We’re Giving Away a Writing Workshop in Bali — Here’s Why
“Thamil pésuviengala?” Can you speak Tamil?
“Oondai pasai vithyassam…” Your speech is different…
Earlier this year, I ran a writing workshop where a group of aspiring journalists critiqued a story written by a young Australian woman with Sri-Lankan Tamil heritage. Written in third-person, it was a moving and literary piece that explored how she was made to feel like a foreigner in both Australia and her mother country.
“It’s a great story,” said the man beside me, who had worked as an editor of multiple successful publications, “but it raises a glaring question. Where would you pitch it? It’s not really clickable. The title doesn’t sell the piece. It’s going to be difficult to publish.”
“I love it,” I interrupted him. “I’ll happily publish it on Global Hobo, if you’re interested.”
No matter where in media you look, publications, newspapers and magazines are drowning in their attempts to stay afloat. Most of the glossies I read as a child have folded, the triple j magazine I was once the production editor of has disappeared, and practically every publication you try to access online has either a pay wall, distracting pop-ups begging you to throw a few dollars their way, or a plethora of terrible advertorial. Getting paid for an article can be a real struggle, and rates per word have dropped from 50 cents to 30 cents to 10. As a result, we are told that the stories we publish need to be more sellable. There needs to be less text, more subheadings, flashier images, moving gifs, buzzier buzz words.
I asked the editor of a national Australian newspaper once why an important piece about refugees had been delegated to halfway through the newspaper instead of the cover. “People aren’t interested in reading stories about refugees anymore. It doesn’t sell,” she told me flatly. The replies – and lack thereof – that I received last month when I pitched a 3000-word first-person investigation into daily life and government corruption at a refugee camp in Greece confirmed her statement.
As publishers, in order for our posts to be seen and engaged with by the people who have already subscribed to our content, we are forced to throw thousands of dollars at Facebook. In doing so, we continue to feed the voracious monster that is responsible for destroying much of our industry in the first place. It goes without saying, then, that striving to be seen, stay funded and remain independent in a world where media is being increasingly monopolised can oftentimes seem like a pipe dream.
I recently found out that Overland – a progressive literary journal and cultural magazine that has been running for 65 years – is no longer eligible for ongoing funding from the federal government. As outgoing editor Jacinda Woodhead wrote in August, “On the same day that the Morrison government announced they were giving $500 million to defence so they can buy bigger guns (part of a $3 billion increase to the department), I learned that Overland was not invited to renew its four-year funding from federal arts body the Australia Council.”
Since 1954, Overland has been known for publishing some of Australia’s most iconic writers. I’m talking Walkley Award-winning stuff. They give space to voices that have been traditionally excluded and are committed to publishing underrepresented perspectives on important issues often ignored by mainstream media. In my opinion, they were the only publication that provided decent coverage of the death of Stacey Tierney inside Dreams Gentlemen’s Club, thanks to author Leigh Hopkinson, who worked in the same industry as Stacey for 20 years. I can assure you that few other media outlets afforded Stacey such depth of analysis, outrage and consideration.
Like Overland, at Global Hobo, we want to build an accessible community around storytelling and dismantle the hierarchies that exist in the media industry. As such, we pour immense energy into helping new and emerging writers develop their writing. We’re keen to read unsolicited pitches and showcase a diverse range of voices. We also firmly believe that not only is institutionalised education not for everyone – it’s also not always necessary if you want to be a writer.
In 2015, after being continually asked by hopeful writers how to get started as a freelancer, and after completing a journalism degree that gave me no insight into pitching, I started running freelance writing programs. I designed a course that covered what I deemed the essentials: feature writing, editorial writing, creative non-fiction writing, how to pitch, how to start a publication and how to figure out the business side of freelancing. With the goal of making writing seem more accessible, I asked writers who were relatively established but still in the process of figuring it out to help me teach and facilitate.
The programs started in Bali, because not only is it one of Australia’s closest neighbours, but it has a reputation – at least where I’m from – for being a trashy, touristy party destination. I wanted students to discover Bali’s magic, study Indonesian, live in a village outside of the main drag and learn about sustainable travel practices, dismantling neo-colonialism and the importance of having more than one narrative about a place.
Fast-forward to the present day, and we have writing workshops running in Bali, Japan and Spain. Most universities in Australia have accredited them as going towards journalism or communications degrees, and with the profits, we are able to pay our writers and self-fund the publication, which allows us to remain strictly independent.
When Overland called and asked if I would like to donate a writing workshop for their subscriberthon, it was a no-brainer. As Jacinda says, applying for funding is a “brutally competitive process – one that pits peer organisations against each other instead of celebrating success across the arts”, so to support and establish a sense of solidarity with an esteemed literary publication is, quite frankly, wonderful.
This week, if you take out, renew or gift an Overland subscription, you could win a number of groovy things – among them a writing workshop with Global Hobo in Bali scheduled for June and July next year. For a month, you’ll live amongst the rice paddies out the back of Canggu and will be taught the ropes of freelancing by passionate young people who work in the industry. You’ll also learn the basics of Indonesian, be treated to a five-course cooking class in the lush mountains of Tegalallang, and will make like-minded pals who’ll you’ll likely stay mates with for life. Overland will also be contributing towards the cost of flights, and you’ll get a really bloody good feeling about yourself knowing that you are directly contributing to the continuation of progressive literary culture.
As the Overland website says, “Literature has the highest participation rates of the arts. Writing is a thing we do to express our humanity; it is a way for us to understand and critique the world. … This is of course why neoliberalism is so hostile to literature and writing. Because it gives us ways to outthink the current system, and the horrors that system brings. Literature allows us to imagine new worlds, to propose new challenges to the present. Literature matters.”
If you wanna subscribe and maybe win, click here. You’ve got until November 15.