Sydney Opera house

Looking ahead to “the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars” at IALJS 18 in Sydney, Australia

Willa McDonald, Matthew Ricketson and I could not be more thrilled to be together organizing IALJS-18 in 2024. It is more than 14 long years that we have battled to get on the IALJS annual conference roster. We understand that for many, we live and work on the other side of the world, and with that comes added expense. But finally, we get to welcome you.

Next year’s conference is hosted by our three universities: Macquarie in Sydney, Deakin in Melbourne, and Uni South Australia in Adelaide. Willa represents Macquarie, Matthew is from Deakin, and I represent UniSA. We often jokingly refer to ourselves as the three amigos or three compadres because we meet and talk frequently of our love for the form that brings us altogether annually: literary journalism. 

So, taking our love of our field, the theme we have landed on for next year is a little abstract and a lot dreamy, but is derived with specific purpose – Literary Journalism and “the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars.” 

It is a line from one of our earliest and most illustrious literary journalists, A.B. ‘Banjo’ Paterson, a lawyer, journalist, and poet. Our theme is taken from one of his best loved poems, Clancy of the Overflow, written and published in 1889. It is nestled in the last two lines of the fourth stanza.

It is a poem about comparing city life to the outback and evokes the big wide skies of Australia and its unique light, something you have to see to believe. This is Paterson in the photo. The poem appeared in The Bulletin, a periodical first published in Sydney in 1880. Its main focus was politics and finance but scattered throughout was early long form journalism and poetry. And also, amazing artwork in the form of satirical cartoons and illustrations. It published its last edition in 2008.

So, inspired by one of our most beloved early literary journalists and poets, we are bringing two exemplary keynote speakers to the stage. Our own dynamic Professor Anthea Garman from Rhodes University in South Africa, and Dr Debra Dank from University of South Australia. 

Briefly, we all know Professor Garman as a highly published journalist and scholar. Her areas of research are: talking and listening in the public sphere; citizenship and the media; creativity and the imagination; and journalism practice. What you might not know is that she is also an award-winning poet.

And Dr Debra Dank is a Gudanji/ Wakaja woman from the Barkly Tablelands in the Northern Territory. A scholar,  poet, potter, and now a creative writer, her first text We come with this place (Echo 2022) was selected by the Grattan Institute as one of the books for the Prime Minister’s Summer Reading List, an annual collection of six texts from across the land; in 2023, it was short-listed for three NSW Premier Literary Awards (winning four, including Book of the Year); was short-listed at the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards, winning the The University of Queensland Non-Fiction Book Award; and made the short-list of six for the 2023 Stella Prize, the annual literary award for writing by Australian women. The book also won the ALS Gold Medal.

We know these two colleagues will bring their enormous intellect, grace, and generosity to our conference next year and look forward very much to hearing from them. They are two scholars with extraordinary careers within and beyond the academy.

Next year, we are convening at Macquarie University’s city campus at Angel Place, 24/123 Pitt St, in the heart of Sydney CBD, from May 27 through to May 30. The conference hotel we have selected is a short one-stop train trip away, in a colourful inner suburb of the city. 

The first two nights of the conference we are planning two events, one sponsored by Deakin University and one by the University of South Australia. They will be catered and informal, but we are aiming at interesting and engaging as well. 

We are planning our conference dinner on the night before the final day of the conference on a boat – a sunset/nighttime harbour cruise. It is indeed a wondrous thing to view Sydney from the harbour – when I was a little girl sailing on the harbour I always used to describe it as seeing the city from the inside, out. And hopefully, as the sun sets, we will see some of our everlasting stars.

We know everyone is coming to Sydney for the conference and not sight-seeing but there is much going on in Sydney at this time of the year, as summer recedes and there is a chill in the air. If you get here a few days early, you will be able to get to the Sydney Writers’ Festival, a gathering of national and international writers, always worth a visit. Additionally, the Friday (24th) before we all meet on the Monday (27th), John Bak from the Université de Lorraine in Nancy, France, together with Willa McDonald from Macquarie University in Sydney, are convening a one-day workshop titled Literary Journalism and War in the Asia-Pacific, to be held at the same conference centre in Angel Place. The line-up of papers is stellar – nuclear explosions, assassinations on Pacific islands, a terrorist attack on a peace-keeping organisation, colonisation and racial cleansing. War as a news value is ubiquitous; couple that with literary journalism coverage animating it and scholarship analysing it, and we are hoping for an excellente journée to kick our week off. And there are a few spots left if you want to take part.

Our meeting is also happening during the first week of Vivid Sydney. It is truly spectacular and a really fun way to see the city. On that note, if you are making it this far, for most, halfway across the planet, and have the time and inclination, and of course, some loose change, remember that Australia is a land of many, many climates, landscapes, and people. If you can take a side trip to Uluru, you will never, ever forget it, we promise you; if you can get down to Melbourne or Adelaide or Tasmania, do; if you have time to fly up to Queensland and visit the Great Barrier Reef, do it, before it is bleached out of existence. Or Ningaloo, over in Western Australia. Just a day trip to the Blue Mountains west of Sydney is so worth it. You may not venture this far from your home again, so if you have the time and the money, maybe start making a plan to visit at least one place, other than Sydney, when you are here.

And one more subject we really need to warn you about, if you have never been to Australia before. Most overseas folk believe Australia is always warm, hot even. You are arriving in May and believe us, it is getting cold here. If you are sitting in the Autumn sun in the middle of a May day, you will be warm but as soon as you move out of the sun and as it sets in early evening, the temperature plummets – not to European or North American Autumn/winter temps, but it is cold and we have a wind chill factor which usually catches many of the locals out. So, bring a sweater and a coat, you will need them, particularly at night.

Finally, what we aim to invoke in our theme next year – the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars – is an invitation to be as open and as vast as you can be with your scholarship. We wish to remember the late, great Norman Sims, one of our own distinguished shining stars. The last time I spoke to Norm was at the conference dinner on Long Island, hosted by Pablo Calvi and Stony Brook. He came to my table and made a point of promising, adamantly promising, that if we held the conference in Sydney, he would be here. Well, that is impossible now, but still, we need him to be here very much in spirit, as we share all our literary journalisms and their “different national manifestations,” as Sims wrote, to support him in keeping some sort of shape of his promise.

On that final note we – Willa, Matthew and I – are so looking forward to welcoming everyone to IALJS 18 in May 2024. We are confident that when we combine your scholarship and stories with Sydney’s beautiful Autumn skies, like all our IALJS conferences, this one will be another to remember. 

Find the Call for Papers for IALJS 18 here.

Sue Joseph

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