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13 November 2020

Life, Changing: ArtsEd intern Sarah shares her story ahead of the 2020 Word for Word National Non-Fiction Festival

How has your life changed this year?

It’s a big question and one that we’ll explore at the 2020 Word for Word National Non-Fiction Festival, which is sponsored by Deakin and is Australia’s only literary festival dedicated to showcasing the genre of non-fiction, in all its many forms.

Now in its seventh year, the festival will adopt an online format for the first time ever as it continues to showcase the very best non-fiction from Australia’s brightest writers and thinkers.

The 2020 festival theme is Life, Changing: a pertinent choice given the global shift this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a theme that explores how real stories about real people can help us find meaning in the issues and events that impact our lives, whether they occur by choice or by circumstance.

Ahead of the event sessions kicking off on 20 November, Deakin student Sarah Allen shares her experience of working remotely as an intern on the digital festival while in simultaneous lockdown.  

Deakin student Sarah Allen

Like for so many of us, this year has come with surprises and detours. I started 2020 with the ambition to take monstrous leaps towards a future career in book publishing. I felt excited and motivated to study, work hard and meet creative intellects who loved to read books. One week into studying a Postgraduate Diploma of Professional Writing, all universities transitioned to online study and my spare room was transformed into an ergonomic home office. As the pandemic quickly shut down economies and the country headed into a recession, the pathway to career progress started to look bleak. 

What followed was eight months of online study and eight months of lockdown, filled with dull headaches from too much screen time, lecturers speaking to vacant black boxes and daily neighbourhood walks to the park. In the middle of winter, a little orange dot on Blackboard signalled a notification, which sent me to an advertisement for a remote internship at a book festival. I applied without hesitation and six weeks later I am combing my fringe and brushing cream powder onto my nose in anticipation for my first Zoom meeting as a Communications Intern at Word for Word National Non-Fiction Festival. 

Every Tuesday I assist the small team at Word for Word with planning the festival in a new digital space and every Tuesday we are navigating uncharted territory. I edit the FAQ webpage and replace ‘where do I find parking’ with ‘can I stream from my TV’. I type Twitter handles of authors into a spreadsheet, create pictures on Canva to post on Instagram, and research how to live-stream on social media platforms.  

As I approach the end of the study year, Melbourne’s lockdown laws finally lift and the director of Word for Word Festival asks if I would like to come to Geelong for the weekend and watch the filming of the festival. In a few short weeks, I will meet the Word for Word team in person, and watch Mona Eltahawy speak about the patriarchy, Robert Dessaix discuss the joys of growing older, Caitlin Cady discuss the meditation techniques that trigger wellbeing and Heather Morris tell inspiring stories of hope. 

If I’ve learned anything through this tumultuous year, it’s the incredible capacity humans have to adapt. A remote internship from my little apartment in Brunswick and assisting to plan a digital book festival was not exactly what I had in mind when I made ambitious career plans at the start of 2020. But in essence, it was exactly what I was hoping for.

Attend the 2020 Word for Word National Non-Fiction Festival!

The 2020 Word for Word National Non-Fiction Festival will be held online across three days from 20–22 November 2020.

Join us to be moved, inspired and entertained as a range of prominent Australian media and literary presenters talk about their Life, Changing experiences. Deakin staff including Associate Professor Eben Kirksey, Dr Daniel Marshall, Associate Professor Maria Takolander, and Professor David McCooey will also facilitate festival sessions.

Festival sessions are individually ticketed, so you can pick and choose your must-see events, or indulge in a weekend of literary indulgence by grabbing a festival pass which gives you discounted entry into any five sessions.

Can’t make the festival dates? No worries! If you miss a live-streamed session, you can purchase any session On Demand for viewing up until 31 December 2020.

Visit the Word for Word National Non-Fiction Festival website to view the full 2020 program and book now!

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