Psst! Want to hear a good story?

Over the past 12 months you may have noticed a flurry of new literary events launching across Brisbane – salon events have found a new vogue across the nation as the event du jour for emerging and established writers.

The tradition of the salon stretches back to Renaissance period where artists would host intimate soirees, typically in the home of their patron, and share new work with their peers and audiences. For artists such as poets, playwrights, balladeers and composers, this was an opportunity to workshop new pieces and pander to potential clientele.
In the digital age, this physical connection is becoming increasingly prevalent, offering a visceral experience to the reader and, for the writer, a direct engagement with audiences and other writers. For emerging Brisbane writer Antonia Strakosch, salons offer a real sense of community in an otherwise insular creative practice.
'I have spent the last three and a half years writing my first novel, Remington Portable. While I've delighted in the privilege of working as a fulltime writer, I have also struggled with the solitary nature of the writing life. Reading events are vital for authors – especially emerging ones such as myself – because they provide that crucial link with an audience. After slaving each day in a lonely study, I relish the opportunity to grab the mic and connect with other writers and readers.'

Brisbane has long tradition of salon events, including SpeedPoets, Riverbend Poetry series and QWC’s Wordpool. West End’s Avid Reader has long hosted salon events, pairing them with book launches. And in 2012, a spate of new events have emerged – storytelling event Yarn; SLQ's reading salon celebrating indigenous writing Bl:ink; and now Whispers - a  reading salon inviting local emerging writers to read alongside an established Queensland author. Launched in August by Brisbane author Trent Jamieson, the event drew over 60 writers, readers and supporters for a celebration of Queensland writers.For Jamieson, reading events like Whispers not only help writers find their audience and their voice (so to speak), but are a chance to sound out new work, to experience the reader's journey and share their reading experience - the wonder, terror and pleasure.
‘Readings are one of those terrifying pleasures that writers don't get to experience enough,’ Jamieson says.
‘Most writing is alone-writing, or waiting-to-hear-back-from-a-publisher/editor/agent/reader- writing. I love sitting alone writing, but there's something so magical about an audience, about performing, and instantly seeing what your words can do. Your audience laughs at the jokes, they grow quiet, they listen - if you get it right they listen, which is why reading is terrifying. It's priceless, and things like Whispers are a wonderful gift to writers, and if the writer's engaged and engaging, they're a wonderful thing for readers, too.
‘As a writer you can learn so much about what you're writing, about pace, about energy, and what works and what doesn't. Which is why I love reading to an audience and watching and listening to other authors read. It's as close to tightrope walking as you can get as a writer – unless you're a writer who writes balanced on a tightrope.’

Whispers will host a special holiday edition on Saturday 15 December – and will be held monthly in 2013.
To read a review of the August launch event – and the first airing of Trent's next work, and of Antonia's reading at the October event, head to the QWC blog, Thinking Out Loud.

This article first appeared in the November 2012 issue of WQ.

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