Sunday, September 21, 2014

First Flight - three debut authors at the Melbourne Writers Festival.

For the second Melbourne Writers Festival in a row I attended a session involving three debut authors. The session was free and held in a much larger room than last year’s session. The audience was young, probably many were aspiring writers.

The authors were Holly Childs, Eli Glasman and Melinda Huston. The session was moderated by Sam Twyford-Moore, the director of the Emerging Writer’s Festival.

Holly Childs

Holly Childs was up first. She is an art magazine editor, artist and curator. Her debut book was a novella, No Limits, published by Hologram Books. It’s set in Melbourne in 2012 where the main character’s plane to Auckland has been delayed due to volcanic ash. There is an apocalyptic vibe in the air as Ash bounces from raves to internet cafes to...

Childs nervously read at a rapid pace from her novella. It had a lot of jargon, I had no idea how much was currently in use and how much was made up. The scene involved a group of youths wandering the streets of Melbourne after leaving a rave. 

Her novella was published after it won a competition. The competition was for novellas about contemporary themes. Authors had to be under 30 year of age. Childs said she had not written much before she wrote the novella.

Childs said her characters were one third her, one third other people and one third made-up. She also based some on characters in other literature.

She is off to take up a residency for writing and art in Europe.  

 Eli Glasman


Has a creative writing degree with honours. He blogs a lot. His debut novel is The Boy’s Own Manual to Being a Proper Jew (Sleepers Publishing). It is about a homosexual boy in the Melbourne orthodox Jewish community. Either the section Glasman choose to read or his rapid monotone delivery failed to spark my interest. But Twyford-Moore assured us it was beautifully written.

Glasman came out during the session, saying he was not gay, which was a surprise. I have to wonder how many straight authors would or could write a novel with a gay central character.

He used to be obsessed with the age an author’s first novel came out, but not anymore. He is 28. Originally, he sent a story to a publisher who liked it and they asked him to write a novel, but his first attempt was terrible. So he tried again and was published with a different publisher.

He kept many journals as he grew up and uses pieces from them in his writing. When he started taking anti-depressants memories from his past cropped up, he used them in his novel. He said he workshopped the first 10,000 words of the manuscript and then knew he was on the right track.

Melinda Huston

Has written news and celebrity profiles, and hundreds of book, film, food and bar reviews. She is currently a TV critic and columnist for most Fairfax newspapers and for radio 3AW and 2UE. She wrote young adult fiction in her twenties, but couldn’t make any money out of it so gave up.

Her debut novel, which she described as chick lit, is Kat Jumped the Shark, published by Text. It is about a reality television program where the contestants have to live on the streets of Melbourne for the duration of the show. She read a humorous section from it. She was the most accomplished performer of the three writers.    

She said her role as a TV critic had her analysing how stories work, and she used television’s three act structure in her novel.  She wrote the first draft of the novel, gave it to a friend to read and then rewrote it.

No agent would take her on. She sent it to every major publisher, they said they loved it but didn’t think it would sell enough copies. Text eventually accepted it.

Melinda is constantly asked which people in the media her characters are based on.

She is currently writing a sequel. 

Whereas last year’s session left me thinking that who you know had a lot to do with those three writers getting published, this years was a bit different. The manuscripts of these writers seemed to be selected more on their quality and appeal to the publisher than them having a friend who knew a publisher.

I ended up buying Childs’ No Limits.

My next post will be about two sessions about the future of the planet.

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