Marieke Hardy

Posted on Posted in Industry, Interview, Marieke Hardy, Writer, Writers festival

Marieke Hardy is the Artistic Director of the Melbourne Writers Festival, and in this interview she takes us behind the scenes of programming the 2019 Melbourne Writers Festival.

Marieke is also a screenwriter, author, curator and immersive theatre maker. She has written columns for The Age, Frankie and The Drum, and also written for television including Laid, The Family Law and Seven Types of Ambiguity. She released her memoir You'll Be Sorry When I'm Dead in 2011, co-curated the international literary salon Women of Letters, and appeared on the ABC's The Book Club.

Marieke Hardy_The Garret

TRANSCRIPT

ASTRID: Marieke Hardy is a screenwriter, author, curator and immersive theatre maker. She has written columns for The Age, Frankie and The Drum, and also written for television including Laid, The Family Law and Seven Types of Ambiguity. She released her memoir You'll Be Sorry When I'm Dead in 2011, co-curated the international literary salon Women of Letters, and appeared on the ABC's The Book Club. She's currently the Artistic Director of the Melbourne Writers Festival and working on many other creative writing projects.

Welcome to The Garret, Marieke.

MARIEKE: Thank you for having me.

ASTRID: I'm very excited that you're here. This is going to be an industry special of The Garret. So I'd like to pick your brain on behalf of all of the writers, screenwriters and creatives out there, about what goes on at a writers festival and how they can get the most out of it.

MARIEKE: What goes on during a writers festival? As the festival, or behind the scenes with us in the office all staring at each other with terrified eyes occasionally day drinking whiskey?

ASTRID: Both.

MARIEKE: Okay. Happy to talk. I'm an open book.

ASTRID: Particularly the whisky bit! Now, a caveat before we get any further. I am on the Board of the Melbourne Writers Festival.

MARIEKE: What?

ASTRID: Who knew? However, I should just point out for all of our listeners, I have nothing to do with programming and I'm asking these questions because I don't actually know the answer to most of them.

MARIEKE: No, you don't. We don't talk about this at all.

ASTRID: No, I'm not allowed to talk to you about it! So I don't know the answer to any of this as well.

MARIEKE: Okay.

ASTRID: So, before we get there you are a writer yourself, Marieke. You have been writing on multiple platforms for many years. Can you tell me what it was like to write and release your memoir?

MARIEKE: Memoir is a very strong term for that collection of comedic essays about my life. It's so interesting, that was written in 2011 and people still read it. And I've been on dating apps and people are like, 'I read your book', which is really weird. I mean, imagine getting this collection of backstory about someone.

What I find interesting about that collection... I don't regret, I don't regret anything I've done creatively because it's all brought me to a certain space, but I'm very protective of the person who wrote that book. I wouldn't write a book like that again now. I am incredibly open about my life and my experiences and very genuine and how I talk about them, but I do think in 2011 I was still trying to turn a lot of things that perhaps weren't funny into comedic stories. And I think, you know, I've done a lot of therapy the last few years, I'm in a really good place, and I just think I'm not afraid to expose myself but I probably wouldn't have gone and 'I'm going do it in the form of it's hilarious'. [Laughter] And some of those stories I look back and I think, 'Well, that experience wasn't as hilarious for you as you've portrayed it', and I'm protective of the person who wrote it.

So it is very strange to me when people come up and say, 'I read your book, you're racy little minx'. And you go, 'Well, yes, that is an element of me'. And often when I'm getting to know people - not even in a romantic way just in a friendship way - and they say, 'Oh I want to read your book', I say, 'Well don't do that just talk to me and I'll tell you anything but I'll probably tell it in a more genuine and soft way than maybe it is...' It had to be a collection. It was funny. So it had to be written in a funny way. But yeah, it's very strange having this thing hang around there that people have read.

