Pema Monaghan: Could you tell me a little about yourself, what you do and your relationship to Australian writing culture?
Izzy Roberts-Orr: I’m the Artistic Director and Co-CEO of the Emerging Writers’ Festival, and we also run the Digital Writers’ Festival. I’m a podcast producer, poet, playwright and broadcaster as well, so my relationship to Australian writing culture is as a curator, educator, reader and practicing artist.
What is the Digital Writer’s Festival?
The Digital Writers’ Festival is an online-first festival for storytellers of all kinds – it’s for anyone, anywhere with an internet connection. One really exciting project this year is the Swinburne Microfiction Challenge. You can also sign up to get Missives from the Future in your inbox, and learn about the craft of writing with our seminars and writers’ night schools.
Why did you feel there was a need for a festival of this kind? Why is it important to feature writers from all states and territories?
Access to professional development, community and connection should be for everyone, wherever you are, and the Digital Writers’ Festival is here to help facilitate that.
I grew up between rural Australia (Alice Springs) and Footscray in Melbourne’s Western suburbs, and there are points in my writing practice that have felt very isolating. Writing can be an isolating form to work in, by its nature. Community is one of the strongest possible modes I’ve found to ensure that you keep working, and keep innovating.
The beauty of technology is that there is space for formal experimentation and creativity that is formerly unprecedented – and that experimentation and creativity can extend also to the ways in which we talk to each other, and establish and communicate with creative communities.
What is particular and interesting about writing from WA and Perth?
We’re very lucky to have a local Creative Producer working on Mapping Ecologies of the Digital, Steven Finch, and he has curated an incredible line-up of artists. The histories of poetry and art-making that engages with the environment in WA is really strong and rich, and I’m so glad we’re able to showcase some of that work.
Can you tell us a little about how DWF contributes to the diversity of writing communities and engages with the multiplicity of ‘Australian’ cultures?
Inclusion means actively ensuring that you are creating a space where folks of all kinds are not just invited, but welcome. I really believe that a diverse conversation is the only conversation worth having. What I mean by that is striving to ensure that different mediums, forms, perspectives, histories and practices are represented in our programs, audiences and team.
We do an open artist callout, as well as working with a programming advisory committee (who are based in QLD, ACT/UK, NSW and VIC) and Creative Producer interns (based in QLD, NSW and WA) to try and ensure that a multiplicity of perspectives, forms and storytelling communities from across Australia are represented in the festival.
What is your unmissable event from the festival to come?
There are a bunch of exciting ways you can participate in the festival, as well as gaining insight into your creative practice and learning from practicing artists. I’d definitely encourage folks in Perth to get along to Mapping Ecologies of the Digital – with such an incredible line-up of artists it’s set to be something really special.
Interview by Pema Monaghan