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The Digital Writers Festival is a fine example of the Internet using its powers for good and not evil. The festival wrapped up last Friday night, and I had the pleasure of reading some poems in the closing night event: Manifest. The session was a fitting end to the festival, laced with equal amounts of hope–and, I think–despair at our current situation. As Izzy Roberts-Orr (Artistic Director) pointed out, it takes a balance of these two states of consciousness to be able to envision a future that feels tangible and achievable. It was a brilliant session, and each writer brought an original and personal take to the theme. You can watch the session in its entirety here.

The fact that the festival is predominantly held online means it’s accessible to a much larger audience than if it were only in person. For me it meant that my family who live interstate were able to tune in and watch me read some poems (and also send me bad screenshots of myself during the session). Being online, it also means that people (with Internet access) who otherwise might not be able to afford to attend a festival don’t miss out, it also means that people with physical/mental health issues can still participate in the festival. As someone who regularly struggles to leave the house (especially to attend social gatherings), this concept appeals to me majorly!

There were so many brilliant sessions at this year’s DWF I couldn’t possibly talk about them all but below are a few highlights from the sessions I’ve watched so far. I know there will be a lot more DWF and chill in my near future though.

Get YA Words Out: This was a brilliant and important session talking all things queer Aus YA. One of the panelists, Jordi Kerr brilliantly summed up everything I have ever felt about how necessary it is for queer writers to have a platform to write and publish queer stories: ‘If you can’t see yourself, you can’t see a future for yourself’. This rings true for my entire adolescence, both on and off the page. These conversations are crucial to the continued development of queer literature in Aus. I’m going to be directing people to this session for as long as it exists on the internet. Also check out the Get YA Words Out website for a great list of resources on QueerAusYA.

Online Lit collectives – Subbed In & Sponge: A great mashup of readings from two lit collectives publishing brilliantly diverse writing (more please). My personal faves were poetry from Emily Crocker ‘while a woman watches us not touch her Mazda 4’ and Allison Gallagher ‘I am tired of feeling broken by language. Having a body is exhausting’ and ‘I keep seeing women who are stoic and unavailable and being like please ruin my life already.’ So much yes, to all of this! Allison’s book is already in the mail and I’m going to have to go back on the website and buy Emily’s and Aisyah’s now too! Do the same, and get yourself a neat bin chicken accessory while you’re at it!

No Chill: This was one of my favourite sessions, a conversation between Madison Griffiths and Lucinda Price about what it’s like to be an artist, a woman, and someone with mental illness while creating on the internet. There’s so much to love in this session, but my favourite thing was the very honest and open conversation they had about mental illness; especially the breaking down of the myth that being mentally ill makes you super productive and creative. This is a pervasive and damaging myth and I’m glad to see artists talking about it more and more. It’s alarming to me, the number of artists I meet who live with mental health issues, and I know for myself these have never positively contributed to my creative output, but have only ever been a barrier to Getting Shit Done. Madison and Lucinda have the best dynamic, can someone give them their own show please?!

QUT Lit Salon – DWF Edition: This was a live event held at QUT in Brisbane (home to my soul). This year I’ve had the pleasure of attending many QUT Lit Salons and they are always quality. The special DWF and 5 year Lit Salon anniversary edition had a dream lineup featuring QUT all stars Mindy Gill, Alex Philip, Emily O’Grady, Rebecca Cheers, Leo Porter, and Annabelle de Paola. Annabelle’s reading of trolley erotica was a peronsal fave, and something I never knew I needed in my life. Watch it, and then seek out the writing of these Brisbabes!

Missives From The Future: This is technically finished now, but you can still access the archive of fabulously strange stories written during the festival and I highly recommend you do! This is exactly the kind of daily mail I like to receive in my inbox.

Digital Zine Fair: This is such a brilliant concept, the team behind DWF have the best ideas! I love how accessible so much of the festival is, and again, the digital zine fair makes it possible for people to access interesting, exciting and informative resources from the comfort of their wi-fi connection. I haven’t had time to have a proper look at all of the zines, but a shout out to my very talented friend Anna Jacobson for her zine ‘The Adventures of the Outer Chain’. This zine is incredibly relatable and funny and sad. Read it, and the send it to your friends.

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