Chairing panels and interviewing authors on stage: a few things I’ve learnt

Short story session @ Bellingen Readers & Writers Fest 2012 with Marele Day, Robert Drewe and Charlotte Wood

Short story session @ Bellingen Readers & Writers Fest 2012 with Marele Day, Robert Drewe and Charlotte Wood

It’s been five years since I first wrote a piece like this, and after seeing the topic come up in an author’s Facebook thread, I figured it was time for an update.

I’m sharing what I’ve learnt about chairing and interviewing authors on stage, particularly through watching good, mediocre or bad sessions at festivals, not just due to my own experience chairing panels at writers’ festivals in Australia and overseas. Let me acknowledge that I’m well aware, compared to many of my colleagues, that I’m still green-ish (in terms of years ‘in the field’), and that I’m not saying I’m an authority or have mastered all of these points. Like anyone, I have good days and bad days, and times where I’ve simply taken too much on. I also suffer from nerves.

This post is not intended to target anyone in particular; I hope it will benefit people both chairing for the first time, and those who’ve become a little too comfortable (and perhaps even over-confident) in their methods. I mention this last point because I’ve had a few recent conversations with friends where we’ve agreed that a panel or interview was badly chaired, but the interviewer is generally a ‘good egg’ and we don’t know how to broach the subject, or whether it is our place to.

To the person I later found out had snorted cocaine before chairing a writers’ festival panel: no. Just no.

These are simply observations from someone who has spent a lot of time (enthusiastically) at these events in the past few years, someone who thinks the general standard can be better. Please feel free to add your own tips, observations, experiences and stories in the comments section below.

Writers Who Blog panel at Sydney Writers' Fest 2013. Mark Forsyth, Tara Moss, Lorraine Elliott &  myself.

Writers Who Blog panel at Sydney Writers’ Fest 2013. Mark Forsyth, Tara Moss, Lorraine Elliott & myself.

1. Prepare well. Read the authors’ latest books, and if you have time, dip into their backlist as well. Both the authors and audience appreciate an in-depth knowledge of the work (as long as you don’t show off about it). If it’s relevant, also read up on the topic. For example, I recently chaired a panel with Margaret Drabble and Rabih Alameddine called ‘Grand Allusions’, and so I dug out my Oxford Dictionary of Allusions to swot up on literary allusion and reference.

2. Get in touch with the authors in advance. You don’t have to overwhelm them with information, just let them know that you’re preparing the session and that the channels of communication are open. Then they can let you know if there’s anything they are really keen to focus on, or avoid. I also contact them again the week before the event to give them an idea of some questions and topics I may raise on stage, so they have time to ponder them beforehand, or select an appropriate reading. I’ve also found this helps to assure the authors that the conversation will have direction and that you’ll get to certain topics, so they don’t feel they need to explode on the first question and say everything they have been thinking about.

3. That said, you don’t want to exhaust the topic before the panel or interview even begins, leave plenty of room for spontaneity.

A New Frontier: Blogging, Dissent & Solidarity at Ubud Writers & Readers Fest 2009: Dian Di SudutBumi, myself, Ng Yi-Sheng and Antony Loewenstein.

A New Frontier: Blogging, Dissent & Solidarity at Ubud Writers & Readers Fest 2009: Dian Di SudutBumi, myself, Ng Yi-Sheng and Antony Loewenstein.

4. On the day, keep the introductions brief and respectful. Use the information the author has provided to you/the festival. Also give a brief general introduction to the panel topic.

5. Try to use the names of the authors’ books when referring to them, instead of saying ‘your book’. It will help the audience to remember the titles.

6. Be sure to ask individual questions of each author, as well as more general ones. This will allow more in-depth insights into their individual works, and the audience will leave knowing more about them. It’s also respectful to the authors, and shows you have read the books carefully.

7. That said, don’t over-analyse the authors’ books as part of your question. This is the first tip under ‘it’s not about you’. It’s OK to lead in with a little bit of info that will help to place the question, but if you analyse an aspect of the book and then just ask: ‘what do you think about that?’ you often don’t give the author much room to move, especially if they think you are wrong but want to remain polite. Don’t treat your preparation the same way you would if you were writing a review or essay. As an example, instead of telling the author and audience that the book has strong female characters, you might ask the author about a particular character and then prompt them from there to give their own opinion or analysis. The audience wants to be party to the author’s own insights, not yours.

