2016 has been a pretty shite year for a lot of people, particularly for those who are not straight, white, cis-gendered males. I don't really have any good takes on this, other than that I am sad, scared for friends and loved ones, and more determined to make good art that might help those in danger, even if it's just to get through the day. I am also working on how I can foster more direct positive change, but that's not something I'm ready to write about just yet.
There are few good things that have happened, things that I have done, and that other people I like have done recently. I went to the National Young Writers festival in October. This is the third year in a row that I've attended the festival, and with each year I've met more people and become a little bolder and learnt a lot more about being in the writing world. Below are a couple of pictures taken by NYWF new friend Claire of me and Giselle eating snacks on the train, and me being a dork while we were walking back to our hostel from the Ball. My aim next year is to do more workshops and actually go to the beach. I did read again this year, which was just as terrifying and exhilarating as last year, but it was nice to have a few more familiar faces in the crowd this time around. I like being able to read at this festival for a couple of reasons; one, because the the room is always so warm and kind and everyone always seems to be on your side, and two, because it gives me a chance to show people what I can do. I do believe in my writing, I think most of it is good, and I want to share it with others, but I'm also an awkward dork who can't talk about the stuff I've done without making weird faces and laughing nervously and deflecting more questions at the first opportunity. Getting the chance to let the work speak for itself is something I prefer, and it's something I can do, at least while I am still practicing these other skills.
Anyway, ex-festival director and cool new pen friend Alex Neill wrote some beautiful blog posts about her experiences at the festival, and even though they are very personal, they paint really lovely pictures of the kind of thing NYWF can be. I hope that as the years go on this is the kind of festival experience I will get to have. Alex also wrote a really great post about making friends in general, it is something that I'm also constantly working on and this gave some good insight for me to work with, particularly the part where she talks about friendship as skill you can practice. I've recently started to realise just how sensitive I've become, perhaps even more so now than I was as a teenager (which is surprising considering how gratuitously emo I was as a teen). I've been thinking about how the way I relate to people is shaped by how I'm feeling about myself at the time, and vice versa. When I'm feeling good it's like a positive feedback loop, but when I'm not it's more like a downward spiral. It's very easy for someone like me to say, "it's okay, I'm just an introvert, I'm just not that good at socializing," and use this excuse not to put any effort in. But I'm not going to do that, because there are people who are good and lovely and we could be great friends if I tried a little harder, and put just a little bit more effort in to reach out. And if I manage my energy reserves okay, and pay attention to when I'm getting burnt out, this is totally doable; it's kind of like exercising I guess, it's hard to get off the couch but when you do you almost always come back feeling much better. Anyway, Alex's post on this stuff is lovely and helpful and kind and if you're thinking about these kinds of things too I highly recommend it.
Also, gonna keep on practicing my self promotion skills; I did two things with the Digital Writers Festival last month. I spoke on a panel with Steven Finch, Kirsten Cameron, and Emily Meller, who are all very interesting and talented people. This was lovely chat, and my cat even makes an appearance in the background.
I also launched an online writing project 'Hey Rhys', which has kind of grown out of bits and pieces I've been writing over the last couple of years. The story itself is quite simple, it's about two people in love, separated in space, trying to get back to each other. But in telling this simple story I've been messing around with other things like digital music and blog formats and audio poetry, and I've been enjoying the process of making this more than anything I've done this year. You can read the whole thing on this blog, if you like.
Anyway, that's enough for now. I hope you are keeping well, and that what's left of this year will treat you better than it has been.