Emerging Writers’ Festival: Stories from the Trenches
Ahead of the 2011 Emerging Writers' Festival, the Wheeler Centre presents a sneak preview of the kind of chat that will be on offer. Because being a writer is not all about six-figure advances and rapturous signing queues, four of our finest local writers compare notes and gnash their teeth about what it’s really like out there, in the cold, hard world of Writerland.
In the able hands of wrangler/tamer Ben Birchall, Paddy O'Reilly, Sean Condon and Meg Mundell share stories of the hilarious and at times embarrassing jobs that have bankrolled their writing careers — from O'Reilly’s stint as a Florida grapefruit queen in a Japanese supermarket to Mundell’s employment as Mary Christmas, fictional wife to a defiantly alcoholic ventriloquist Santa Claus.
On a slightly more serious note, Mundell advises aspiring scribes to leave a little space between daily life and the stuff of stories to avoid stirring “a whole lot of shit with a whole lot of people”. She shares the frustration of having an editor stealing story ideas from her pitches, a scenario not unfamiliar to O'Reilly and Condon. The trio discuss the value of a life away from writing and the trail of inspiration that leads back to the page.
Condon flaunts an amusingly grim assessment of the publishing world which may be “just a phase”, depending on whether or not you believe Mundell’s reassurances to him. Having once taken on an assignment about driving around Australia — whilst having had no licence — the travel writer and humorist repeatedly declares that he’s given up. “It’s just a terrible, terrible business,” he offers, “that I cannot dissuade you urgently enough to stay away from”.
Sean Condon is the author of six books in a variety of genres. He has also written for many newspapers and magazines and co-wrote one episode of a sitcom for Foxtel in 2009 which was not picked up for series. He now does other things.
Ben Birchall is a writer, broadcaster and creative director who has worked in radio, advertising and digital publishing. He hosted 3RRR FM’s Breakfasters from 2009-2012 and is currently the host of Ingredipedia – a factual food fight podcast that consistently tops the iTunes Australia food charts. His writing has appeared in the Age, Smith Journal and Frankie and his advertising work for clients like NAB, Mars, CUB and the Wheeler Centre has won awards internationally.
Paddy O’Reilly is a writer from Melbourne. Her work has been published and broadcast widely both here and internationally. Her latest novel, The Fine Colour of Rust, is published in the UK, Australia and the USA.