The Writing Forums are a series of closed industry events that have been taking place since 2014, bringing together clever people to look at problems facing the writing community. Described by one participant as “a secret tree house of brain storming” the forums look at concrete ways we can work toward change.
The 2016 forums focused on self-care in the arts and emerging at any age, and each of the events produced a series of recommendations, resolutions and ultimatums.
EWF is committed to continuing to work with the writing community to see real change in these areas.
Emerging at Any Age Manifesto
Compiled by: Sarah Vincent
This document reflects discussion that took place at a closed forum on embarking on a writing career at any stage of life, held at the Emerging Writers’ Festival in Melbourne on 22 June 2016.
Our panel discussed the current focus on emerging writers being young and what ‘young’ actually meant in terms of age. We outlined the blurred lines of what was regarded as young given that Express Media, the national organisation for young writers, supports writers aged fifteen to twenty-five, yet the Vogel Award for young novelists has a cut off of thirty-five, but publishing houses generally refer to a young debut writer as anyone under forty.
We all agreed that writers emerge at any age and should all be supported and encouraged, and that the current focus on youth could well discourage older writers from being actively involved in the writing community. We touched on how there are no specific awards or mentorships that specifically support older writers, as opposed to the considerable number for younger writers, but came to the conclusion that it was culture change and not the introduction of even more age-specific awards that would ensure older writers felt welcome and not judged.
We discussed how older writers had some benefits that younger writers may not possess, such as life experience and possibly more disposable income to allow them to pursue writing activities, but we also agreed that writing later in life could coincide with caring for young children or elderly relatives and that these factors needed to be recognised to ensure older writers could fully participate at festivals and writing events, especially in all-important networking opportunities.
We came up with the following recommendations that we urge the writing community to explore so that writers at all ages are supported and encouraged and are able to fully participate and contribute, and can further enrich and increase the diversity in the writing community.
Emerging does not equal young. Remove the word ‘young’ from written and verbal references to emerging writers. This also includes having age diversity in promotional materials and photos of emerging writers.
Inclusion statements that encourage diverse writers of all ages to apply for mentorships, internships, competitions and opportunities that are open to emerging writers
More support (especially mentoring) opportunities aimed at older writers, along the lines of the Overland Writers Residency that focusses on providing an opportunity for women writers who are also the sole primary carers of one or more children.
Events like the EWF need to continue to engage and encourage writers at all ages and stages by seeking to use a variety of spaces (not just pubs and bars) and by having a variety of ages of their ambassadors and panellists.
Carers’ Support Festival Allowance
A $200 grant offered each year plus a Golden Ticket to allow a carer of young children, elderly parents or disabled family member to arrange alternate care and then to be able to fully immerse themselves in the festival’s events and networking opportunities. This would be announced well before the festival and would be applied for through a peer-reviewed application process. One or more allowances to be offered each festival and other festivals to hopefully follow suit.
Stop asking for applicants’ age for competition entries, event bookings and mentorship program applications.