8. On that note, don’t show off. Don’t over-quote, or take too much time to delve into the book’s relation to (insert your own specialist area). One or two well-placed quotes or references can be incredibly effective, but I’ve seen panels and interviews where the chair will throw in a quote before every second question. Though the author is undoubtedly very smart and well read, you may be putting them in a potentially awkward position (or risk them thinking you’re a smart-arsey douche). The audience, too, will be groaning inwardly, or outwardly. They’ve come to hear what this author thinks about love, writing, death…

9. In sum of these last two points, keep the lead-in to your questions brief, and actually ask a question. One that works well for me is: ‘Could you tell us about…’

Relaxing with a drink by the authors' yurt, Edinburgh International Book Festival 2013.

Relaxing with a drink by the authors’ yurt, Edinburgh International Book Festival 2013.

10. Be flexible. I’m definitely someone who over-prepares, and writes everything down. I would panic if I didn’t have my notebook on stage with me. However, I don’t entirely follow the questions as a script. I try my best to listen for the moments when an insight can be taken further, or when I can take something the author has said and tie it to another idea we’ve discussed, or throw it to the other author/s. If you’ve read your panellists’ books carefully, and also studied them and their careers, you’ll be able to carry off this segue action more easily.

11. That said, it’s nice for a panel to have an arc. So if you sense your panellists are giving away too much of the gold too early, or there’s a point you want to lead to, communicate that to them and the audience. It’s as easy as: ‘OK, that’s fascinating, I definitely want to come back to that, let’s just get more of a feel for your character. Could you tell us…’ And then, if you have a bad memory like me, make a squiggle in your notes so you do remember to bring it back to that awesome point.

Eleanor Catton, Tom Cho and I at the signing table at Perth Writers Fest in 2010.

Eleanor Catton, Tom Cho and I at the signing table at Perth Writers Fest in 2010.

12. Try to avoid um, ah, kinda, sorta, ‘sorta thing’ – oh I hate myself when that comes out of my mouth on stage – and upward inflecting too much when you speak, particularly in the introduction (that’s one I’ve tried to tackle after a nasty tweet at Edinburgh International Book Fest). Also, don’t ‘verbal hug’ the author/s too much. Nodding is good, but try to avoid lots of ‘yep’, ‘aha’, ‘cool’, ‘right’, and so on into the microphone.

13. Watch your feet. Are they jiggling, or swinging out whenever you laugh? Remember that your feet on stage can be at the eye level of the audience. Lots of movement can be quite distracting.

14. Most of the authors you end up chairing will be experienced, and will know how to talk about their book in a way that is genuine, insightful, and interesting. But wow, there can be some wildcards. Sometimes authors are nervous and can barely speak, other times they’ll completely hog the microphone. My hardest interview was with someone famous, who was used to performing solo. To the last minute he kept asking me to remove questions from my plan until I was panicking I’d have nothing left. Then he paced wildly, lay on the floor, and performed all sorts of other personal rituals before going on stage. I’ll admit to having a shot of whisky before that session… Luckily, it went fine, because his book is fantastic and he’s funny and smart, and I’d read and researched thoroughly. The point is, people are people, just be as open-minded and diplomatic as you can be. Be aware of both author and audience, and if someone is going on too long, try to butt in gently. If you’re chairing a complete arsehat, well, sh*t happens – try to channel their negatives into insights, or at least try to frame it as entertainment for the audience. It’s not always gonna work. Have the whisky ready for afterwards.

15. Sometimes, no matter how well you’ve prepared, and how great everyone is on stage, there’ll be a strange lack of chemistry. This has happened to me once or twice, and I’ve spent far too much time thinking about it afterwards. One time I think there just wasn’t enough to the topic, and it was difficult to draw the works together in relation to it. Another time I think I just didn’t prepare the best questions. Or maybe there was a full moon. Who knows. Just make sure you do the best you can.

16. Also, if you get nervous like I do, or if you’re tired, sometimes you might just completely blank. It can be hard to juggle ideas: seeking those titbits to carry further in the conversation versus going to the next planned topic or question. There’s a lot you have to hold in your head. Just try to breathe, relax, and be there. The notebook, again, can help. If your blank causes dead air, just be honest and apologise to the authors and audience, have a laugh, and then get back on track.

Bad pic of one of my favourite sessions: interviewing Alex Miller at Perth Writers Fest in 2010.

Bad pic of one of my favourite sessions: interviewing Alex Miller at Perth Writers Fest in 2010.

