Showing all posts tagged: events

Ghosted World: An Uncanceled Asian American Literature Festival

31 July 2023

Partners and participants of this year’s abruptly cancelled Asian American Literature Festival (AALF) are staging a smaller version of the event from Friday 4 August 2023, through to Sunday 6 August. Like the original event, which was meant to take place in August, Ghosted World will be held in Washington D.C., the United States capital.

AALF partners and participants, some of whom have banded together as the Asian American LitFest Collective (AALC), remain upset by the sudden decision of the Smithsonian, producers and hosts of the biennial AALF festival, to cancel the 2023 event. Although the institution later apologised, AALC members say the apology failed to answer questions they had about the decision, while still suggesting it was their alleged lack of planning that resulted in the festival’s cancellation.

Ghosted World is clearly a scaled back form of the original AALF, but hopefully will be of some consolation to those who had been looking forward to attending the event. A program for Ghosted World can be seen here.


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2023 Asian American Literature Festival abruptly cancelled

19 July 2023

A biennial event, the Asian American Literature Festival (AALF) was first held in Washington D. C., capital city of the United States, in 2017, and then again in 2019. After Covid lockdowns put paid to the 2021 event, organisers and participants were keenly anticipating the 2023 festival, scheduled to take place in August.

But two weeks ago, the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center (APAC), producers of the AALF, abruptly cancelled the 2023 event, citing “unforeseen circumstances”, says Sophia Nguyen, writing for The Washington Post:

The event, produced by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center (APAC), was relatively new. But it had already gained a loyal following for its intimate feel and experimental bent, hosting themed escape rooms and calligraphy tutorials alongside the more standard literary fare of readings by best-selling authors. The 2023 iteration was expected to draw thousands of attendees to Washington in early August. But just weeks before writers from across the world were due to land, the Smithsonian abruptly canceled the event, citing “unforeseen circumstances.”

Unforeseen circumstances.

It defies belief an event of this scale, with many people travelling a distance to attend — including a number from Australia and New Zealand — were offered, at least initially, such a feeble line. I can’t imagine anyone not expecting better of an institution such as the Smithsonian.

When contacted for further clarification by WTOP News about the “unforeseen circumstances” resulting in the festival’s cancellation, an APAC spokesperson appeared to imply preparations for the festival were behind schedule:

Linda St. Thomas, chief spokesperson for the Smithsonian Institution, said the event planning process “did not meet Smithsonian expectations” and the institution’s “goals for an in-person event.”

But AALF partners and participants rejected the suggestions, in an open letter sent to the Smithsonian, written on Monday 17 July 2023:

On July 14, The Washington Post reported on the cancellation, including an official statement from the Smithsonian alleging that the festival was canceled due to failures in preparation by the planning team. We must rebut this immediately: from the partners’ perspective, everything was on track; we had no concerns with putting on our programs in a month’s time. In fact, many of us have participated in AALF in years past and have returned due to our confidence in working with this planning team. The article itself confirms that the allegations are false.

The letter goes on identify what AALF partners and participants see as the actual cause of the 2023 event being cancelled: concerns the Smithsonian have with what they see as “potentially sensitive or controversial content”. In particular, a program exploring the work of trans and nonbinary authors:

Additionally, we are deeply troubled to discover that a driving factor behind the festival’s cancellation might have been the Smithsonian’s desire to censor trans and nonbinary programming. A program intended to celebrate trans and nonbinary authors, as they face unprecedented levels of violence, book bans, and anti-trans legislation, was set to take place at the festival. The Washington Post article reported that the Acting Director instructed the planning team to submit a report under Smithsonian Directive 603 to identify potentially sensitive or controversial content, which she received on July 5.

If correct, this is a disturbing development, at a time when civil liberties are increasingly being questioned, and some minority groups are experiencing elevated levels of vilification. While it is unlikely the cancellation of the 2023 festival can be overturned at this stage, if you feel strongly about the Smithsonian’s decision, you can add your signature to the open letter here.


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This Never Happened, a mobile phone free music festival, coming to Australia

25 June 2023

Audience at a live music show facing the stage

Image courtesy of Pexels.