ASTRID: So based on that experience - you revealing yourself, or part of yourself, one aspect of yourself to the world - you are now, as Artistic Director of the Melbourne Writers Festival, you are now in a position of authority and programming authority. You put other creatives on stage and you help, by doing that you help put them in front of audiences and help them tell their story. Because of that experience or any others that you've had in your creative life do you ever feel the need to protect...?

MARIEKE: Yes absolutely I do. And I mean, anyone is only going to be... you know, we all do the best with what we've got at a particular point in time, the tools that we've got. And if I see people going, 'Yeah, I want to tell this really hilarious story about a big trauma'. I feel for them and I feel I want to make sure that they're okay telling that story. Some people are!

Some people... you know, I mean the example, the two examples I'm going to give you are probably not funny, but I mean I saw Jimmy Barnes do his book tour. And the stories in those books are deeply harrowing and traumatic. And I watched him talk about that and I thought, 'You've done your work, you're okay talking about this'. I felt really comfortable that he felt okay talking about it.

But then I was.... I actually don't want to name the other person, but there was someone who wrote a quite traumatic book, and I think really suffered on their book tour. And I never want someone to... I think it's important to find that catharsis - if they need to find that catharsis in writing about the thing that happened to them or are fictionalising it or whatever they want to do - but it's a whole other re-traumatisation to go on stage and talk about it.

And there were a couple of people this year that I didn't feel comfortable programming because I thought I would rather them be safe in the world, which we never told them, but it was just an instinct.

ASTRID: That is fascinating. So, please don't name them.

MARIEKE: No, I won't.

ASTRID: This is not the podcast to do that. But did those writers pitch to you or their publisher pitch to you?

MARIEKE: No, they were the publishers. Gene, our Program Manager, and I go meet with all the publishing houses, which is a real privilege. You get this amazing catalogue, and it's usually at that point of the festival when you rested from the last festival and it just becomes this amazing option paralysis of 'It could be anything, we could have anyone!' And you get these delicious catalogues of amazing books and authors, and you just kind of circling them all, and I want that one! And then of course it becomes a long, slow negotiation of who's available, and who wants to come out, and you know, and we've got someone like that. And so it's so fun.

So it was one of myriad books that was pitched to us - or there were a couple, but I remember one specifically - and it was the first time author, and I said to the publisher, 'Is that person okay? Have they done interviews about this yet?' And there was just a hesitation there going, 'Well, no not yet, and we're going to keep an eye on them when they start doing the interviews'. And I thought maybe not quite ready yet.

I mean, I don't want to police anyone's experience. Maybe it's going to be better for them to get on stage and cry about it. Absolutely. And if that's the case... you know, I work really hard to create a space at the festival where the authors and the writers and the artists feel safe and respected and loved and held as much as the audiences do. And that very much comes from Women of Letters and creating spaces of catharsis for writers. So yeah, just... you can just trust your instincts every now and then.

ASTRID: Now I'd like you to take us behind the scenes of Melbourne Writers Festival. Take us through the experience of programming. You mentioned and how you get the catalogues of brilliant artists and writers who you might want to invite, but I mean what comes first? Is it knowing where the locations you can use? Is it the theme of the festival? Is it the writers in town?

MARIEKE: It's the theme first. The theme... we came up with the theme before anything. And I knew I wanted it to be about love. And you, this job is such a privilege, I got to email the Carver Estate and ask their permission. Raymond Carver! Like, I can't go to e-mail his estate! That's so awesome.

ASTRID: It is very good.

MARIEKE: I know, it's really exciting.

And I don't take that for granted at all. It's a huge gift. And so we knew that was the theme and Gene and I were brainstorming people that might work with that theme. We also had this A-list of, you know, dream authors that we'd like to come to Melbourne. And you just start sending invites out and start feeling your way through it.