17. Individual festivals/venues will have their own guidelines for audience questions. Some audiences will be hanging out to get in on the action, especially with well-known authors. Other authors or topics won’t attract so many questions. Ten to twenty minutes is usually how long you’ll give over to audience questions. Make sure you still have some yourself in reserve in case there aren’t any. And be prepared to be tough with audience members who grandstand or try to make a long comment instead of a question (you know the type). The rest of the audience will get cranky if you don’t keep them in line! That said, some audience members are just nervous and may take a little while to get around to a really great question… It’s your call.

18. I just want to say it again: it’s not about you. Mention your own book or who you are in the intro, and then that’s it. Be curious about the person/people with whom you get to spend this hour. You have the power to create an enjoyable, memorable experience for both them and the audience. It’s a great gig, you’re privileged to be up there. Do the job well.

Light the Dark: Perth vigil for Reza Berati and asylum seekers

After a stimulating Perth Writers Festival I joined writers Thomas Keneally, Rosie Scott, Debra Adelaide, Linda Jaivin, David Marr, Antony Loewenstein, and publisher Terri-Ann White at the Perth candlelight vigil for Reza Berati, the young Iranian asylum seeker who was tragically killed on Manus Island.

Debra Adelaide, Rosie Scott, Linda Jaivin and Tom Keneally

Debra Adelaide, Rosie Scott, Linda Jaivin and Tom Keneally

It was an understandably emotional event, as I’m sure were the countless other vigils going on around Australia in public places and private homes. We are shocked and ashamed of the way our government is treating asylum seekers: inadequately and cruelly. We can and must do better.

In Perth, we experienced a minute of silence and then a heart-wrenching traditional Persian song. We were all very moved by the speech of Sarah Ross, from the Refugee Rights Action Network, which is available on the RRAN website. Here’s the opening, and I encourage you to click through and read the speech in full:

I visited a friend in Curtin detention centre in December of 2013. I flew into Broome from Perth and rented a car. I drove that car halfway from Broome to Derby and camped overnight in what was insufferable heat in the middle of the bush. I drove an hour through the gateway into the Kimberley until I reached Curtin Detention Centre—one of the most remote and inaccessible detention centres in Australia.

I visited a man there who emanated an air of gentility and humility that still resonates within me so many months afterwards. He had been brutally tortured in Sri Lanka several times before finally fleeing. He sought asylum in Australia coming here by boat. He arrived in September 2012 and was then sent to Nauru Detention Centre where he witnessed rioting, abuse, self-harm and suicide. He was then transferred to Curtin Detention Centre where he was left to wait for months, and months, and months.

What is the point of this story? I got a phone call last week to say that after 16 months in detention, after surviving torture at the hands of a brutal regime in Sri Lanka, incarceration in Australia and abuse on Nauru, he would be getting released from detention next week.

When I told him that I had received the call we had both been waiting for, he was so happy. Even after 16 months in detention and everything that he had been through, he told me that his dreams and his future were coming ‘so soon’.

When he was in detention, I asked him if he’d like to study something when he got out. And he said, ‘Yes, I want to become a magician. Is there a university for magicians in Perth?’ He wanted to make children laugh. That is the type of person he is. I could now be at peace, knowing that if he still wished to do so, he was free to pursue his dream of becoming a magician.

Through all of the horror stories I have heard about people’s particular stories—news of his release struck a particular chord within me and I realised it was because I have a profound faith and belief that people can overcome their suffering.

 

Read the rest here.

If you are a writer, you may consider adding your voice to Writers for Refugees.

A Country Too Far is an anthology edited by Rosie Scott and Tom Keneally featuring writings on asylum seekers by some of Australia’s best authors.

And if you want to learn more about the private companies which run our detention centres, Antony Loewenstein’s Profits of Doom is a good place to start.

Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards 2014

Sweaty lit crowd

Sweaty lit crowd

This year, the Premier’s Awards were held at Government House, in a palatial room of cream, blue and mint, complete with thrones. I arrived just as the talking began, on a dry, hot Melbourne night, and found a place to stand and fan my face with the nominee form.

my life as an alphabetIn the young adult section, Barry Jonsberg won for My Life as an AlphabetHe dedicated the prize to the memory of his Norwegian father, and two characters called ‘Sneaking Blanket’ and ‘Rolling Toilet Lid’, who featured in his father’s tales.

