: Collectivity

the inaugural issue of Emerging Writers' Festival's brand new publication



Pip Grylls, EWF20's Digital Producer, introduces e/merge: Collectivity

It goes without saying that this year has been an especially important year for digital publishing. But in the literature scene of so-called Melbourne and Australia we were lucky to have an already thriving digital publishing scene. At EWF this year, we are so excited to be able to collaborate with five incredible digital journals: Djed Press, Lor journal, Mascara Literary Review, Peril magazine and Running Dog. Each journal has chosen an emerging creative writer and editor to work together to craft a digital piece. These collaborations combine to create Emerging Writers’ Festival’s brand new publication, e/merge.

In its inaugural edition, e/merge considers: Collectivity. What does it mean to be an individual, really? We’re all connected to other living and creating beings, from the writers we read, to our friends, our family, the birds singing outside our window, to collective forms of identity and resistance. e/merge asks the question: do we ever really write alone?

Collectivity is central to both writing and the digital sphere. Ellena Savage writes “I read so much I don’t know where my ideas come from… A human being is not sufficiently evolved for the internet.” But our collective and artistic voices are desperately trying to adapt to the polyphony of the digital world, in all its ambiguities. They say technology is only as good or bad as the way it’s used. Today, with Jeff Bezos becoming a trillionaire and Elon Musk colonising space, it feels like we have all too little collective power over the way technologies are made and used, especially the most marginalised. The call in the Cyborg Manifesto to rise up and take collective control of technology feels riper than ever.

But in order to act collectively or, indeed, in order to write, the question is crucial: what really is collectivity? What modes, assemblages, configurations does collectivity take? The artists in e/merge think through and tease out the threads of collectivity, from its deepest submerged roots in the psyche all the way to its patterns in space, sound and society. The processes that came together to make e/merge were themselves collaborative. The way the writers, editors, and publications in e/merge have worked together has, I think at least, revived some of that spirit of the collaborative, collective potential of digital literature.

Djed Press

Suzanne Garcia introduces Elements by Alexander Te Pohe


Mia Francesca McAuslan introduces Crumble by Rima Martens

Digital platforms are integral to the modern publishing industry. Where print publications are restricted by cost and distribution, digital platforms allow writers and artists to share their work with a global audience in an instant, and for audiences to discover new and unusual voices.

Digital journals will publish work that may be too experimental for traditional print publications — work that slips around and slides off the page. They have become an essential tool for writers both emerging and established, and bridge invisible gaps in the industry towards publication.

The digital space is living — continuously evolving, responding and redefining itself.

To think about collectivity in the digital space, I think first of the physical act of assembling. Collaging. Cut and paste. In Rima Marten’s beautiful piece Crumble —collecting flora, twigs, rubble. Words, hope, a following.

As creators of digital platforms we also assemble, making virtual arrangements, of myriad voices, perspectives and experiences. Collated on the digital landing, these stories link together and form a cohort of writers, and create a space that encourages us to speak back. To question one another, and to learn from one other. And to experiment, discover and collaborate, traversing timezones, oceans and imaginary borders.

Mascara Literary Review

Jo Langdon introduces Haunted Autumn by Rima Martens

At once vivid and spare in its delineation of a physical, material world, ‘Haunted Autumn’ attends to both the tangible and elusive (/allusive) particulars of place in ways that confirm the collective nature of a setting or site as invariably experiential; a temporal space shaped by sensory experience; by encounters; by context. In accord with Michel de Certeau’s oft-cited line in The Practice of Everyday Life that ‘space is a practiced place’ (1984, p. 117), place becomes space here in the sense that it is never singular or fixed, but invariably collective: multiple and subjective, comprising various vantage-points, and complicated by contexts of the past/present.

Via lines of striking observation and through deft negotiation of the (digital) page itself as space/site, Netherclift’s delicate yet incisive prose poem also calls attention to the often-invisible labour—rendered evident, in the past months, by questions around what work, whose labour, is ‘essential’ during ‘unprecedented’ times, and at what costs (physical and emotional; personal and collective).

Notably, the ‘indelicate revelations’ this prose poem calls to our attention also remain, in broader representations, largely obfuscated or overlooked: most figures citing university-sector job losses (to date or to come) have not included the loss of work anticipated by vast numbers of casual employees, upon whose insecure labour these institutions have relied. Concurrently, international students, upon whose fees universities have also depended, have been mostly excluded from government support. Through these precise lines and luminous images, Netherclift shows with both clarity and nuance the university space as one of many sites in which the effects of the pandemic are felt unevenly, even as student bodies remain/return/endure, ‘haunting’ liminal junctures and uncertain futures.

This is timely, compassionate writing that we are excited and grateful to publish.

Peril magazine

Tsarie Duthie introduces Triptych by Rhea Bhagat

In my experience, digital publishing has been fairly straightforward. A written piece is edited and proofed, then published on a vertically scrolling page, sometimes with accompanying visuals.

For Rhea Bhagat’s Triptych, we chose to shift the balance between written and visual elements in standard digital publishing by using a series of interactive images to present Rhea’s work. We kept the layout and interactive elements simple to pull focus between image and prose smoothly. We sourced the Creative Commons work of photographers and vector artists whose creations would underline the mood of the piece.

The result is a collage of the collective work of twenty-nine creatives, work that is generously available online for many other purposes, brought together here for Triptych—a series of vignettes that plunges readers into the connected worlds of three people in London: Rose, Samira, and Ava.

Running Dog

Hannah Jenkins introduces Unsound by June Tang

Unsound surfaces aspects of collectivity that occur in small gestures and moments of isolation.

Like plunging into a deep sound, or a moment of silence within a surging crowd, June has created a space for clarity amidst incessant chatter and conflict.

This is digital literature that celebrates slowness; its elements of interactivity often rely on stillness and careful observation. I hope all who experience this piece discover the treasures it holds, if they take the time to look and listen.

e/merge was conceived on the lands of the Wurundjeri and Boon Wurrung people, of the Kulin Nation.
The introductions and creative pieces were made on the lands of various unceded nations on this continent.
We acknowledge that First Nations peoples are the first storytellers of this land, and that their sovereignty has never been ceded.
We pay our respects to Elders past, present, and emerging from all the nations on which the pieces of this project were made, and to the Elders of the lands this project reaches.