You know, we would make a list and then some people say yes and some people say no. And you go, 'Oh okay, well have we got too many comedians, crime writers, you know, whatever it is, cookbook authors'. And you start shaping it around that. And so it's this fluid beast that doesn't stop being fluid up until, you know, even after launching program people can drop out and people can, you know things can shift. And that's just part of the rollercoaster. But theme first, list of... I think there are some perennial A-list authors that every festival says 'Well, any year we would be happy to have'. And so you start approaching some of them. And then you think about people that pertain specifically to the theme people, who have a new work out around the time of the festival so I might be interested in coming.

And I guess the joy has been collaborating and sharing with other festivals around the same time as MWF, because Australia is a really long way to come for international authors. And to have a collaborative relationship with our partner festivals so that we get to make an approach to an international and say, 'Would you like to come? We understand it's a really long way. You can then have the opportunity to speak about your work at Brisbane Writers Festival, at Antidote, at Canberra Writers Festival, at Christchurch, and working together within that community festival is really great. And I think presents a better offer for someone coming a very long way.

ASTRID: Completely. They don't want to do that 15 hour flight for one festival.

MARIEKE: No. And I'm not in the market, like the dick swinging market in terms of festival curation, I don't want to just bring an author over to say, 'I got them. Their mine. I don't want them to do...' Like, it's just, you know, it's not good for the writer. They've written this work that they want more people to see. I see no skin off my nose if they go to Brisbane and work with Zoe. Zoe is fabulous. I want her to have a good festival. And it's a kinder thing for the artist to get as many opportunities to come to this nation and and speak to as many people as possible. And it's very rare - and all the stats that people do prove this - it's very rare that festival goers go, 'I am going to go to Brisbane specifically to see X'. I mean, sometimes that happens. But most people stick to their own festivals.

So that's kind of the process and then it just starts taking shape and you work around that.

ASTRID: So, once you have your wish list of all of the writers and the creatives and the authors that you would like to appear, mostly they don't appear alone. They appear, you know, with an interviewer or on a panel or in some kind of joint performance or creative activity. How do you put different writers together, like what do you want to bring out of them?

MARIEKE: That's so fun. That's another fun thing as well. What do what to bring out of them? Well, often, you know, obviously with the theme this year there were a lot of things about passion and bodies and sex and the Queer Emotions stream that that Gene curator which is really brilliant. And you know, we wanted to really look it at love and, you know, the permutations. Look at family violence and sex and disability and sex work.

And when you start inviting people that might pertain to those themes and then you find other local interesting authors or interstate authors artists who might fit to that, in terms of having someone in conversation with someone else, often that is one of the last things to happen before the program's locked off because you've now got so and so and you know they want to be in conversation about their book or this certain topic, and you stuck going, 'Who would be a great person to bring the most out of them?' Because we all know a moderator or a chair can make or break an event. And I think if only we could bottle Michael Williams and have him host everything it would be pretty magic. I've seen... he's just, you know, that the head of The Wheeler Centre, and to see him in full flight in Auckland as I had the privilege of doing in May, he's just magical. And there are a lot of other magical moderators and chairs, and you know, Gene and I work really hard to make sure that we put our artists with someone magical who will draw out the best from them.

ASTRID: So what makes you want to put someone specific on stage?

MARIEKE: Well my hope, always with this festival, because there are lots of platforms and ways for authors and artists to talk about their work... And I've always been interested from the get go with this job in bringing out human stories on a very human level. And again that's the thing I'm one of the things I'm most proud of Women of Letters - apart from all of the work that we did with Edgar's Mission - was it was a different experience for the people on stage. And a very cathartic and empathetic experience for the people in the audience, because they would see someone that was like, ‘Oh well that's a newsreader that I see every night, but she's talking about the death of her father, and this is how I felt when my father died’. And I mean, that's what I'm interested in. I think if you... Patrick de Witt has done many interviews about French Exit. You could read, you know, look online we've got all these things accessible, and I'm sure you could look at a video of Patrick de Witt in conversation about French Exit. So, how do we engage with him and, you know, make him talk about ghosts and parenting?