Jennifer Maiden took out the poetry prize, and then was the overall winner of the Victorian Prize for Literature, for her collection Liquid Nitrogen. Maiden coudn’t be present to accept the prize, but her editor told us about how well she articulates the politics of violence. Her publisher, Ivor Indyk, spoke about poetry as ‘the most powerful, personal and political of forms’liquid nitrogen. In Liquid Nitrogen Indyk said that Maiden, who has a painful condition which inhibits her movement, allows her imagination to soar and go to places her body cannot. He also said the work holds conversations, between the poet and herself, with the figures in the poems, and with the reader foremost. There was a collective excited gasp around the room when Liquid Nitrogen won the main prize. It was a good day for poetry!

The drama prize went to Savages by Patricia Cornelius. She commended fortyfivedownstairs for taking on independent, risky work. She also thanked the judges for choosing an original work over an adaptation, and one that is brutal over a work that is life-affirming.

The Forgotten WarThe non-fiction winner was Forgotten War, by Henry Reynolds, about the conflict that occured on Australian soil between Aborigines and white colonists. Reynolds thanked people who put their personal and professional lives in the service of literature (you’re welcome), particularly publishers and booksellers. The booksellers received a huge clap. He also commended the Victorian government for the award’s continuity, citing the Queensland government as an example of how it can all go wrong.

The fiction prize went to one of my all-time favourite authors Alex Miller, for Coal Creek, which I shamefully haven’t yet read (as you know I’ve been travelling and Coal Creekresearching a big project of my own). Alex was his usual self, both warm and dry (like the night, I suppose). He spoke of writing Coal Creek, that the pleasure of the process was reward enough. In reference to the premier’s comment about being halfway through and enjoying the book, he joked that he must have been able to put it down to come to the awards! Miller spoke of literature enduring and surviving in communities, despite constant obstacles.

The People’s Choice Award went to Hannah Kent’s gorgeously dark Icelandic tale Burial RitesKent thanked independent booksellers for Burial Ritesreally getting behind the book and giving it a good start in the world.

After the announcements, I finally got my hands on some bubbles, and had conversations with many gorgeous people in the Melbourne literary community—writers, editors, publishers, library folk, festival peeps—all readers. Some people thought I’d been away a lot longer than I had. Is that a good or a bad thing? Either way, I was welcomed back many times, and that was incredibly sweet. By the end of the night I’d set quite a few ‘proper catch-up’ dates, and possibly lined up a couple of articles. I honestly don’t try to ‘network’—though that word possibly just means being friendly, engaged, and sharing ideas about what you’re interested in and working on.

I don’t have a job, yet, but after last night, and then seeing Readings’ list of most anticipated books today, I’m feeling very good about what 2014 will hold.

Congrats to the winners of the Vic Prem’s! Have you read the winning or shortlisted books? Would love to hear your thoughts.

with Kat Muscat & Karen Pickering on the red carpet (pic c/o Karen Pickering)

with Kat Muscat & Karen Pickering on the red carpet (pic c/o Karen Pickering)

Carmel Bird Award winner: Alex Cothren

The-Great-Unknown-frt-221x350I’m pleased to announce that the winner of the Carmel Bird Short Fiction Award 2013 is Alex Cothren, for his wonderful story ‘A Cure’. ‘A Cure’ stood out for me due to its imaginative speculation on the limits of ‘misery’ entertainment (and potential abuses of brain-tech), and questions it raises around the effects of saturation and over-stimulation. It’s an entertaining, smart and emotive story. It ticks all the boxes. I wasn’t surprised to hear that Alex took the competition/anthology brief very seriously.

‘A Cure’ will be published in The Great Unknown (Spineless Wonders, December), alongside other spooky and strange stories by established and emerging Australian writers. Alex has also won $500.

We collected some info from Alex when he was shortlisted, about himself and the story, so I’ll share a couple of answers with you here to celebrate his win:

Alex Cothren

Alex Cothren

What did you enjoy/find challenging about writing to this particular brief or theme?

As with any type of speculative fiction, the joy is in the speculating – creating a world recognisable, yet slightly twisted by the introduction of a ‘what if…?’ I had a lot of fun researching the advances in brain-computer interfacing, trying to figure out how these could one day become part of the everyday, in the same way wi-fi has now become mundane. The challenging aspect was attempting to write something that could do justice to the creativity, intelligence, and insight of The Twilight Zone. In that respect, the brief was an impossible one.

Tell us about your story in The Great Unknown.

