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Wrap-up of KSP’s Festival of the Asian-Australian Voice

Last weekend (12-14th April) I had the pleasure of participating in the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre ‘Festival of the Asian-Australian Voice’. The event kicked off on Friday evening with an Open Mic event at Darlington Hall, just around the corner from KSP. My job was to collect one of our special guests, YA writer and comedian Oliver Phommavanh, (whose titles include Thai-riffic! and a whole swag of others) from KSP and bring him the short distance to Darlington Hall. How hard could it be, right? A few wrong turns later we arrived safely, and then we were treated to readings not only from Oliver but a host of other talented Open Mic-ers, not least among them the WA poet Jackson, whose performance was amazing. The event was hosted by up-and-comer Jake Dennis, who sings astonishingly well in addition to his numerous other  talents. One of the other readers was the second of our special guests for this festival, Lily Chan. Lily is the author of the memoir Toyo and she’s a talented author in her own right. We also had readings from Maj Monologue winner Nadine Browne and a host of others. I’m not an Open Mic-er myself but I was really enthused by the talent on display. ‘Twas a good night.

Saturday saw me hosting Oliver at KSP as he presented his workshop ‘Humour: It’s Not That Ha Ha Hard.’ Under normal circumstances I have an aversion to ACTUAL WRITING EXERCISES which involve me ACTUALLY WRITING WHEN TOLD TO but Oliver effortlessly cut through all that. He’s a teacher himself and an old hand on the workshop circuit, and I guess he’s used to mollycoddling recalcitrants like me. Flicking over the notes I made in my journal now, I find to my surprise that I took no less than five whole pages of words of wisdom! Oliver was chock full of acronyms: MAP (Material, Audience and Performer); THREES (Target, Hostility, Realism, Exaggeration, Emotion, Surprise!) and the three Ps (Profession, Personal and Private). The guy knows his stuff. More than that, he can actually teach. I’m sure we all left Oliver’s workshop more knowledgeable about how to write comedy than when we started. I know I did.

Then it was time to get ready for the main event, the literary dinner at the Cadaceus Club at Gloucester Park. Before that I had the pleasure of meeting the delightful Benjamin Law, author of The Family Law and Gaysia. At the dinner itself, my wife Georgie and I were lucky enough to be seated with KSP’s Chairperson Renee Hammond, Oliver and Benjamin. That was where the action was, let me assure you. Oliver, Benjamin and I spoke for what must have been hours on topics such as Amazon’s recent acquisition of Goodreads and a whole host of other Secret Writers’ Business. I was delighted to buy a signed copy for The Family Law from Benjamin, and he was delighted for me to buy one too for it meant he could afford to buy himself a drink (he’d misplaced his wallet somewhere). After his commanding performance in his half-hour keynote address, people were queuing up to buy books from Benjamin, presumably allaying any concerns he may have had about his ongoing beverage needs. I don’t use that word ‘commanding’ lightly here. Benjamin spoke passionately and articulately (hard to do at the same time) about what it was like to grow up Asian-Australian on Pauline Hanson’s stronghold Sunshine Coast. I was sad, finally, to have to leave.

All in all, it was a great weekend. I met a whole swag of talented writers, something that I find just keeps happening when you hang out at KSP. I didn’t make it to the Sunday events (I was starting my Emerging Writer-in-Residency gig at KSP the next day) but I heard that went well too. There was a livestream of the event so I had a look at keynote speaker Yan Zhang explaining the subject of her PhD. Thanks not only to the writers mentioned above, but also to KSP’s Management Committee ably led by Co-ordinator Shannon Coyle. I can’t wait to see what we’re planning for next year.

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