And I just think... that's my drive to have people... We know what these artists write about, often we see ourselves in their books, which is a really lovely connective thing to do. But who are these people? Why do they write what they write? So for me it's less about... I mean the product is there and the work is there, but why and how they wrote it I think teachers are so much more about them as a human and us as a human, and makes us feel closer to them. And I mean the world is a fucking garbage fire, Astrid. Like why not find places where we can be soft and understand each other? I just have no qualms about being the earnest kid on the block in that regard.

ASTRID: I could not agree more Marieke. I have a question for creatives, for writers who maybe really want to get onto the festival circuit, would like to have that experience. They've been published and for some reason they haven't been picked I suppose. Do you get pitches? And what do you do when you get a pitch?

MARIEKE: Often they go through our admin before they come to me, just because Gene and I intend to drown in in emails quite a lot. But I'm a pretty open minded, open hearted person. And if the pitch works, and works for us and we can make it work, I'm not averse to someone cold calling at all. It's really hard to get seen, writing a book takes a really long time, or writing a record or something - you've made an art you want the world to hear about it. And unfortunately there's lots and lots of those, and not always the space, or it doesn't always work thematically or can't work for us. But you know, gosh, if someone has put all this effort into something and they want to ask then they should ask. Absolutely yeah. Just come up to me in a bar and ask. You know, that's a human exchange, you know, ‘like I've made an art I want someone to see it’. Absolutely.

And the best thing about being on The Book Show for eleven years. OK.

ASTRID: There's must be a few there must be a few things about that.

MARIEKE: There are. Number one is people come up to me, because now I haven't been on the show for two years - and this may surprise, you but I don't always sit in 90 minutes of hair and makeup before I leave the house - so people just go, ‘I know you from somewhere’. Where I just go, ‘Well, it’s just me, but I just look like an ordinary person and I don't look like a glamazon anymore, I'm so sorry’. Or they think I‘m Myf Warhurst, I had someone very excited to meet me because they thought I was Myf. But the main thing is when people go, ‘Oh I know who you are, you're on The Book Show. You're that Marika Harvey’. But then they talk to me about books! Then we talk about what we're reading, what we like, what we don't like. It's so fun. That's great yeah. So it's not a terrible thing. And that can happen in a bar as well.

ASTRID: Now tell me what is your best behind the scenes festival story?

MARIEKE: I've got a good one from last year's festival. I can't talk about the one with one of my dream festival artists, and I ended up being able to hang out with that person until 2am in the morning. We broke in to an empty bar and sat just talking till 2am with our knees touching, and I just I couldn't... I woke up the next morning going ‘Did that really... That was one of my heart people. And that happened I saw them and they saw me’.

ASTRID: That's so amazing. I’m jealous just looking at the smile on your face.

MARIEKE: My goodness it was so magical.

But this is a moment that I thought was pretty funny, that of course we couldn't talk about. So one of my big things in the festival is making sure... I mean I try and look after every artist. If I if I could clone myself I'd be at every event. That's what they don't tell you about the job is that you put your blood into these events, like I know every event and who's on it and what they need, and you don't sleep because you’re going, ‘Oh, that person doesn't realize we've changed the moderator, and we've got to let them know because they're talking about motherhood and this might be a gentle space for them’. But you can't see everything, which is annoying. And also I want to, I want to show every artist that I'm hugely appreciative that they're taking the time to be at our festival.

But one big part of the job for me last year was being at our hotel partner and making sure our international and interstate guests arrived safely. I would meet them and thank them and check them in to the hotel. And Ronan Farrow arrived looking unbelievably handsome and annoyingly fresh for someone who just got off a long haul flight. I was outraged, he looked much fresher than me.