Should mobile phones be banned at music festivals? What sort of question is that? After all, is not recording the happenings of the day, be it video clips, or photos, and sharing them online, part and parcel of the music festival experience? Well it is, but doing so also has a downside. Just ask anyone who’s standing towards the back of the audience. The wall of held up arms and mobile phones might be about all they see of the show.

How’s that meant to be fun? But that’s not all. Evidence suggests recording certain events or experiences, by filming or photographing them, may diminish our ability to remember said occasions later on. So perhaps live music events would be more memorable, and more enjoyable for all concerned, if everyone left their phones at the ticket office?

That’s what Sydney based Australian event promotor Pia Del Mastro is betting on. Del Mastro is collaborating with American musician and electronic music producer Daniel Goldstein, also known as Lane 8, to bring such a rare creature, a music festival that does not allow the use of mobile phones, to Australia, in July 2023. The event, aptly enough, is called This Never Happened.

Lane 8 has been organising mobile phone free music festivals for several years overseas, and Del Mastro says they would be a first in Australia, in the mobile phone era. Lane 8 observed audiences were more engaged and immersed in the show, and gave their full attention to the bands performing, when they weren’t thinking about a device in their hand, which all makes sense.

It still remains to be seen how Australian festival goers will take to such a radical proposition. I’ve been to the occasional preview film screening, or product launch, where attendees needed to leave their phones at the front desk, but we were only without our devices for a couple of hours.

But This Never Happened will differ. Revellers will instead keep their phone, but be given a sticker to place over the camera lens. Del Mastro expects a degree of peer pressure, together with the phone-free spirit of the event, will see most of those present keep their devices pocketed away.

But we’ll find out soon. The first This Never Happened event takes place in Melbourne, on Friday 14 July 2023. I get the feeling though audiences, once they lose themselves to the music, will embrace the concept with open arms, and open eyes.


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Birrarangga Film Festival a global Indigenous film event

22 March 2023

Birrarangga Film Festival poster, by Aretha Brown

Artwork by Aretha Brown.

The biennial Birrarangga Film Festival runs from Thursday 23 March, through to Tuesday 28 March 2023, in Melbourne:

BIRRARANGGA Film Festival celebrates Global Indigenous Films that explore the curatorial themes of ‘strength, resilience and the environment’. First Nations relationships to the image as a form of expression, particularly in Australia, is connected to thousands of years of cultural practices. This festival honours that history and acknowledges the contemporary currency of the moving image, of film, as an expression of the human experience in relation to our natural surroundings.

The festival opens with a screening of Bones of Crows, directed by Canadian screenwriter and filmmaker Marie Clements.


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Writers’ festivals are for talking books not politics

19 March 2023

Fleur Morrison, writing at Readability:

I have a love/hate relationship with politics. I love that we have a stable form of politics in Australia, even though sometimes it can get a little heated and it certainly isn’t without its problems. But I hate that it has taken over writers festivals to the degree that it is hard to find a session that isn’t overtly political. These festivals have moved from being celebrations of books to become fixated on politics and ideology.

If you argue everything that happens in the world is political to some degree, then keeping politics out of writers’ festivals isn’t going to be easy. Personally though, I’d rather see more talk focus on books, and fiction, at festivals.



Sydney Writers Festival 2023 program

16 March 2023

The Sydney Writers Festival 2023 program was published this evening, and features a star studded line-up of Australian and international speakers. Among them are former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Sydney author Tracey Lien, Tasmasian writer Robbie Arnott, and Fiona McFarlane.

Overseas speakers include Sri Lankan writer Shehan Karunatilaka, winner of the 2022 Booker Prize, and British author Bernardine Evaristo, who will be one of the opening night address speakers. Australian author Richard Flanagan meanwhile will deliver the closing night address.

The festival — which runs from Monday 22 May, to Sunday 28 May 2023 — will take place at a number of locations around Sydney, including Carriageworks, the State Library of NSW, Penrith City Library, Sydney Town Hall, and PHIVE, Parramatta, to name a handful.


