Looking out at my baby kale saplings quivering in the soil, these nascent meals, I am stirred to do what any overprotective parent would: anything in my capacity to bring them to adulthood, or at least to independent adolescence. My local organic nursery would shudder at the strategies I have implemented in this quest. But. It has to be done.
This is not to say emerging writers are babies in need of a chemical leg up to plump them for tomorrow’s dinner. They are, however, in need of care and space and patience in order to reach their artistic potential. In Ta-Nehisi Coates’ words, “The path is so tough, and you get beat up so much” learning to write, that few are able to persevere through the emerging stage of their careers and realise their latent abilities.
Any one of the artists or audience members at this year’s Emerging Writers’ Festival could be our next Alexis Wright, Helen Garner, or Shaun Tan. But with the Australian Government withdrawing, in large, its financial support from the small and mid-sized organisations that provide the crucial building blocks for early-career artists, it’s left to us – readers, friends, and artists – to find ways of supporting emerging writers.
EWF provides not only a place for emerging writers to share the skills and knowledge crucial to their ripening, but time and space for networks to develop between writers, illustrators, editors, and publishers at the onset of this rough path.
EWF’s Pen Pal’s program is one way of investing in the future of Australian letters.