Monday, September 30, 2013

Should we have a festival of New England writing?

What do the following have in common: Thomas Keneally, Geof Page, Les Murray, Judith Wright, Alex Buzo, Patrice Newell, Bob Ellis, Donald Horne, Patrick White, Michael Sharkey, Julian Croft, Bob Herbert, Sophie Masson, Anthony Lawrence, Maslyn Williams, Yve Louis, Eric Rolls, Gwen Kelly, Bronwyn Parry, Sharyn Munro, Ruby Langford Ginibi. Patricia Wrightson and D'Arcy Niland?

They are a small sample of writers who have had some connection with the broader New England. Some were born there and left, some came to visit and wrote about aspects of the place, some came to stay, some were born there and stayed. Disconnected in place and time, there are yet common threads in their writing.

On Saturday, I went to see The Turning, something I wrote about in Sunday Essay - the Turning. Tim Winton is very much a West Australian writer whose stories draw from aspects of life in the West. Watching the seventeen short cameo productions that make up the film, each by a different director, I started thinking again about the New England experience.

One of the difficulties in not having our own state or at least some form of defined structure that people recognise, lies in the ways it affects thinking about the North. New England doesn't exist; consequently, how can you talk about New England writers? And yet, New England writing does exist if largely unrecognised as a body of work.

From time to time I have tried to address this, focusing on particular writers and the links between them and aspects of New England life. While I have made some progress, I find the lack of a focal point, some bigger thing external to my own writing, difficult. There is nothing to draw things together, to present to a broader audience, to encourage interaction between those interested in New England writing as writing.

This got me thinking. Would it be possible to organise an event next year focused on the theme of New England writers and writing, not just Tableland writers but writers from the broader New England. If successful, this might become an annual event.

Thinking this over, I messaged Sophie Masson, Chair of the New England Writers' Centre, with the suggestion. It would need lot's of lead time, some sponsorship and a strong organising committee, but it might be doable. What do you think?     

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