Friday, August 15, 2008

Salisbury Writers Festival Launch

Short and definitely not sweet.

Perhaps being someone who has grown up in the Northern suburbs of Adelaide, and intimately aware that the general individual raised in this area comes from a lower-middle-class background, I shouldn't have been surprised at what confronted my wife and I.

We arrived on time, Jodi in a very nice suit we brought for the occasion, me in dress pants and a shirt. As we walked toward the well lit location with the glass frontage, we could see those gathering inside. Very few had bothered to dress for the occasion. Ratty old jumpers, jeans, sneakers; as if they'd taken time out from their shopping at the local mall and popped in for the free food and wine. Provincial was the word that suddenly came to mind. A bunch of try-hard part-timers who wanted to be considered writers.

Then the average age of those present dawned on me. Most were a lot older than my 40 years. Life experience is an important thing for a writer, but less so for a genre writer. Don't get me wrong, a good young genre writer will become a great writer with time and application, but too many festivals have the blue rinse set writing humdrum mainstream stories as their bread & butter patrons.

My wife and I sat in the hastily aligned chairs somewhere near the middle row, but at the end as I have a need to get up on occasion due to a bad back.

We listened with interest to a local author, who has seen more than his fair share of troubles in his life, but still managed to get a local history book published. Then came the announcement of the contest winners.

First the kids who looked truly happy at their success, and I was genuinely pleased for them--writers of the future, I thought.

Then the senior awards, sorry, the open awards which turned out to be presented to mainly seniors. Sour grapes? Not really. With titles like "Watching the power bill" or some such dribble, I knew immediately that the awards were going to mainstream stories. My little dark fiction piece didn't stand a chance.

No announcement of any honourable mentions, just first, second, and third. I also think most of them knew they'd placed somewhere beforehand.

I'm guessing the hall sat around 80 people. About a dozen dignitaries were there with partners; the special guest was there with a few of his friends, and I spied a few who looked like supporters of the local culture building attempts of the council; local authors and the like (the literary bow tie and antique broach club brigade). So there would have been around 50 possible entrants, maybe less. They announced 12 awards which went to 11 people with one person winning an award for prose and poetry.

Only one winner wasn't there and the organisers knew where they were. They actually explained the reason for the absence, so I'm guessing they contacted the recipients to make sure they would be present. The rest of us, they let come and stew in anticipation to fill up the numbers.

I was more disappointed because we believed we were going to a cultural event that promoted itself more toward genre writing than mainstream literary stuff. I was more disappointed because my wife and I seemed to be the only two there to bother about presentation--we were better dressed than the Mayor! Jodi looked beautiful in her new outfit.

Only one person turned up to represent the writers centre.

We arrived at 7:00pm and were out of there before 8:00pm.

Disappointing would be an understatement.

But now we know. Next year I'll enter a more contemporary piece, and won't bother showing up unless I'm asked specifically to attend. If I'm wrong and they don't let the winners know previous to the event, they can send me my check and certificate in the mail, if I manage to place.

Congratulations to all the winners, especially the kids. I hope to read the winning stories in the not-too-distant-future so I know what they expect next year.

So the Salisbury Writers Festival Launch Party was a wash. Now I just need to send Idolatry off to the other market I heard about that sounded very suitable.

Ah well - back to writing and submitting.



  1. My commiserations. Still always best to give stuff a go I reckon, you never know what might come of it. Sounds like you could use the night as a setting for one of your horror stories.

  2. Condolences :-) I can completely understand your disappointment, I felt the same way when I entered (and bombed out in) a literary writing competition. Mind you, the same story went on to be a Semi-Finalist in last years Writers of the Future Contest. So it's not necessarily that your piece stunk, it's that the judges were likely looking for something Literary, and sometimes this can equate to genre-snobbery. And yes, this sort of festival does occasionally seem to be the province of the blue-rinse brigade :-) Just dust your piece off and try try again.

    To give credit where it's due, the City of Salisbury have poured a massive amount of money into this event, and they should be commended for their support of writing and the arts. I was lucky enough to win their 3 day novel race a few years ago, and it was a great experience (great prize money, good publicity etc).

    Also I'm a bit confused, I don't think they've ever marketed the Salisbury Writing Festival as genre-specific.

    But, like yourself, once bitten is twice shy. There are enough conventions, SF groups and genre-specific markets in this country that one could indefinitely avoid the wanky Lit-snob scene and never miss out on anything :-)

  3. Hi guys, thanks for the thoughts ans sorry for taking so long to reply.

    Idolatry has already gone back out to market, so no fear of me being scarred for life.

    As for the Festival - I do highly commend the council and its supporters for what they are trying to do in promoting the Arts and writing in particular. It has been touted as a more genre friendly festival, with comments passed that the Adelaide festival is for the snobs but Salisbury is for the average writer. (I'm looking for the soruces where I've seen this - I'm sure I haven't just dreamt it). I'm pretty sure they mention the word genre in the spiel but I've been wrong before.

    By the way - payday has surely come and gone--have you joined AHWA yet?

  4. point taken :-) I'll be signing up with AHWA thursday week, with some relief now that the mortgage has descended and extracted its pound of flesh.

    I'm really impressed with how active this group is, and what they are doing for writers.

  5. Wait till you see all the bits behind the members door, and the things we have planned for the future.

    Make sure you join up to the Southern horror writers group as well. Lots of announcement go up there as well. (if you're not already)