I wanted to write a story exploring the issue of how the suffering of the unfortunate         has become a global commodity consumed by the privileged. It was initially inspired by Amy Wilentz’s Farewell, Fred Voodoo, in particular a passage in which the USA-born author tells a Haitian friend how much she loves visiting that impoverished country, to which the friend responds: ‘well, then, I will give you my Haitian citizenship, and you give me your U.S. passport. You can stay here, but I’m leaving’. As Wilentz writes, ‘her point was that poverty, or even just some discomfort, is not so bad when you know that with a snap of your fingers, it can come to an end’.

How authentic can our empathy really be when the subject of pity disappears with a turn of the page, flick of the channel, click of the next link etc? I wanted to explore what would happen to a character who, aided by advances in technology, became stuck in the tragic world she was accustomed to entering and exiting at her leisure.

Congratulations Alex!

Readers, I hope you’re as excited to read it as I am to publish it. More Q&As with authors in The Great Unknown will appear on the Spineless Wonders website and on LiteraryMinded in the lead-up to publication.

I want to say thank you to Bronwyn Mehan and Spineless Wonders for letting me judge the Carmel Bird Award for 2013. It’s been an honour and a pleasure. I’m also incredibly grateful to be given the opportunity to edit the anthology, and bring the invited and shortlisted stories together in one strange, memorable, meaningful bundle.

Carmel Bird Award shortlist

The shortlist for the 2013 Carmel Bird Short Fiction Award has just been announced on the Spineless Wonders website. These are all excellent, imaginative stories, and I’m so excited that they will be joining those by the invited writers published in The Great Unknown (including Carmel Bird herself). They range from an existential story from the POV of a pet bird (‘Bluey & Myrtle’ by Mark O’Flynn), to two touching stories about women reconnecting with their families after strange happenings (‘Navigating’ by Helen Richardson and ‘Significance’ by Susan Yardley), to two very sharp speculative stories (‘A Cure’ by Alex Cothren and ‘A Void’ by Guy Salvidge) and one very spooky outback tale (‘The Koala Motel’ by Rhys Tate).

Congratulations to the shortlisted authors! The winner of the $500 Carmel Bird Short Fiction Award will be announced soon.

A few choice quotes from EIBF

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Hello! I’ve been meaning to add a final post after Edinburgh International Book Festival 2013, with some of my favourite quotes in the sessions I went along to. These are basically tweets I sent out during the festival, gathered together:

Salman Rushdie described reclusive author Thomas Pynchon like this: he’s tall, wears lumberjack shirts & blue jeans, has Einstein-white hair and Bugs Bunny teeth.

A nice little exchange from John Freeman’s interview with Salman Rushdie:

‘One of the great pleasures of the English language is its malleability’, said Rushdie. ‘Totally’, said Freeman. And Rushdie added, ‘Yo.’

‘I like the comedy and tragedy masks lying next to each other’—Sandi Toksvig

‘A lot of young writers swallow their voice, they don’t want to let it out because they think it might be wrong’—AL Kennedy

‘Caution is wise, I’ve found paralysis is less rewarding’—from an essay in AL Kennedy’s On Writing.

‘I’ve never met an ordinary person in my life. Everyone is peculiar. Isn’t that wonderful?’—John Banville

The world is always strange, said Banville. ‘I never, ever get used to clouds… these great pieces of silvery wreckage.’

‘To me, life is an extreme emotional state… excitement, grief for what’s gone, extreme expectation for what’s coming’—John Banville.

‘[In writing a novel] you get to be your ontological self, and self is an ungendered thing’—Rachel Kushner

‘I wanted it to be irresistibly beautiful & tender; it’s meant to affect you like a beautiful memory’—Melinda Gebbie on Lost Girls.

Sorry not to elaborate on the sessions, but I think each quote can be taken and nosed and swirled and tasted, like the Lagavulin 16 I’ll be sipping later tonight.

Today I ironed sheets, walked up a mountain, saw Buzzards circling, hung washing, edited a few stories in my chapbook (due to the publisher in a few days). Life in the Highlands: more soon.

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Carmel Bird Award longlist announced

Hello from the heart of the Speyside Scotch whisky trail! I’m working at a guesthouse here for all of September. There are three dogs, and there’s whisky and time to write in the middle of the day. So I’m a pig in shit.

Today I’m excited to announce the longlist for the Carmel Bird Short Fiction Award. I’ve had so much fun reading the submissions (and often been truly spooked or disturbed). I could tell that many of you wrote to the brief, as there was a delightful array of stories in Australian settings with strange themes and much more going on beneath the surface. Thank you so much for going to the effort.

