As part of my gradual move towards professional author I’ve been writing pro-bono for the members magazine of my local writers’ centre. Besides being a writers’ centre, it’s also a festival, the Byron Writers’ Festival. At the moment as part of my university studies I’m working as an intern writer/assistant editor for the magazine, although the original impetus for this came independently from my studies, and the work will continue again beyond it. It’s a a happy state of affairs that Mitchell, Levin and Krumboltz call ‘planned happenstance’ (Journal of Counselling and Development, vol 77), which nicely sums up the way every plucky artist should navigate their career path; put yourself in the path of opportunity, dance on a pinhead to make sure you see it coming, and when you do, jump on and ride!
Mid 2015 I published a poem with the magazine on its student promotion page (the writers’ centre has links with my university). The editor wrote to me after that and made an open offer for pitches. I got game and pitched this idea: to interview authors at the festival so that members who couldn’t get there would still have an idea of what the festival was like, the ideas being discussed, the authors’ minds, etcetera. And so now, since September 2016, we’ve had a regular feature called ‘Notes From The Festival’, authored by me. Yay!
It’s been a fantastic opportunity: I’ve met and talked to writers from all walks of life and genres, I’ve liaised with publicists and media managers, researched and formulated questions, dusted off my transcribing and editing skills, worked to deadlines, created a working relationship with an editor, and along the way been invited to write workshop reviews for the centre’s blog. The big bonus too is the free media pass to the festival. And did I mention talking to amazing writers? I was also invited to do it again this year, so it’s part of my internship, among other things.
I mention this all firstly, yes, to boast – I am proud of myself – but secondly, I want to offer encouragement to anyone else out there who’s thinking about doing something and wondering if they are able to do it. Sometimes you have to bite off more than you think you can chew. You can do it.
This whole process has been terrifying and I’ve been out of my comfort zone quite often. The pitch was easy. I didn’t question myself. I had the idea, wrote to the editor and asked. Later I thought I was an idiot (especially when I was told I might be interviewing a Pulitzer Prize winner), but the ‘Hey, great! Yes!’ response had already come through by then. I was committed.
So without further ado, in the coming weeks you’ll be seeing some of the interviews from last year’s festival. They first appeared in northerly, which is a very small print run magazine only accessible to members of the centre. I do own the copyright to these.
But first, here’s the poem that started it all. It’s dedicated to Kate Grenville (author of Secret River), who started a history/media furore here in Australia with a very innocent comment. It was a bit like John Lennon’s ‘bigger than Jesus’ comment.
Secret River (For Kate Grenville)
The muck you stirred with your stick
sullied more than just the water.
There were those aghast
at the slime smeared on their torsos;
others still who
cried from the banks that you could not steer a boat –
as though time itself were to be
across the way
– and no reflection could dull the rent
sky of fact; blame and understanding
smeared forensics that you had no pedigree for.
Who apportions what, and how?
And now, all that fertile silt
that swam through our pores
Small spores leave traces on the tidal flats.
engorge an oyster,
but the mystery of that mighty river
has run along, washed out to sea;
like so much history.
(c) 2014, Katinka Smit
(First published in northerly, 2015)