Hey guys, Chris here.

So you might have noticed with the last blog post that Underground was invited over to Adelaide for the Format Festival Academy of Words. Pretty big deal for a small street ‘zine! So it was that I flew over to Adelaide two weeks ago (so I’m a little late posting the reflection, sue me) and took part in what was definitely an eye-opening experience.

Let us preface this blog post by saying that when it comes to the literary world and, indeed, the underground ‘zine scene, I don’t have a huge idea of what I’m doing. Until now, I’ve winged it, and it… it has worked. Sort of. I sat on the first panel of the day, How To Sell Out Without Losing Your Cred, headed up by the fantastic Lisa Dempster. The blurb for the panel was as follows:

Moving copies doesn’t mean you’ve caught the mainstream. Emerging publishing technology means it is becoming easier to access niche, subcultural markets beyond your immediate circle of friends – meaning you can have a satisfying body of readers without compromising the integrity of your soul. Meet some people who are doing this with panache.

In true Chris Hocking fashion, I sat there for a good 30 minutes and just nodded and agreed with the other writers. They actually seemed to know what they were talking about, and when Lisa finally asked me to speak it was more of a “Uh… yes. I… yes. These people are right, listen to them”. Not my finest hour, but hey, now I actually know what to talk about next time if I’m ever called upon to sit on a panel again.

That said and done, the rest of the day was what really opened my eyes to this amazing literary scene that we haven’t yet tapped in Perth. What is it to be a writer, and when did you realise you were a writer, Ryan Paine (director of the AoW) asks. How can writers expect to live on such low pay or, indeed, any pay at all? The idea of literary activism, something I’d never heard of or even considered before this festival, is now burned into my brain as a sure way forward with Underground.

There were many guest speakers from all over Australia, especially the Melbourne and Sydney side. People that had been in the publishing industry, had organised ‘zines like us, or even ran a ‘zine collective. These people were involved – literary activism, anyone? I’ve never had so many fantastic discussions about writing and the arts in general. It was simply a brand new experience, to be surrounded by so many folks from so many different areas, united by one common love. I did actually catch one other fella from Perth on the last panel, who seemed a lot more involved in the underground writing scene than I am. As did everyone, but I digress…

So what does this mean? Good job Chris, you went to Adelaide and you learnt a lot. Cool story bro, right? Sure, it was beneficial for myself as a writer, but due to the very nature of the festival and the artists on the panels I’ve learnt a lot about ‘zine preparation and distribution. A hell of a lot. What does this mean for Underground? No more farting around. We’ve got a niche to fill in little old Perth, and we’re going to fill it. I know how we’re going to do it. Sort of. I have way more of an idea than before, and we’re already taking steps to get there.

We have new editors. We have new distribution channels, and we have a new determination to amp up the professionalism of our product by a hell of a lot. As of Issue 7, the game changes. Issue 6 is going to be more of the same, but we’ve got big ideas for Issue 7 and beyond. The Academy of Words opened up a lot of avenues for Underground, and we’re determined to use every single one of them. A million thanks to Ryan for inviting us along, even if only one of us made it. I’m looking forward to returning next year, whether it’s to sit on a panel or just sit in the audience.

Recommendation: hit up the Academy of Words 2012. Don’t even think about it. Just do it. [/Nike]



Obligatory picture of me pretending that I know that I'm talking about.



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