luck – not that I think they’ll need it given the thinking and planning I’ve seen to date. I look forward to reading all about it on my favourite Western Australian litblogs!
A word after a word after a word is power. (Margaret Atwood, on ASSF’s Instagram, 5 September).
* I’ve included, throughout this post, some of the Instagram posts I’ve been seeing over the last few months. I’ve loved them.