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By Joseph DeMarini

My students often ask me, “How can I improve my writing?” It’s a great question, and also one that has an unsatisfying answer; without an editor or native English speaker, it can be difficult for even high-level ESL students to self-correct and edit their writing with absolute accuracy. Unlike with speaking, a piece of writing can be looked at and revised multiple times—speech, on the other hand, is relatively quick and there isn’t much time for reflection. This difference can cause mild meltdowns of “Is this present continuous or past perfect continuous? ARGH!” that wouldn’t normally occur in speech. The solution for both, though, is rather similar: with speaking, practice and listening are key, and with writing, practice and reading. Lots of reading. Lots and lots of reading—more than listening, even, which is the most boring answer possible. However, the currently-happening Melbourne Writers Festival presents an excellent opportunity to practice both reading and writing in a relaxed environment and, maybe in the future, submit your own work.

Billed as a festival “for everyone who reads,” the Melbourne Writers Festival is being held between August 26th and September 4th at various venues throughout the city, with about a third of the events being free of charge. These events range from authors reading their own work, to workshops and seminars for budding writers, to analyses of films, and many more. The scheduled events cover a host of topics, pertinent to contemporary literature of all mediums and the world in general, including modern feminism, queer issues, international political attitudes, and minority rights. Perhaps the most relevant to ESL students, though, is the “My Melbourne” session on Saturday, September 3rd at 1 PM at ACMI, The Cube.

The “My Melbourne” session consists of written and visual submissions created exclusively by international students studying in Victoria. Some of these students are at university, some are in vocational training, and a few are in Australia solely to improve their English—these last few are quite brave to share their stories of Melbourne. This session is a great opportunity for Explore English students to meet other international students—like them—and see the work they can create. In fact, we are planning to have our own Explore English Arts Festival several weeks from now! Students will be able to show off their artistic skills to their peers, and in turn improve their English; the Melbourne Writers Festival provides a great example for them to follow, and perhaps one day be a part of.