The longlist is now up on the Spineless Wonders website! Congratulations to the longlisted writers. You’ve brought me hours of pleasure and entertainment. The shortlist will be announced soon…

EIBF 2013: is psychiatry doing more harm than good? (More brainy stuff.)

A version of this post was previously published on Stoffers

cracked-james-davies1

James Davies is the author of Cracked: Why Psychiatry is Doing More Harm Than Good. The main points of his argument, in the talk he gave at the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2013, were:

  • Psychiatric drugs often do not do what they say they do, they are more ineffectual than the drug companies would have you believe
  • The link between psychiatry and pharmaceutical companies has become too close, too comfortable
  • Psychiatry is wrongly medicalising increasing numbers of the population

In recent years, Davies argued, psychiatry has renamed more and more of our normal functions and emotional reactions (to a range of situations) as conditions and disorders. The Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the ‘bible’ of psychiatric professionals, has expanded at a faster rate than any other medical manual in history, said Davies. We’re now up to the DSM-5 (and you may have been following much of the controversy over this much-expanded manual in the news this year) but Davies went back to focus on the DSM-III, published in 1980, the first version to introduce specific diagnostic criteria. He shared with us snippets of his interviews with Robert Spitzer, who was chair of the task force for the manual, and overall pointed out that the ‘consensus’ approach to the DSM-III was unscientific and deeply flawed.

The Wikipedia entry on the most recent DSM is quite good, you can see some of the new disorders that have been added and some of the criticisms of the manual. The novel manuscript I wrote for my doctorate actually bounces off issues around the DSM and the shrinking of the category of ‘normal’ in society. In the near future, everyone has their diagnosis and their appropriate drugs; society is essentially regulated by companies resembling the Big Pharma companies of today (that have expanded into all areas of ‘wellbeing’, including entertainment, communication and so on). But there is still resistance, so new institutions have opened up, to retrain citizens (or consumers, rather) to be ‘functional’ in society.

James Davies

James Davies

An issue that Davies and other authors speaking on the topic raised again and again at the festival was the re-categorisation of ‘normal’ emotional states (including extreme ones, such as prolonged grief) into disorders, for which a ‘quick fix’, commercial solution is available. And yet, many of the drugs given to patients (and given before looking into non-pharmaceutical remedies) are not always proven to be completely effective. The risk of misdiagnosis is also high, as diagnosis is based on an inevitably subjective analysis of symptoms.

Davies also mentioned the influence of neo-liberal culture in the rise of (particularly anti-depressant) prescriptions. Western neo-liberal culture measures an individual’s success and value by their productivity and performance.

‘Anything that threatens individual productivity is seen as something to get rid of,’ Davies said. ‘Decelerating mood is part of this.’ He continued: ‘As a society we’re more hostile to emotional discontent than ever before.’

One thing I therefore ask in my novel manuscript is: does low mood (and other ‘aberrant’ emotional states) then become counter-cultural? A form of societal and corporate resistance?

Covering all bases, Davies also mentioned that in the contemporary secular West we have discarded systems that may have given our ancestors solace and strategy. It’s worth mentioning (though of course there are many ‘cons’ with which we could counteract this point) because this, along with the neo-liberal element, helps us to see the bigger picture, the ‘whys’ behind these shifts.

A few solutions Davies mentioned were more and bigger conversations, an insistence that psychiatrists become more honest about the limitations of drugs (hard when the pharma dollars are being waved at them), and more funding for alternate treatments (as there used to be). He believes the process for putting together any psychiatric manual would benefit from social scientists and people from other fields besides psychiatry being involved.

In the context of all this I feel like I need to mention that I’m very close to several people who have suffered from mental illnesses and disorders and I think drugs can and often do work, definitely, but Davies’ arguments are pertinent, encompassing current flaws in psychiatry (and their overall implications). And frankly I don’t think we can ignore the frightening amount of power and influence possessed by pharmaceutical giants. I’m looking forward to reading the book.

Check out the book and James Davies’ blog for more information.

See my first post on ‘brainy stuff’ from the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2013.

100 Story Building is about to open!

You may remember last year when I wrote about a new centre for young writers opening in Melbourne called 100 Story Building? Well, the doors are about to officially open!

Located in the heart of Footscray, 100 Story Building will support young writers (6-17 years) from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) and marginalised communities ‘to discover and share their creative voices through storytelling projects’, as they put it.

100 Story Building will be open for workshops, programs and one-on-one support from September onwards, and will work closely with the local writing and publishing community. It’s a very worthy project to get behind! Here’s a flyer for the opening:

100SB EDM invite_ST