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Ukrainian writers withdraw from Adelaide Writers Week 2023

22 February 2023

Three Ukrainian authors, Kateryna Babkina, Olesya Khromeychuk, and Maria Tumarkin, who were scheduled to speak at Adelaide Writers Week in March 2023, are no longer participating in the event:

The event’s director, Louise Adler, confirmed Kateryna Babkina and Olesya Khromeychuk, who were scheduled to speak at a session on the impact of Russia’s invasion on Ukrainian civilians, had decided not to appear. She said the move was prompted by comments of another guest, Palestinian-American author Susan Abulhawa, who has described Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as a “Nazi-promoting Zionist” and accused him of dragging “the whole world into the inferno of WWIII”.

On Tuesday, Australian law firm MinterEllison withdrew their support for the festival, in the wake of the same comments made by Susan Abulhawa, a Palestinian-American author.


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Truth Be Told, the 2023 Adelaide Writers Week program

11 February 2023

The program for Adelaide Writers’ Week 2023, which runs from Saturday 4 March though to Thursday 9 March 2023, in the capital of South Australia, has been published. This year’s theme is Truth Be Told, always a subjective, nuanced matter, as festival director Louise Adler notes:

The thread that weaves through the 2023 program of literary luminaries, writers on their way and novitiates is the notion of truth — truths we acknowledge, truths we feel are debatable and those beyond debate. Do we want truthfulness in fiction or does it only matter in nonfiction? Do novelists owe us the truth? Is the biographer’s task to tell nothing but the truth about their subject? Is my truth The Truth and yours simply your truth and therefore partial, imprecise or even suspect? Is any truth incontestable, universal? Does truth matter and if so, how should it be upheld in a world crammed with falsehoods, lies, misinformation and inaccuracies? If all ideas are reimagined or appropriated, if originality is a fallacious delusion nurtured in an artist’s garret, does truth even matter anymore?

Catriona Menzies-Pike, J.M. Coetzee, Sarah Holland-Batt, and Raina MacIntyre are among Australian writers who will be in attendance.


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Never revisit your past that includes NaNoWriMo manuscripts

7 December 2022

British journalist and writer Tim Jonze on participating in NaNoWriMo 2021, meeting the fifty-thousand word target in the requisite thirty days of November, and then… reading the work — for the first time — a year later:

Well, it’s been a year since NaNoWriMo. Could this book really be as bad as I imagined? Amazingly, the answer is no.

It is much, much worse.

Aside from the fact I could not meet the average 1,667 daily word requirement, to successfully complete NaNoWriMo, reading what I’d written, would be the other reason why I’d not take part.


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November is NaNoWriMo bad writing and vomit texts incoming

7 November 2022

It’s November and that means it is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) time. Writers, whether new or established, have thirty days to pen a fifty-thousand word manuscript. That works out to about seventeen hundred words a day. A daunting task for sure, but it wouldn’t be much of a challenge if it were easy.

NaNoWriMo doubtless makes for an enjoyable way to while away cool autumn days for northern hemisphere participants. A Camp NaNoWriMo event is also held in April and July, and might suit writers based south of the equator, who’d rather be away from their laptops, enjoying the spring weather in November.

And while the vast majority of works produced during NaNoWriMo seldom sees the light of day, the event has launched the careers of several authors. But it’s not for everyone, and some writers are critical of NaNoWriMo. They say the tight deadline encourages bad writing, as people scramble to reach the fifty-thousand word target.

It’s one reason science fiction author and game developer, and past participant, Dale Thomas gave up on NaNoWriMo. But Thomas goes further than describing some NaNoWriMo output as “bad writing”. To his mind, vomit texts make for a more apt metaphor:

You see, the big problem I have with the challenge is that it forces me to write fast. Too fast for my liking. I end up vomiting all over my writing application. And because only wordcount matters and the clock is ticking, there is no time to wipe the drool from my mouth, no time to find a damp cloth to clean up the mess. The vomit just sits there, drying out, and day after day I vomit afresh. Layer upon layer of disgusting, half-digested ideas, dripping all over the once pristine white page.