Highlights of Writers’ Week 2019

Words by Melissa Griffin

Adelaide Writers’ Week 2019. Image via. Adelaide Festival

As we reach the middle of Adelaide’s Writers’ Week 2019, Melissa Griffin writes about the must-see panels you can’t miss out on!

How We Desire
Carolin Emcke

How We Desire. Image via. Adelaide Festival

Award-winning journalist, war correspondent, philosopher and author Carolin Emcke was first up on day two of the Adelaide Writers’ Week. Carolin’s new book How We Desire is an essay about gender, sexuality, and love, explored through her own memoirs of growing up in Germany. During Emcke’s discussion she spoke about vulnerability as a journalist writing about oneself, wanting to write about desire and happiness as opposed to tragedy, and the exclusion of queer stories in society.

Throughout the process of writing How We Desire, Emcke faced many obstacles from within, including a sense of feeling “ashamed” to be writing about herself. As a journalist Emcke is used to avoiding subjectivity in her writing and thinking solely about the story of others. Writing as an ‘I’ and exploring her own vulnerability were hurdles she had to overcome when writing this book.

How We Desire is a story born out of, “a guilt that cannot be chipped away at, but has to be lived away through life.” Emcke discussed how a personal connection to suicide made her question the experiences she lived through growing up and why she was the one to survive.

Emcke began to relive the past to understand it better, “coming to terms with what was so haunting at the time,” and found a connection of people all around the world who share a common trauma in the high school experience and a desperation to belong.

Emcke discussed how she wanted her book to relate happiness to ‘gay desire’ as opposed to tragedy, which is commonly seen. Her decision to base the book on desire and not identity was because she felt, “it’s beautiful to write about desire… [it’s] something you are unable to control.”

She also feels growing up in Germany there was no literature around the LGBTQ+ community, saying, “our stories were excluded, repressed…. there were no words for it.” Because of this Emcke felt, “it was important to say, ‘this is me’” and admits her frustration at having to announce this part of her in this way, stating to laughter in the audience, “it’s not a big deal to confess you love Bach,” but to confess ‘gay desire,’ “it is an issue.”

Gleefully Wicked Women. Image via Adelaide Festival

Gleefully Wicked Women

Debut authors Oyinkan Braithwaite (My Sister the Serial Killer) and Annaleese Jochems (Baby) joined together to talk about their ‘gleefully wicked’ female protagonists. Discussing how the idea for their books came about, what studying creative writing at university taught them, and why they chose to explore the relationship between two female characters.

When asked how the idea for each of their books came about, Black Widow spiders and a need to experience life were recalled as the jumping off points. Oyinkan Braithwaite discussed how research into the Black Widow spider inspired her to create the murderous character Ayoola, particularly intrigued by, “a recklessness about it…he’s [the male spider] not what she’s [female spider] meant to eat… but he’s smaller… so why not?” Annaleese Jochems credited her novel and need to write as a, “desperation to feel things.” Baby’s protagonist Cynthia shares in this desperation, and makes life altering choices based on this need.

Both authors credited their study of creative writing in helping them hone their skills but discussed how they approached writing their books for personal entertainment. Oyinkan explained how she, “didn’t think I was going to publish this particular story,” and how she suggests to, “write first [and] worry later.” Annaleese took a similar approach discussing how there was a, “purity of just trying to entertain myself,” rather than writing for the specific goal of being published.

When asked why they each chose to explore a relationship between two women, both authors discussed comparison. Annaleese explained she thought the characters would be more accessible if they were both female, stating, “you [as female] might presume to know what they are thinking.” She also felt that a woman can be another woman’s double, especially in a mother/daughter type relationship. Oyinkan however, discussed how growing up being compared to her sisters was an influence in how she developed the characters’ relationship. Highlighting their differences rather than similarities sets these sisters apart.

Hear Me Roar! Image via. Adelaide Festival

Hear Me Roar!

Showcasing some of the top slam poets of the moment, Hear Me Roar! was an extremely powerful and moving two hours set in a little corner of the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden.

The event started off with an ‘Unwelcome to Country’, with this year seeing more Aboriginal writers take the stage across the festival than previous years.

Laniyuk (@laniyuk) author and poet, born of a French mother and a Larrakia, Kungarrakan and Gurindji father, her cultural ties a major theme in her work. Her performance was an incredibly powerful commentary on the treatment and continual colonisation of the indigenous communities of Australia. Before her performance Laniyuk brought to the attention of the audience the symbolism of the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden, and the involvement of pioneer women in the child removal policies. Her performance itself was a powerful protest in aide of decolonisation, her words resonate in strength.

I’ve been thinking..

Of resistance to colonialism and land theft

Framed as white pitted against black

And indigenous resistance becomes white washed politics

What happens to the spirits of our countries

When land rights is not sexy enough a catchphrase

To catch your attention

Joelle Taylor (@jtaylortrash) a poet, playwright and author from Lancashire, England opened her soul to the audience straight away. Speaking of a dear friend of hers who recently committed suicide and of how she has had to deal with the brutality of rape since a disturbingly young age. It’s no surprise Joelle’s performance was deeply moving, capturing the audience from the get go with her emotive expression, the pain heard through the cracks in her voice, her words spoken as if for the first time. Once described as a, “shape-shifter, myth maker, linguistic risk taker; poetical activist, surrealist with a raised fist,” Joelle is a powerful force in performance poetry.

Here is your unfound song.

Here is the legend of your lost tongue.

Here are your teeth, your brittle, your bone.

Everything you have ever lost is in here. And it’s waiting to come home.

Interested in hearing some local poetry talent? NO WAVE is a poetry reading series held on the first Wednesday of every month at The Wheatsheaf Hotel in Thebarton. Run by local poet Dominic Symes, the night is about encouraging a more prominent poets community in Adelaide.