Interview with QUT Lit Salon – The ScratchThat Scoop

Ailie McLeod

What is the QUT Literary Salon?

Euri Glenn (Co-president): We’re a university group sponsored by a professor.

Rory Hawkins (Co-president): We do, on the final Thursday of every month, a live reading event. We usually hold it at the Grove bar. It’s about celebrating and uplifting emerging writers here at QUT and giving them the platform to showcase their writing to other people.

Euri: We get especially excited when we get younger writers or anyone who hasn’t submitted before.

Jamie Stevens (Secretary): Students can submit their work and we’ll select typically about six or seven people to come up on stage and read that work, whether poetry, fiction, nonfiction. You don’t have to be a creative writing student to submit, as long as you’re a QUT student or alumni. It’s a really good way to directly see how people are responding to that work in the moment.

Cyndra Galea (Co-editor): We have musicians and screenwriters. Actors read their scripts. It’s a very broad range of people that we showcase and their works.

Michael Weir (Co-editor): It’s a great networking opportunity. You’re meeting other like-minded people. It’s all very inclusive, it is third years mixed with first years and second years.


What is your role?

Euri: I am the co-president, and it contains a bit of everything. We run this organisation. We got chosen as co-presidents by the previous presidents. Then we put out an open call and sifted through the applications and chose all team members.

Rory: As co-presidents, we have that creative vision and direction. My primary active role would be in organising the nights. Euri and I have both emceed for multiple salons. As well as the general networking aspect of finding guest readers, trying to get people to cross promote, finding musicians. It’s a lot more of an event management role than people first expect.

Jamie: I am the team secretary, and my job is keeping everyone else in the team on track. I make sure that we’re hitting deadlines.

Michael: I am one of the two co-editors, and our role is to have a look at all the submissions and, anyone who wants feedback, we’ll do some editing for them. Some people want general feedback and then others want some copyediting. It is definitely individualised for different people.

Cyndra: I like that I get to read a lot of different works, they can be snippets of bigger stories, they can be poetry, they can be memoir pieces.

Lilian Martin (Media Manager): I tend to tackle all design tasks the Lit Salon needs doing. Mainly, this is creating graphics, posts, reels etc. for social media. This year, I redesigned the logo for the club.


What do you like about the club?

Jamie: The thing that I really enjoyed about getting to join the Lit Salon team is that I first went to a Lit Salon in first year, thinking “oh wow it would be really cool if I could just get one piece up there”. Then you’re on the team and you’re helping to run it. It’s a really cool metric to see how you have progressed as a creative.

Michael: You don’t have to pay a fee to join. Anyone can come along; anyone can submit their work.

Rory: It is a regular opportunity for students to meet up outside of classes.

Euri: It’s such an amazing opportunity to be amongst people who are interested in the same thing and to have fun. The Literary Salon can sound very formal, but it’s a chill event for writers to experience a bit of party and a bit of prose. Once I’m out of uni, I’m going to be attending the events still. I’ll always be a part of it and it’s something that I’ll continue to support.


How do the salon events operate?

Jamie: We have one person who will get all the submissions together, chuck them into one big document and remove the names. Then that goes out to everyone in the group, and we cast our votes into a poll.

Michael: It’s strictly confidential, so we don’t even know if other team members submit their work.

Jamie: The content of the salons themselves is totally dependent on who submits each time. We’ve had salons where everyone has submitted poetry and we’ve had other times where it’s people reading memoir. No two salons are ever the same.

Cyndra: Just rock up, get a feel for what the environment is, and then for the next salon you can submit what you want or what you think would best suit.

Jamie: There’s that tendency to be like, “oh I could submit but there’s going to be so many people in there”. The chance of you getting picked based on numbers alone is way higher than you think. Submit anyway for some extra feedback. If it does get turned down, you’ll know why.


What are the other opportunities available?

Jamie: It’ll always depend from team to team, but we try often to have outside of salon opportunities. This semester, we ran a series of workshops with the QUT film club, called the ‘Anatomy of a Screenplay’. For writing students: how do you go about moving prose into screenwriting. And for the film students: how do I get writers attached to my project.

Cyndra: We do a mid-semester writing competition, this year was Mid-Semester Blues. There was one winner and they got to read at the next salon.

Jamie: At the start of both semesters this year, we’ve had an open mic night. Walk in the door, pop your name down, and read whatever you like.


What is it like publicly speaking in front of an audience?

Michael: It can be challenging the first time, but as you go to more salons, and you get to know the people, it can be really fun. You’ve got your friends in the audience, and you feel safe.

Rory: It’s very fulfilling and it’s a great skill to grow. If you’re wanting a serious career in the creative industries, you’ve got to foster a lot of soft skills and public speaking is one of them.

Michael: We have a smattering of tutors who come to every salon. They like to watch and see how we are growing.

Jamie: In the Lit Salon, you’re all just writers, and they’re there as these figures, who have a lot more experience than you do, but they’re still enjoying the work just as much as you are.


What are some initiatives the 2023 team has brought to Lit Salon?

