WHEN I BECAME A WRITER

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I was a student at the Queensland University of Technology 2003-2004. I graduated with a Bachelor of Creative Industries (Creative Writing). Having knocked off a year of electives from previous study at Griffith University I went from kind of a ‘first year’ mode in 2003 to ‘shit we’re about to graduate mode’ in 2004. I was not a good student but in my last semester I tried to seek out some opportunities, I did a work elective where I wrote the newspaper for the Brisbane Writer’s Festival with a small group of fellow students, I submitted a short story to be published in a book of student’s collections ( I was rejected and received feedback that included “a patchwork of movie cheese”), I volunteered at the Brisbane International Film Festival and submitted reviews to a film website that were rejected, and I submitted a film review to the student guild magazine Utopia.

Coming out of a lecture one day with one of my friends we walked past a tray of the latest Utopia. As I was leafing through it, he mentioned “I’m in it, you’re in it too.” I became very excited, repeating back to him “I’m in it?!”. I couldn’t tell if he was taking the piss or not as I scrambled to find where. I’ll never forget when I saw my byline. It just looked so damn beautiful. I hadn’t been notified by the Utopia staff. I confirmed later you got paid for submissions. In my last year I was over at Kelvin Grove campus but the offices for the magazine were over at Gardens Point. After the semester had ended I finally went  into Gardens Point and picked up a cheque for $15.00. I was a university student then and while it wouldn’t go far every $15.00 helped. I never cashed the cheque. I wanted it as a memory of the first time somebody paid me for my writing. This in my mind made me a writer. It certainly is one of those things in life where only you can take what it means to you, away from you.

I submitted another story to Utopia but they didn’t publish it. The following year I walked around to every film studio and producer in Brisbane and dropped off my resume. I only heard back from two to say they weren’t hiring but wished me the best of luck. I had one interview with one film production company which I really enjoyed but I didn’t get the job. In 2006 I went back to university. In 2007 I was a gopher on a film set and in 2008 I met my wife. Life got away but I started blogging, and more so when I did my Graduate Certificate in 2015, and buoyed by the community I found online and engaged with I submitted reviews to film websites I followed. Only a couple and I never heard back.

I decided to try somewhere more local last year and submitted to Scenestr which had been Scene magazine when I was at university. The editor there liked my review and on the 23rd of February, 2017 my review for Hidden Figures was published on their website and they put me on the e-mail list of their freelance contributors. In the year since I’ve become a regular contributor to Scenestr (44 – 15 interviews, 13 film reviews, 13 theatre reviews, 3 stand-up reviews), Heavy (22), Buzz (8) and X-Press (5). I’ve also had one of my reviews published with FilmInk. That’s 80 published pieces in the past year. It is not how I make my living, that I must be clear about, but it allows me to pretend I’m a writer, film critic, an interviewer. Because for small pockets of time it is what I do and I work hard at it and I do get compensated for it. So I guess I’m a writer no matter how much money I make. I’m a writer again just like I was when that film review got published in the guild magazine over a decade ago and I’m very grateful to be able to say that. 81 and counting.

-Lloyd Marken

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12 thoughts on “WHEN I BECAME A WRITER

  1. Lloyd, I don’t plan on reblogging this, not because it isn’t good, but because I’m starting to fill my blog up with more things than I can fit without scaring the hell out of my regular followers. But I do think it should be compulsory for all 2nd and 3rd year creative arts students. AND I have sent it to my daughter who is starting 3rd year at Monash in Curating and Film making. And I’m going to come the heavy parent and make sure she reads it.

    1. I’m sure your daughter is a far better student that I was and is going places. If there is a lesson to pass on then I guess it simply is that I think I gave up too easily. I saw the arts as something to have a got at it before moving on to what I would do for the rest of my life. Running around the set the first night of shooting for Vigilante I thought, yeah tick that off the bucket list. I got a part time job that kept me busy for 7 years. But here I am in my mid 30s wanting to have a bigger crack at it. I don’t fool myself about the prospects, if this is what it is then that’s fine. But I wish your daughter the best of luck and to follow her passion. The power of yes. Last year the editor at Scenestr said yes and it made a lot of things possible but I called him 3 times before the review was published. If I had just assumed they didn’t like the review that would’ve been the end of it and that would have been a terrible shame considering he liked it and he was just busy. I think that’s the lesson, take the nos, follow up, back yourself, ask for feedback regardless and keep trying.

  2. Lloyd, I consider your story to be inspirational, and a lesson to anyone who wants to work as a writer. The crucial thing is that you got paid! And you still get paid. It doesn’t matter how much, you are being published, and remunerated. In my book, that makes you a ‘professional writer’, even if only part-time.

    I have had articles published on sites, reviews on film sites, and short stories published too. But other than copies of the publications, I haven’t received anything. (I could claim 50 cents per hundred words, but prefer to have the magazines. 🙂 )
    If you would like to get your name seen in other places, I recommend this Australian film site. You won’t get paid, but it has a big following. And I have 20-odd articles on there.
    http://curnblog.com/2013/11/05/want-write-curnblog/

    Best wishes, Pete.

    1. To be clearer Pete, with the publications I work for you do some work that pays, some work that gets you and others in for free and some work that does not pay. I don’t want to go in more detail than that but I wouldn’t want you to get the wrong impression. You Sir are a published writer too and a damn fine one! Thanks for the heads up about the site, I believe I’ve read some of your fantastic reviews on there. You and me should have our own film review show. We’ll catch limos to premieres in London to all the latest Disney movies. Pixar, Star Wars and Marvel comic books. When they ask what you think of the movie you say………

  3. Oh, yes Lloyd. you are a writer whether you make a living off of it or not. You enjoy writing and people enjoy your writing. Van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime. Keep up the good work.

  4. You’re far too modest. I’m not a writer but I’d like to think I know one when I see one.
    This post is inspirational.Thanks for brightening my day, Lloyd.

    1. Thanks Paul, people have been most kind. It’s been interesting to take stock, I didn’t realise I’d written 80 posts mostly unpaid. That’s a lot of work but there things that I got out of it and get out of it and some jobs that I did get paid for. I guess like in the post, I’m saying the big thing is it makes me feel like a writer and that you can’t put a price on.

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