Brisbane’s grassroots literary scene continues to sparkle like a freakin’ diamond, not least of all for the emergence of Bright Young Things Club, a new bi-monthly event for writers and authors. Styled on the literary salons of 1920s Paris, convenor Megan Reeder Hope has created an event to be engaging, inspiring and boozy.
I had a chat with Megan and BTYC guest author, Kristy Chambers, about where the event is headed and what you can expect as a Bright Young Thing.
We’ve just had the Emerging Writers’ Festival here in Melbourne. Would you describe your audience as ’emerging’?
MRH: Bright Young Things Club is aimed at bringing together young, emerging writers and established authors for some insight into how to break into the industry and fine tune their writing. The events also incorporate literary trivia and games (with booze), so they do tend to produce some hilarious results once read out via a microphone. I spent half the night apologising to passers by for the loose use of the word ‘labia’. There were also some fantastic names for trivia teams – ‘Quiztal Meth’ being one winning moniker. We also hold a writing race for emerging scribes to pen a piece, which they are then welcome to read out. We give prizes to the best one on the night and everyone is invited to post their work on our Facebook page, with the story with the most likes being submitted to UQ’s online literary journal bumf for possible publication or feedback. The whole idea is to activate young writers to not only attend events, but to also get involved.
When does a writer ‘make it’, or is this an outdated concept?
MRD: It used to be that a writer had ‘made it’ when they had published a novel. Now, I think it’s just about getting your work out there and to keep on writing. The final goal will always be publication, to allow as many people as possible to see your work.
KC: Personally, I think you’ve ‘made it’ as a writer when you’ve been given the opportunity to have your work published, and to find an audience for it other than your softhearted, long-suffering friends and family. Walking into a bookshop or a library and seeing the book you’ve written sitting on a shelf is the best. There are layers of ‘making it’ on top of that: people buying your book and liking it, escalating to the point that so many people buy your book you can quit your day job and life becomes one dizzying, endless book tour and you’ll never have to pay for your own flights or hotel rooms again. But the physical copy of a book is the benchmark for me. Also, if Jennifer Byrne discusses your work on The Book Club, I think you’ve made it.
What are your goals for BYTC?
MRH: I’d like to see Bright Young Things Club continue to grow and become a regular fixture in the Brisbane literary scene. We have some exciting opportunities on the agenda for later this year, which will be revealed in due time! I’d like to see the event continue to engage young writers with each other and the inspiring authors we are lucky enough to have as guests. I also have a background in music publicity, so I am also looking to host a special songwriters’ session to focus on the literary side of lyrics. We’ve also had some feedback from people in Sydney and Melbourne asking us to hold the event down south, so who knows? One day it could become a national thing!
The agenda for the event is very interactive, playful and engaging. How important is this for writing events?
MRH: Interactivity is a key element for Bright Young Things Club. We are drawing from the heyday of the 1920s literary scene in Paris where authors competed, collaborated and got drunk together! We want to make young writers feel comfortable in sharing their work with peers. The literary trivia and games of Consequences really warms up the crowd, before attention turns to writing a more serious piece individually.
KC: Writing is often discussed with this serious reverence that I find a bit off-putting, and some events can be quite stiff and formal, even intimidating, and certainly don’t seem like much fun. There’s nothing elitist about reading, so an informal, light-hearted atmosphere is refreshing to find in a writing event. BYTC is unique because you have the opportunity to listen to a writer discuss their influences and process, and then participate in a few fun activities while you’re feeling inspired and possibly somewhat intoxicated. It’s very user-friendly. Every writing event should feel like a trivia night with 40 book-loving friends.
Were there events like BYTC is Brisbane when you were finding your feet as a writer, Kristy?
KC: Not that I’m aware of, or I would have gone. Brisbane’s writing ‘scene’ is something that I am fairly new to, but it has an exciting energy to it, a lot of heart and enthusiasm. I think the unexpected scrapping of the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards, which Campbell Newman’s LNP Government abolished within days of being elected, really galvanised the writing community in Brisbane. It was shocking and disappointing, but it made people who care about writing realise that it’s something that should be protected and supported, and it has inspired some brilliant initiatives, including BYTC.
Recent BYTC guest Benjamin Law, and Kristy Chambers at the upcoming event, are both non-fiction writers. Is non-fiction a particular focus?
MRH: Not at all, but there is a Brisbane focus for our initial stages and these authors have fantastic new books out at the moment. We want to address a number of genres – from fiction to creative non-fiction, fantasy to songwriting. We felt it was important to give Brisbane authors a platform beyond just their book launch. We will also be inviting interstate and (hopefully) international authors to be involved in future.
What advice would you give to people coming along to the event?
MRH: Don’t be afraid to get involved. And drink more. It seemed to work for Hemingway.
KC: Don’t eat dinner first – the pizza and chips are really good. And if you have a friend who knows as much about literature as Dustin Hoffman’s character in Rain Man knows about airline safety records, or Eddie McGuire knows about offending people, bring them along so you can win the trivia.