Aden Rolfe Talks Us Through his Forthcoming Anthology

Ahead of the release of Emerging Writers' Festival The Reader, editor Aden Rolfe gives a sneak peek into the publication with this excerpt from his editorial:

Aden Rolfe, editor of 2010 edition of The Reader

Aden Rolfe, editor of 2010 edition of The Reader

I’ve been wondering what a writers’ festival is for. I haven’t been wondering what one is, or whether there’s a distinction between a writers’ festival and a readers’ festival (we know this, right?), just what they’re for. Inevitably, I wax together some funding-safe nouns – entertainment, insight, rumination, debate – and then stop on the safest of all: community.

Within my idea of community, we’re not holding hands. This beige definition will pass within a few years and community will go back to being an ambivalent concept, something to be augmented with other ideas and qualifiers. No, at a writers’ festival, community means networking, bumping into, sucking up to, catching up with, meeting, greeting, chatting, joking, criticising. At its best, it’s a party; at its worst, an apathetic clique. In either case, the social aspect manifests in discussion.

This discussion occurs most obviously between writers and their hosts (facilitators, interviewers, moderators). But then it opens out to include the audience and, if it’s interesting enough, moves on to various conversations between attendees and writers and organisers. It moves to the foyer, the bar, online, and then ripples out to involve anyone who cares to take part. People get quoted and paraphrased, discussions are recycled and reused, fragments become the grist for future discussions, articles, events.

The Reader capitalises on this overflow, aiming to keep the discussion going. It doesn’t document the Emerging Writers’ Festival but, more importantly – and indeed, more interestingly – talks out various ideas, issues and insights that began there. Caroline Hamilton’s interview with Chris Meade, for example, started as an informal chat at this year’s Page Parlour. And Greg Foyster’s article on freelancer rates had its inception during the In the Pub session.

The Reader covers the critical and the creative, the philosophical, the reflective and the invented. There are works by artists and hosts of the 2010 festival, works by attendees, and works by people who have never been. In addition to the raft of articles and essays, there’s a set of literary portraits scattered throughout, as well as poetry and short fiction, and even a Choose Your Own Adventure (the journey begins opposite). What’s been created here is a series of conversations. We have one occurring between the Emerging Writers’ Festival and The Reader, we have several more happening among the various works, and we’re taking part in another between this volume and the last and the next. Hopefully all these spark further discussion still, whether by illumination or indignation, whether you find something that speaks to you or you disagree wholeheartedly. That is what a writers’ festival is for, what any literary event should be about.

The Reader 2010 launches in November in Sydney and Melbourne.

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