Rory: We’ve tried this year to move away from traditional connotations of what is literary. Our overriding philosophy of what is literary, is it’s good writing—it’s the best of whatever genre or form of writing.

Euri: We choose the themes trying to encourage more variety. My favourite so far has been Steel, which was sci-fi, fantasy, and historical fiction.

Rory: We did a similar thing with Spicy.

Euri: It was very nice to foster an environment in which we could be openly reading erotica and romance and it was a very liberating experience for some people.

Lilian: One of our recent successes was the two guest readers’ Q&A session. We heard two talented sci-fi writers, Jo Anderton and Bryn Smith, share their knowledge about everything from their writing processes to how their day jobs inspire their writing.

Rory: It works really well because it invites more discussion directly with the guest readers as attendees might not have the confidence otherwise to approach them. We also introduced a second editor because we know how much work that sits on the shoulders of one person.

Jamie: Much like what we do with creative writing students, we’re trying to do the same now with music students. We are always looking for more up-and-coming musicians at QUT to come in.


How does one become a member of the Lit Salon team?

Rory: To pick next co-presidents, we will put out the open call, it’s something that everyone is available to send in their resumes for. We keep an eye out for who is attending and who we think would be best suited. It is always great to see that someone has enthusiasm and is willing to chip into the Literary Salon Community.

Lilian: Be conscientious, passionate, and don’t be afraid to try new things. During class, at a party or even waiting for coffee, folks will ask you when the next salon is. Encourage these folks to follow the QUT Lit Salon.

Euri: A lot of people have the misnomer that you’ve had to have been accepted to read. I never was chosen as a reader and yet here I am. It’s a matter of seeing the participation. Come to the events. If you want to submit, we recognise your name. The second bit of advice is, have good ideas. The last co-presidents asked us, “What do you want to bring to the Lit Salon? What would you like to expand? Change?”

Rory: I’m looking forward to seeing who puts their hand up. I really want to give them the best possible start. You feel proud of people for accomplishing things that you hadn’t even thought to do.


How does being a part of this club help with your creative writing practice?

Jamie: It’s really easy as a creative writer to keep your work to yourself. If you do that, then not only are you not getting to showcase your work to other people, but you’re not experiencing anyone else’s. With the Lit Salon, you get to hear so many different styles of writing be performed, that inevitably you’ll take bits away with you. Your craft moves beyond what you could do by yourself.

Michael: It’s really good to experience all that writing has to offer.  Not only are you meeting with other writers, but you’re also meeting with their work.

Cyndra: We read a lot of pieces that are new and upcoming. We are keeping up with the trends of what people are actually writing and that helps influence our writing.

Euri: A lot of my poetry is written how it is meant to be read out loud, so I found that having that platform to practice reading out loud and do it in front of people and then receive critique live on the night is valuable to the creative practice.


How does it help with nurturing your career?

Cyndra: It’s good for working in a group environment, where we’re all different but we’re working together to reach the same goal.

Lilian: Being Media Manager has helped broaden my idea of what jobs I can do within the writing industry and the creative industry. I had this misapprehension that the only creative writing jobs were author and editor, but there are many other roles adjacent to those within the creative industry.

Euri: The conversations that you have the entire night makes it easier for you to be able to communicate about your writing. Also, there have been people picked up by magazines like QUT Glass Magazine before, where they read an unpublished piece at one of our events and a member of the Glass team approached them to get published.

Rory: I’m primarily interested in upskilling people and trying to foster people to have confidence in their own work and in the people around them. I want to continue fostering this in the future.


What are the last salons for the year?

Rory: Our next salon will be on the 26th of October, the theme is Phobia. Submissions close on the 19th of October. You can write about your own fears or a character experiencing fear, but we’re looking for some spooky fun Halloween writing.

Euri: There will also be a costume competition. It’s important to note that we value good writing over the theme. This year is our tenth-year anniversary. We couldn’t miss the opportunity to have our final salon in November be about the anniversary, so that’s going to be the big shebang.

QUT Literary Salon (@qutlitsalon), Euri Glenn (@euri.chelsea.glenn), Rory Hawkins (@rory_writes_sometimes), Jamie Stevens (@jamie.c.stevens), Michael Weir (@notmikeweir), Cyndra Galea (@cyndra.galea), Lilian Martin (@groovy.lilian.writes)

Interviewer: Ailie McLeod is a transdisciplinary performer, an emerging writer, dancer and stage manager. She is currently in her third year studying a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Drama) at QUT. Last year Ailie’s play Manage, was her playwriting debut. Her performance credits include being an ensemble member in IMRSE’s CAKE, Hairspray the Arena Spectacular, and Queensland Contemporary Youth Ballet. Other credits include stage managing for 2am: The Extended Cut, Pengelly Productions and Brisbane Performing Arts Challenge. Upcoming projects for Ailie include assistant directing Sugar Mountain which will be a part of Vena Cava’s 2023 Freshblood Festival. 

Editors: Euri Glenn and Suzy Darlington