Wednesday, August 29, 2007

MWF - Questions

Over the past few years, festival-goers have come to dread question time after the speakers have finished their part. Often questions are actually statements, designed to show the cleverness of the questioner, that go on and on for about five minutes until someone on the stage manages to bring him/her to a halt. Sometimes questions are actually about "no one will publish my manuscript and I think it's a conspiracy and what are you going to do about it". At a writers' festival which is all about published books? Nothing.
Maybe this is why, for the second year, MWF is running a full-day session on the nuts and bolts of getting published. This is something our students never attend because they learn all that in our course (if they're listening properly!).
It's easy to forget that there are still lots of people out there who write and hope to get published, but don't have much idea at all of how the industry works. Hence the question at a forum I attended - "I have an idea and some pictures I want to draw - how do I get published?" There was an audible intake of breath in the audience, and the authors on stage seemed so taken aback that they floundered and didn't really answer properly - how could you, when the full answer would take hours?
I've noticed in a couple of sessions at the MWF so far that the "boss" of the stage (facilitator, or whatever the current word is) has warned at the start of question time - please ask real questions. But many in the audience would rather contribute to the discussion in some way. The person in the Short Fiction session the other day who told us all about the story readings at the Wattle Cafe was doing us a favour. Where do you draw the line?
Maybe the line is between providing useful input, and self-aggrandising?


Lisa66 said...

I touched on this problem a few days ago on my blog. Recently I attended the annual RWA conference. This year the standard of speakers was particularly high. Unfortunately the 10-15 mins at the end of sessions for questions was totally hijacked by people who loved the sound of their own voice OR people asking such basic questions that one had to wonder if they had listened to the speaker's presentation. Very frustrating. I would rather listen to a knowlegeable speaker for an extra ten minutes and not have the opportunity to ask questions than listen to rubbish from peanut gallery.

Tracey said...

Mmm, sounds like the new organisers are on the right track -- less formal and more engaging panels, trying to shut up the idiots who want their five minutes of fame (and I'm not referring in any way to genuine question askers -- even if they are asking basic questions).

Tracey said...

I meant to say -- that Wattle Cafe thing -- we should go. I was amazed at how much I enjoyed seeing and hearing Dorothy Porter's Monkey's Mask performed the way it was. It brought a totally new dimension to the work. I think we need to be more open to such things.