And I said, ‘It's so lovely to meet you’ and he was just charm personified. He's so lovely and funny and warm, and we're getting him all checked in and making small talk about the flight. And I said, ‘You know, we're so grateful you're here’. And he said, ‘Oh you know, that's so funny. It was such a funny story is that I flew from New York to Los Angeles and then I got this huge potential scoop for a story, and I had to go back to New York, and 24 hours ago I thought I was going to have to cancel’. I said, ‘That is a funny story. [Laughter] Goodness me, that is funny, Ronan’. And I held myself back from falling over. But I just thought, wow, that could have fallen over a day ago and I didn't know. And he just told it to me as if it was a funny story. And of course, no one knows, but I mean by the same token no one knows the, you know, all the people that might have been in this year's festival program that are not, and all that amazing others that are... it's just no one knows all the different shapes. I mean, this festival that we release that I love is very different to the one in February where Gene and I are like, ‘That's the festival’. It certainly isn’t. And you can just never... you know, it's just a moveable feast.

ASTRID: It is. Now Marieke, I'd like to go back to what you started to discuss before, about looking after everybody who participates in the festival and appears on stage in front of an audience. What do you put in place beforehand logistically to look after, you know, not just to make it run smoothly but to make that space a safe space?

MARIEKE: Well, I mean there's an entire team of people to ensure it runs smoothly. I don't... That's not... I mean not a concern of mine but it will happen. I try in my initial approach to the writers or when we start thinking about events for them, try and make it as clear and inclusive as possible in the language I use. I am a kind person by nature. I'm very driven by kindness, so I really make sure that it's clear why I'd like them to do the event. I don't ever want someone to do something because I think it's a fancy idea. I would like it to mean something for them, and if they say, ‘I don't want to talk about that’, that is absolutely fine. But I think, I hope, they know that my intention isn't, ‘Well, this is going to be sexy and sells tickets’. I just I don't think like that really. So it's having that communication and consultation with them from the get go.

And often it's, you know, with 400 writers it's very hard always to make sure... Some people go ‘Wow, that's not what I thought it was going to be’ or ‘I don't like that copy’. And you always listen to them when they say that. So you keep checking in with them at every stage of the way to make sure they're comfortable with what the event is, who they're talking to, what they're talking about. I try and check in with them before the event - again with 400 writers you do the best you can - particularly with delicate ones and people that I know either their personal story, just to double check that they're all right.

I mean we did Magda’s funeral last year, and I was very conscious of that being an uplifting experience for her but also understanding that it might be emotionally complex. So we made sure that two friends came with her, that they sat with her, we gave her a place to go afterwards. So yeah, I mean to have to be able to do that for every single event would be great. And then in the absence of having all that time you do the best you can.

ASTRID: Have you ever felt the need to put in place any measures for the audience?

MARIEKE: Oh yeah, absolutely. And last year I mean the theme was A Matter of Life and Death. I'm very conscious of what hearing someone speak about a harrowing experience might bring up. It doesn't even have to be harrowing. I mean, it can be...

I mean the Museum of Broken Relationships is it is a space of broken hearts and love lost or love gone. And from my experience having attended both museums in the permanent collections in Croatia and Los Angeles, it's a hugely emotional experience. And of course we all think about our love lost or loved gone. And so I would not be surprised if those things come out.

You know, MWF does have a lot of things in place where... I mean our volunteers are amazing and are briefed very much about people's emotional experiences. I do think it's a pretty warm place. The dialogue is pretty warm. And again, those people that we employ as moderators and hosts, I like to think that they have a safety about them. That might not be the right word, but there's something where they are conscious of the mood in the room, the happiness and health of the people on stage that might change at any given moment. I mean, that's why being a moderator is a hard job because that can change. You know, someone could ask a question. We all know the route the mood just shifts completely.

ASTRID: Now, in addition to the emotional safety, as an Artistic Director what is your responsibility to all the creatives involved in the festival? I mean, do you have a responsibility to promote their work, to promote their profile? What else do you sometimes get asked or expected to do?

