Keep Calm and Write a Book
In the year 2003 – while I was avoiding finishing my honours thesis – I went to volunteer at the Magdalena Festival. I met some performers from Sarajevo who had continued to make work and find audiences in the middle of the Balkan war. Don’t get me wrong here; I’m well aware I don’t live in a war zone. It’s just that hearing them speak was the first time I really understood that – while not everyone will be a fan of the arts – there is something deep at the core of being human that drives people to make, to watch and be part of creative work. Money or no money. Crisis or no crisis. Official recognition or not.
In case you haven’t noticed there’s a debate going on. Queensland’s new Premier, Campbell Newmann, has axed the Premier’s Literary Awards. This was a suite of prizes including the Unpublished Manuscript Emerging Author Award and the David Unaipon Award (for an unpublished manuscript by an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island Writer).
As some of you know I’m a writer myself. I’m currently writing a script for primary school touring and am also 31,000 words into a novel manuscript. I support the literary awards, even if I’m nowhere near winning one, even if I never do. They raise the profile of writing in Queensland, get new work published and support authors with prize money. (As we all know – making art doesn’t usually make you rich.) And so I’ve signed the petition – but that’s not what this blog is about.
What really fascinates me is the debate that has been generated. Seriously. If you click on that word you’ll find blogs, newspaper articles and radio stories asking every possible question – including by people who support the scrapping of the program. Huge thanks to Queensland Writers Centre for putting it together. Even the self declared “right wing red neck” taxi driver I met on Thursday morning had a solid opinion. (He thought the loss of the awards reflected a personal grudge on the part of the Premier who “must have known” the budget savings would “not be worth the heat”.)
And Queensland publishers and bookshops have already offered their support to a new version of the awards. It’s currently without prize money. But the unpublished writers would still see their books on shelves. And published winners would still get the kudos of a prize. So go on. Get involved. What do you think is the best way to support writers in Queensland?
Or – you could just write a book. Or a poem. Or a zine. Or a play. Or you could read one. And talk about it. Because that’s what makes writing important.