Coldemort

I spent last week working in Melbourne, a city I’ve lived in briefly, that I love, that has incredible things going on in my industry, and that I kind of wish my parents had moved to when we’d moved to Australia. Well Melbourne or Sydney—contrary to everyone’s obsession with choosing a favourite, I’d be happy with either. In fact, I didn’t have a ready answer when a potential client asked what kept me in Brisbane.

The truth is that I don’t know what keeps me here, and I know even less so given the bleakness of the industry in recent months. I like Brisbane, but it’s not yet where all the important writing industry things happen. I’ve said ‘yet’ in that previous sentence, but I’m no longer sure I should have.

My hesitancy refers, of course, to the swift guillotining of the leading industry award and then the heads of the leading arts body by the recently elected, not-arts-inclined premier who, in the tradition of Harry Potter’s nemesis, herein shall not be named. Let’s just say that his first name involves includes the letter ‘c’. Some of us have replaced the eight letters his birth certificate reads with four-letter revision not appropriate for a family friendly blog like this.

In a kind of just-what-the-doctor-ordered ray of hope, Women of Letters came to town last Sunday. It admittedly emerged from Melbourne, but one of its co-founders hails from Brisbane and my very same university course. The turnout of talented writers and readers, including some industry greats like outgoing Brisbane Writers Festival director Jane O’Hara, was comforting meets an inadvertent show of solidarity: you might be doing your darnedest to encourage us to take our words overseas or interstate, Coldemort, but you’re going to have to try darn harder to succeed.

Sekiden singer Seja Vogel opened the afternoon’s theme of a letter to someone who doesn’t/shouldn’t know who you are with a kind of ode meets apology to the drummer of Supergrass, whom she may or may not have sort of stalked. Amanda Muggleton followed on Skype—entertaining more for her OTT theatrics than for her witty Dear John writing, but interesting nonetheless. One noteworthy line was that ‘when you hurt a woman’s feelings, you hurt our vaginas too’.

Kristy Chambers, a nurse who has a forthcoming, tell-all book called Get Well Soon, showed the lighter side to Tourette’s. Amy Ingram, who I first came to know and love via her show Single Admissions about two years ago, blew me away with her letter about what she thought about writing about and then her eventual list of apologies for being a slightly dodgy person. She is seriously piss funny, and was also incredibly composed considering she’d had a car accident on the way to the event. She’d taken her eye off the road to give esteemed Brisbane writer Benjamin Law the finger.

Ingram’s hilarity was a highlight for me, but so too was Greens politician Larissa Waters’ letter. She apologised for not being so witty before she commenced, before shrugging and saying that she guessed it was too late to do anything about it now. What followed was a heartfelt, touching letter that didn’t require wit at all.

In it Waters admitted that sometimes she hates her job, that sometimes she wished politics would go away, and that she wondered why she’d entered politics at all. The answer is because she was sick of practising environmental law and having to inform people that the law didn’t protect the environment at all. The answer is because she realised she needed to change the law and that she couldn’t in good conscience not try to make the world a better place for her child.

Which brings me back to Coldemort. I wasn’t the only one who wrote a question relating to him for the question time, but I was rather chuffed that mine (which I co-wrote with fellow writers Carody and Judi) was the one they read out as a kind of all-encompassing summary. Inside I did a virtual, H&R Block fist pump.

I can’t write the exact question here seeing as it included the c words I noted above couldn’t and wouldn’t be written here on this g-rated blog. But I can say that the positive response to the question showed that I’m not alone in being troubled by Coldemort’s actions. That, combined with an afternoon of good reading and writing surrounded by others who share a love for the written word at an out-of-the-box event created by writers inspired me to stick it out here just a little longer.

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Fiona Crawford

Fiona Crawford is a freelance writer, editor, blogger, proofreader, and voracious reader. She regularly appears as a book reviewer in Australian BOOKSELLER+PUBLISHER magazine. Fiona is also (unfairly) known as the Book Burglar due to her penchant for buying family members—then permanently borrowing—books she wants to read herself.