MARIEKE: Well, it's a dialogue isn't it because it's our festival. It's MWF’s festival, and mine and Gene's kind of ideas, a creative concept, and we're asking them to participate within the structure of this creative concept. And they say, ‘Yes, I would like to do that, I would like to talk about my ex, my book, my song’. And I think there's a respectful dialogue which is both of us going well thank you so much for doing this. And I of course would like to platform you, without us being a showcase for everyone's... you know, we're not a big marketplace, we're trying to create a creative n

What is our responsibility to do that? That's an interesting question. I think my responsibility past having the big creative idea and inviting people to participate within that, is just to listen. Because you hear people go, ‘I would love to do that’ or ‘I would prefer to speak only about this’. Then... I would never say, ‘Well, no, sorry, you just have to do the golf event because...’ Like, you just can’t. So yeah, the initial stage is ours and then we start listening.

ASTRID: Now, you've programmed many many things before. Last year there was naked people running through, running beneath the Dome in the State Library of Victoria, which I think will live on in everybody's minds. What have you got planned for us this year?

MARIEKE: Well, there's more naked people. You know, MWF has had its detractors. And it's very easy for people to go, ‘Oh, it's like a nudey nudey McHug Fest’. And that really undermines the nuances of what I think is beautiful about the program, which is it's a celebration of stories and humans and just a writers festival that is on a slight tilt.

And then naturist events that, well, there's quite a few in the program this year because it's a about love. And so there are bodies in the program and there is sex in the program and people writing about sex and romance and sex work. And the person who inspired the naked tour of the library last year was Stuart Ringholt, who's an artist I'm a huge fan of, who guides the naturist tours of the MCA in Sydney and the Turrell Exhibition in Canberra, and is is a really wonderful artist. Again, I remember when I said I wanted to do that last year he was really generous about me using the idea and using the concept at MWF18, and this year he's guiding the tours. This is another fan moment for me. I got to go to his studio and talk to him about the concept, and he's just so interesting and open. And it was again one of those moments where I thought, ‘Wow, what a wonderful gift this job is. I get to meet one of my favorite artists and say, would you like to come and do this naturist tours of the catacombs of the State Library?‘ And he said yes, he said yes.

ASTRID: He said yes. I should also say how amazing is it that we have a library in our city, the State Library of Victoria, that programs all sorts of different things and lets different things happen in a space which used to be just books but now is about community and ideas and...

MARIEKE: Yeah...

ASTRID: ... just being alive in this city.

MARIEKE: Well, that's I mean, I'm really excited for us moving to the library and all the different spaces around. I mean, having done some tours... Our Book Clubs this year are going to be in the North Rotunda, which is just going to be amazing. And watching people move through the Russell Street foyer space... And I just in the whole precinct, I can see it in my head and how people move around it, including the Museum of No Vacancy and the programming in The Moat.

So yeah, I mean there's less events than there were in 2018, which is good because I think our team would probably be dead if we did as many as we did last year. And what I loved about last year was the melding together of maybe more traditional writers festival programming with some experiential things. And my hope last year was that our audience would go to both, and they did.

And I was really humbled and honoured by that, that people went, ‘I'm going to go and see something that in conversation event or a panel about a topic that is something that I'm used to seeing, but while I'm here I'm going to walk into a room where someone asked me to write a love letter and I stick it into a coffin’. You know, and that, I mean you can only make the festival that your heart wants to make and that at the festival that I would like to go to. So, that's the drive of it. So I'm really excited that those opportunities are all there for people this year, this performance. There's talks that are about issues and hearts and real life stories, as well as people talking about their books which is their passion as well.

ASTRID: Now the 2018 festival was an incredible success. It was incredibly different, and it was your first as Artistic Director of the Melbourne Writers Festival. Marieke, you've been in the public eye for decades. You have bared a part of your soul in your memoir and many many other writings. How do you deal with criticism?

MARIEKE: Well that's really interesting, because before last year's festival I had worked anonymously as an artist for a few years and that was great. I just put things in the world and I wasn't picked on in the right wing press, because they know who's making them. I just got to make beautiful altruistic art and just felt great, and it really strengthened my resolve in what I wanted to put into the world.

