Category Archives: Writers

Happy to write here

On being in the writer tribe

I have been attending the Australian Society of Authors‘ first ever National Writers’ Congress #asa2020 which has meant spending more time in the company of writers than usual. It’s been good to have that shorthand that goes with being among your tribe.

The event started with a literary speed dating event which meant standing in sometimes lengthy lines to spend five minutes with an  agent or publisher. It was a fruitful. My intention was to meet publishers and agents to see about sending them one work and to gauge their interest for another work in progress. Happily achieved plus I discussed a work I hadn’t planned to discuss.

I have brought 18 books to go in the book shop. I noticed the book stand is far from the coffee and rest rooms so I don’t think people had much time to look.  Hoping not to take all 18 books on the plane home. (Went home 4 books lighter.)

There were some stirring speeches. I enjoyed Anna Funder who was scathingly about all of those people who want us to ‘just write’  a 200 or 300 words  for no payment. Michael Fraser AM issued a call to arms on copyright, Susan Johnson @sjreaders whose books I had read years even before meeting in London at a mutual friend’s barbecue,  Antony Loewenstein (who says so many people want to write the same as others which is dull) and Angelo Loukakis with a gift for summing up. Tom Keneally’s video was jolly in his pink Fiji shirt with some magnificent swirly wallpaper behind him.

There was a dinner too. Not some office-Christmas-party-sort-of-debauched-and-shop-talk dinner butHappy to write heresomething that was fun. No business cards, no need to say what you were working on. Just some fun with the tribe. Good to catch up briefly with Anne Summers who was resplendent in  her Julia Gillard interview outfit.

I could probably have done with some more sleep but I am enjoying writing in this little room with a view. I like the glimpse of the harbour near the Anzac Bridge and the ‘Rear Window’  view of the lives in the apartments nearby. The shirtless man smoking on the balcony. The dinner party. I’ve made a note of the room number.  I may be back.

Marian (MJ) Edmunds

P.S Kate Forsyth was the stand out for inspiration. More on that and more soon #asa2020

Franzen and my ‘social object’ miss

/>Jonathan Franzen’s disdain for social media is well-known. He’s also careful not to let the Internet distract him from writing. I read somewhere that he superglued a computer so he could not plug in a modem.

In  Nathan Bransford’s  excellent blog on the topic of books and writing) he  described hearing Jonathan Franzen speak and how this gave him  a new understanding of where Franzen was coming from. Franzen thinks very deeply and social media is a distraction from that.

I heard Jonathan Franzen speak at Brisbane Writers’ Festival on the chilly afternoon on September 10, 2011. He spoke a lot about birdwatching. At the end of his talk during audience questions a young man asked if  he could comment on the changes in the ‘American psyche’ in the 10 years since 9/11.

Franzen said no.

But then he said he’d explain why he was saying no. Part of the answer was that he did not like memorialisation of events being commoditised into an experience. After the talk I bought a Franzen book and  joined the end of a long queue to have it signed. A young man lined up behind me. He worked at the excellent Avid Reader bookstore and was shivering, having set out that brilliant spring morning without a jacket. When we reached the signing table, I suggested he go first.

When I reached Jonathan Franzen I thanked him for his talk and said I felt much the same way about memorial celebrations. Then I said, “You and I have work appearing in the same anthology.”  
It’s something I’m unlikely to be able to say again.
He asked me the title. It is City-pick New York I said.

Where I meet Franzen

“What's your story about?” said Franzen.

I described "Blue, blue sky". "Its a simple recollection of  visiting the South Tower of the World Trade Center. It's a tourist's memory. Returning  10 years later I questioned myself about my resistance to interpreted memorials. I am also resistant to seeing tragedies as cultural events that I can choose like experiential tourism.

After he had signed his book,  Jonathan Franzen handed it to me, then took my cold hand into his, shook it warmly and thanked me for being "one of us."

Later I realised I'd forgotten to get a photograph. The moment had passed.  There would be no currency, no

'social object' – a la Hugh McLeod –  on Twitter or Facebook or any other social media of me meeting Jonathan Franzen. It seems fitting.

Marian Edmunds