June sees the 2017 Emerging Writers’ Festival hit our fine region. A not-for-profit operation, the festival is built upon an ethos of supporting emerging writers, and is a place where creativity and innovation are celebrated. This year, the fest is bringing with it a host of literary focussed events, as well as some interesting wildcards (YouTube Party, anyone?), to keep us engaged and entertained throughout.
We recently caught up with Melbourne funny girl, writer, and all-round creative Rebecca Varcoe to find out a little more about her involvement with the festival and what we can expect from her in the festival’s live literary game show ‘Lost The Plot’. She also explains to us just how ‘inner north’ she really is.
Inner Circle: Hi Rebecca, thanks for chatting with us! For our readers who don’t know, who are you and what are you all about?
Rebecca Varcoe: Hello! You are welcome, thank you for asking me to talk! I love talking. I’m a writer and events producer from Melbourne. I live in Northcote and I write for places like Junkee and frankie and some other places. I also make a magazine called Funny Ha Ha, which is a magazine about funny stuff, and I write a weekly newsletter of really short stories called Small Strange Things on Tinyletter.
IC: And how did you get involved with this year’s Emerging Writers’ Festival?
RV: I have been a pal of the festival for years, I actually interned and did some work for EWF a few years ago! Now that I’m doing more writing and less intern-ing, I decided to apply to appear at this year’s festival through their open call out, and received a couple of invites in my inbox not too long after.
IC: You have a reputation for making people laugh. Was this always your goal when you started writing?
RV: Kind of! The first things I wrote were captions for my photos when I studied Photography at University. I always liked art with humour and I’ve always liked making people laugh, so I guess the way I write now is a culmination of all those things.
IC: As a writer, who are your biggest influences?
RV: I don’t wanna answer this because I’m obviously copying them and I don’t want it to be too obvious yet? I’m still not famous enough for anyone to notice.
But the first people who made me wanna write were Mia Timpano (now the Online Editor at frankie), Dawn French & Jennifer Saunders and Steve Martin (when-he’s-writing-books-Steve Martin not when he’s-doing-stand-up comedy-Steve Martin)
IC: And as as a comic?
RV: Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, Claudia O’Doherty, Weird Al (not joking) (but I can’t sing) (I guess I just like Weird Al) and every professional wrestler, but especially the Big Show and Jeff Hardy (again not joking)
IC: As part of the Emerging Writers’ Festival, you’re involved in this year’s ‘Lost the Plot’ at The Workers Club in Fitzroy. If you had to pick one of your fellow contestants, who would you say is your main adversary in this self-style ‘battle of the nerds’?
RV: Can I just say there’s nothing more fitting than an idiot like me being in an event called “Lost the Plot”. I love it.
I would say Dee Fidge is my main adversary because she’s much funnier than me and I’m mad at her because last time we hung out she paid for my coffee and didn’t let me give her any money for it.
IC: And how do you plan coming out on top in this most epic of literary battles?
RV: Well I have Liz and Vidya on my team who are much funnier and smarter than me so we should be fine. But also I talk very loudly and fast and that should help I think. I’ve also got a buzzer at home and I’m watching lots of game shows and practicing hitting the buzzer when I think I know the answer. Not sure if this event has a buzzer but if they do I’ll be quick with it.
IC: You’re a Melbourne local. Tell us about some of your best memories of Melbourne’s inner north
RV: I once went to this coffee shop on High Street that I won’t name, because I think it might be a front. I sat in there on a public holiday with my headphones on. They’re very big and ugly, these headphones. I was typing on my laptop. I was sitting there writing, and after a while I realised there was no one in the coffee shop except me and my laptop and the young kid in a hoodie behind the counter and this guy in a singlet. It was really cold actually, so you know this guy means business because of his weather-inappropriate attire. These other two men come in, they’re older, and they sit down at a table and are chatting to the young kid, who by this stage has come out from behind the counter. The guy in the singlet is cleaning his nails, still perched on a stool at the counter, and suddenly he swivels off his seat and leaves. I’d pre-paid for two coffees and only had one, so I wondered, what’s the time – maybe I need to hurry up and have my coffee before they close. I looked up and realised that the sign on the door had been turned to CLOSED but no one had said anything! So I stood up and said “Oh! I’m so sorry – I didn’t realise you’d closed! I’ll leave you alone – but can I get my second coffee to go?” and all the men at the table go “Darling, no, you’re fine, sit down, enjoy your coffee- we’ll tell you if we need you to leave!” and so I sit back down and watch them all sit and eat and drink. Eventually they opened the door but kept the closed sign up. One family walked in and asked for a table and they said “no, we’re closed” and I could feel the families eyes boring into the side of my face, wondering why it was open for me. About ten minutes later another man came in to order coffee, and they served him. After him, a young man who they refused to serve coffee to. And I’m just sitting there the whole time writing my first big newspaper piece wondering if I had somehow unwittingly become a part of some gang where I allowed to eat and drink with them in a way the general public were not. I had joined some inner circle where dubious trading hours don’t apply. Eventually I got my second soy latte to take away and walked back to my inner north apartment. Because I live in the inner north and thats what we do here.
IC: You run the magazine Funny Ha Ha. Can you tell us a little more about this?
RV: Funny Ha Ha is a bi-annual humour journal that publishes funny stuff. I publish funny writing, funny drawings, funny tweets, funny photos. It’s meant to be a place for stuff that might not ordinarily be considered ‘serious’ enough art to be published elsewhere, or where people can try out weird new funny ideas. I also just like funny stuff, and funny people. I’ve gotten to interview some of my heroes, like Lisa Hanawalt (Bojack Horseman) and Margaret Cho and Chris Gethard for it, too, which is so cool. The website is down while I do a redesign, but check out our Facebook or email me at email@example.com if you wanna buy a copy of the mag, or just chat!
IC: And what can we expect from Rebecca Varcoe for the rest of 2017?
RV: Rebecca Varcoe spent the rest of 2017 trying to get super buff at the gym and has given up her day job and night job and spends all her time lifting weights now. Find her at the 24 hour gym in Northcote.
You can catch Rebecca and friends at Lost the Plot on 20th June at The Workers Club in Fitzroy. For tickets and info head to www.
The Emerging Writers Festival runs from 14th – 23rd June with heaps of events in the local area, so be sure to check out the website to find our more!
Feature Image Rebecca Varcoe, provided by Bella Arnott-Hoare at Emerging Writers’ Festival.