And when I took the festival job I said, ‘Can I do it anonymously?’ Because I know that the minute I stick my head up again I become a part of the culture wars, which is not something that I'm really interested in engaging in. And the Board said no.

ASTRID: I wonder why.

MARIEKE: Buzzkill. And so when it happened and I started getting kind of coal ovened by the right wing press and certain people, I just felt... I felt tired. I felt really tired. I just thought well this is why... it's just tiring. It's tiring to put something in the world that you really care about... And I guess my disappointment with the right wing media is that the way that they write about me is still like I was a 25 year old angry political blogger, which I'm just not anymore. And when you've really come of age in the public eye at a certain age you get put under amber, and so that the way that I get written about is not as a 43 year old who... I feel pretty genuine, I speak from the heart, and I get treated like you know a young scruff.

So, I felt disappointed and tired and very protective of the festival and the people in it, because it was all happening during the festival. And I just wanted to scoop everyone up and say, ‘It's okay’. And people came to me going, ‘Wow, I love the festival’, but it's really hard being in something when it's being kind of flamed from the outside.

I think ultimately because I lost so much sleep over the program during the programming before anyone even knew what it was, going ‘Am I doing a good job? Do I know...’ And I ended up talking to someone and saying, ‘I'm just worried that this program is going to come out and people say it's dumb or that I've missed something or that it's, you know... ‘And this person said, ‘Well, what do you think about it?’ I said, ‘I think it's really beautiful, and I've worked really hard on it, really hard.’ And they said, ‘Well, that's what matters’.

And that's how I feel about this year’s as well. I back myself. And of course people aren't going to like it, they're completely entitled to. And the people who spoke out of anger last year, a lot of them were were scared, were fearful about not selling books, and this change presented something to them that was really challenging. And I'm not angry at them for that, of course, that comes from fear based thing.

So yeah, I mean I'm going to die very happy with what I put in the world, really, and that's because it comes from a very genuine place. I'm not ambitious at all. I don't, you know, I don't have a drive to just be the best at anything. I just want to put good things in the world. I mean, you can't really lose when that's your intention. If that's your intention and you keep going back going, ‘Where does this come from? Is this coming from a good and genuine and kind place?’ And even if you fuck up, which I do all the time, to keep going back to that lighthouse and saying, ‘Is this coming from a genuine place?’ then who cares what anyone else says. Fuck them.

ASTRID: I love that. Now, Marieke, we've mostly talked about the Melbourne Writers Festival and your role as Artistic Director, but taking a step back from all of that, this is one of your great works for 2019 but what else can you tell us, if anything?

MARIEKE: About all you other jobs?

ASTRID: Yeah.

MARIEKE: All my other all my other jobs. Well, in the summer of 2018 I, some would say somewhat foolishly, but you know, I've been a writer for 20 years, and when I did the 2018 festival, I mean, it was just so... I didn't know... what the hell? I couldn't write, because the job was so overwhelming and I was learning what a KPI was, I was on a learning curve, and it was so full on. And I got to the end of last year and the end of the festival and I thought I miss being a writer. That's my identity, a writer, that's who I am. That's a language that I know. And so I took on six writing jobs over summer.

ASTRID: Six?

MARIEKE: Yeah. And I did them as I travelled through Europe, and then as the festival started programming this year I was doing them on weekends. But they're all still bubbling away.So, I'm writing a couple of feature films and an American series, and I've written a play and a couple of TV series.

ASTRID: That sounds like a lifetime's work in one summer, Marieke.

MARIEKE: Its so cool. And and I've started doing secret out again, so that feels really good because no one's going to know about it but I'm going to make it. So, life is good, you know, I'm very happy.

ASTRID: Life is good, Marieke.

MARIEKE: Yeah.

ASTRID: Thank you so much.

MARIEKE: No worries. Thanks for having me.