Each year, MWF bring together writers from around Program Manager of MWF the world to celebrate literature, to explore ideas and to inspire readers. We got a chance to have a chat with the Program Manager, Jessica Alice this year and she is ready to tell you all about literacy!
1. Tell us about your journey from being a writer to Program Manager at Melbourne Writer’s Festival 2017?
It’s a little convoluted! Right out of high school I hit the slam poetry scene pretty hard, performing in pubs and theatres and at festivals. I became the poetry editor for several publications – notably, a feminist punk journal called Scum. I wrote an honours thesis on feminist poetry, and after university I used my writing skills to land jobs in arts marketing. I directed the National Young Writers Festival and felt really at home programing events, and after deciding marketing wasn’t my thing, I made the move to MWF, where it’s literature and creativity on a massive scale.
2. How did you celebrate after you were appointed to be the Program Manager of Melbourne Writer’s Festival?
I can’t quite remember. I probably ate a lot of food. I know that I got the call during a staff meeting at another arts organisation, and the director came out of the room with me and we did a kind of squeal-dance-hug. It was lovely.
3. What can writers and readers expect this year at MWF?
The world is in a really weird, dangerous place politically right now and we’re responding to that directly. Expect big international and local names in literary fiction, political commentary, journalism, poetry, music and more. We’re figuring out how we got into this mess, and where to next.
4. What is your favourite topic to write about?
I’m currently writing a monthly column about intimacy and new media that explores different modes of digital communication and its effect on our experience of time and space. More generally I write personal creative nonfiction about the usual things – art and desire – as well as cultural criticism, exploring pop culture through a theoretical lens.
5. What were you like in uni and what inspired you to get into literature?
I was knee-deep in performance poetry and probably fairly obsessive about that as an art form (I also hosted a community radio show interviewing poets). I felt I innately understood literature and poetry, so it was natural to want to be close to art by working in editing and festivals.
6. What advice do you have for start-up writers?
Learn to accept, and even desire, criticism of your work. Working with an editor is kind of an amazing thing that you don’t get in other pursuits – an editor’s job is essentially to help you make your work better. Honest feedback in invaluable and integral to your growth as a writer.
7. If you could describe yourself under 5 words, what would it be?
All about the vision.
8. What are you reading right now?
I’m currently reading Elizabeth Tan’s amazing debut novel Rubik¸ about death and connectivity in the digital age, and Ottessa Moshfegh’s short story collection Homesick for Another World, which has the weirdest and darkest characters.
9. Lastly, what is the most effective way to make a great first impression?
Offer someone something – a bit of haloumi, a glass of wine, a kiss on the cheek.