Video of Emerging Writers’ Festival: Stories from the Trenches
“They were the best of times, they were the worst of times.” So begins Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, but judging from the launch of the Emerging Writers' Festival last week the same could be said of the writing life. Writers Paddy O'Reilly, Sean Condon and Meg Mundell took centre stage last week at the Wheeler Centre under the guidance of breakfast radio personality Ben Birchall. The three took the audience through the ins and outs of the writing life - often with hilarious results.
They 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”.