The Emerging Writers’ Festival which happens every winter in Melbourne is the best festival for writers I know of. And I’m not saying that because I’m one of the official schmoozers. I don’t do cash for comment (on this blog).
EWF is great because it’s a festival for writers rather than authors’ groupies. If you check out the program, you’ll see it’s got more of an industry conference vibe than the usual writers festivals that focus on packing out huge venues for headliners like Bryce Courtenay. EWF gives writers opportunities to hear from emerging and established writers about their journeys and their work, and has practical workshops and mentoring sessions in there too, as well as lots of networking and just plain having fun scheduled in.
One of the most interesting, effective programs that EWF does is the Pen Pals program. Like most innovative ideas, it’s so simple that once someone does it, you can hardly believe that everyone doesn’t do it. It’s slightly akin to crowd funding in that it asks for a small investment from a lot of individuals to make something big happen. To be a Pen Pal, all it takes is $75. That’s a relatively cheap pair of jeans or something.
Not only does it barely cost anything to be one, as a Pen Pal, you get to go to an invitation-only artist party and meet the writer you sponsored. It’s not like throwing some coins in a charity bucket and having some abstract sense that you’re contributing to something; you actually get to see first-hand the very real difference that your little investment makes in the career of a writer.
You also get to be part of the broader festival and experience personally how your contribution keeps the best writers’ festival alive and kicking for another year.
So what’s stopping you? Go adopt a writer. Do it for the future of Australian literature, do it for me, do it for the broken dreams of your youth or whatever. Seriously–$75. Pretty cheap to feel all warm and fuzzy and get to go to an exclusive party.