Writing without fear or favour

A few years ago I was doing some analysis of blogging as part of a PhD examining different forms of alternative media amid claims that the internet would lead to a reinvigorated public sphere. In that analysis I was critical of blogs, arguing they were spaces where like people had like conversations that usually ended in furious agreement. But the Overland blog – where there is often furious disagreement – proved me wrong. Overland bloggers might identify as lefties but don’t assume this to mean they speak in one unified voice. In fact, I’ve been challenged by the many different perspectives of the community of writers and readers that make up Overland on topics ranging from politics to literature.

This was really brought home when I posted a blog discussing Julia Gillard’s replacement of Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister; the title of the blog, Shafting Kevin – not such a great day for feminists, should give you an idea of the tone.

The blog was intended to be a tongue-in-cheek piece critical of Gillard and her feminist credentials in the context of her role in the clandestine removal of Rudd. Not for a moment did I expect the blog would run hot and that 99 per cent of women who responded would be hugely pissed off with me. Nor, when I posted, did I anticipate I’d spend the next few days feeling like the Bettina Arndt of feminists.

I do confess to succumbing to the foetal position when women I admired took me to task. Part of the therapy that followed was to remind myself that one of the reasons I write is to stimulate debate. It seemed, however unwittingly, I’d achieved that spectacularly.

This brings me to something I most admire about Overland: the voice it gives women; passionate, artistic, thoughtful, intelligent, articulate women whose different histories and backgrounds, talent and knowledge make for diverse and lively conversations. They are women with something to say and they say it loud and strong.

As well as encouraging women and alternative points of view, Overland also supports new writers providing them with a forum and reach not often available in the very small pond that is Australia. No matter how good a swimmer you are nor how pretty your fin, it is difficult for new writers to get noticed when publishers look to the usual suspects to sell their wares.

It has been satisfying to see the faith and investment of Overland in new writers borne out by the names of its bloggers appearing on long lists and short lists for outstanding writing around the country.

One of the freedoms of writing for Overland is that writers don’t need to self-censor – arguably one of the most insidious and pervasive forms of censorship – as sometime happens when writing for mainstream publications. I got to blog a not-so-flattering piece critiquing sex in The Slap even though Overland is, with good reason, a great admirer and supporter of author Christos Tsiolkas. Methinks Christos would be the first to salute Overland for giving writers freedom to write without fear or favour.

But as well as a medium for serious discussion, Overland has a sense of humour and the blog gets downright groovy when it comes to music.

So, if you want to have a say about what is or isn’t great music, if you care about diversity, if you support the voice of women, if you want to read fiction that tugs at your brain as well as your heart, and yearn for more than the limited point of view you read in mainstream media, subscribe to Overland.

I came across this quote from H L Mencken in Toni Jordan’s Fall Girl that is as relevant today as it ever was: ‘the people the American public admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth.’

Support truth-tellers, support Overland.

Trish Bolton

Trish Bolton’s novel, Stuck, was the recipient of a 2018 Varuna PIP Fellowship and a 2015 Varuna Residential Fellowship. In 2017, Stuck was longlisted for the Mslexia Women’s Novel Competition (UK) and Flash 500 Novel Competition (UK), and in 2016, was the joint-winner of the Fellowship of Australian Writers (FAW) Unpublished Manuscript Award.

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate.

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  1. Right-on, Trish.

    I can relate to that foetal-position feeling when copping a bit of flak on the blog. It takes courage to write for Overland because they publish courageously and have a fiery community, as you say.

  2. I agree. I think one of the things that I most appreciate about Overland is that it’s a non-dogmatic place for the left, with a broad range of perspectives welcome.

    1. Thanks Michael, it’s very liberating to write for Overland – even if they don’t agree with a point of view they support your right to express it.

  3. This is my first foray into (e)print with Overland. I have always admired your writing Trish (usually found within the walls of the academy), and I too am sick and tired of debate being polarised between left and right. Women do not sit clearly along that political dividing line, if there truly is one anymore. Just as feminists have always argued with each other due o the diffeing shades of feminism I look forward to the day when those of us, male and female who are ‘left-leaning’ in the older sense of the world can have a respectful and spirited debate with those ‘right-leaning’ in the old sense of the words. Market capitalist discourse has won the battle for the middle ground and political imperatives for all parties hoping to hold power as governments. Let Overland be the space where we can all engage in a critical debate about the future of our Country and communities. So I call on those from the ‘right’ join us here in the electronic agora.

  4. Welcome Carol-Anne to Overland. And thankyou!

    I agree that market capitalist discourse has won the day and that it’s hard to find spaces to have critical debate. I often reflect that young people entering the workforce or going to university don’t know a time when there was a better welfare system, when education at every level was considered a right and worth investing in, when the workplace was fairer and workers had better protections. So, yes, come one, come all to the electronic agora.

    And I hope to see you on the Overland blog again soon.

  5. Great post thanks Trish and pretty much sums up my own feelings about Overland too.

    And for the record, I really wanted to comment on your Julia Gillard post but was away without internet connection and when I got back the comments had closed. I was also not raising the victory flag for feminism the day Julia became PM (before going to polls). Glad to see you’ve uncurled from foetal position with feistiness intact.

  6. Jane, thank you so much.

    It would be great to hear your thoughts on Gillard now that she’s been PM for almost six months.

    Overland is a wonderful community of thinkers, contrarians, writers and just all round good people and I feel privileged to be part of it.

  7. “Overland is a wonderful community of thinkers, contrarians, writers and just all round good people and I feel privileged to be part of it.”
    Agree wholeheartedly, Trish. Long live Overland!

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