Same same but different
On the Saturday morning of the first Same same but different Writers Festival, in 2016, I woke up sick. I had auditioned back in November for a chance to read, and been picked. The session was titled ‘Now & Then’. I was going to be performing alongside people I had admired for a long time: Aorewa McLeod, Semira Davies. I couldn’t remember if the session was at eleven or twelve, I just remember thinking, this sickness better pass.
Two hours later, generalised nausea had progressed to light vomiting. Not too bad, I thought. Maybe I’ll get it all out. We were supposed to meet an hour before the event started. That time came and went. I typed the dreaded email. I don’t think I can make it.
Then, twenty minutes later, something miraculous happened. I felt a little better. Or at least, I convinced myself that I did. Scratch that, I wrote back. I’m in the car now.
I was supposed to perform last, but my girlfriend at the time, Madeline Reid, was performing first, so we switched places. I remember the others looking at me, like who is this girl who turns up fifty minutes late and still jumps in queue? I didn’t care. I was so excited.
My reading went well, I think. I may have spoken a little fast because before I knew it, it was over. But it was when I sat back down to listen to the others that I realised I may have been fooling myself. This was no generalized nausea; this was no light vomiting. I ran off stage, and shot outside. I projectile vomited from the door of the bathroom. Somehow, I got it all into the bowl. A second, smaller miracle.
Then came email from Same same but different in 2017 to say I was shortlisted for the James Wallace Foundation Short Story Award. I was holding out hope for the Under 25’s category, but I hadn’t been asked to bring a copy of my story. Don’t worry about coming, I told my mum Linley, I haven’t won. That night, people kept asking me where she was. It could’ve been mildly offensive for another twenty-three year old, but not me, I love my mum. Watching TV, I told them.
The award was to be announced at the end of another session. Courtney Sina Meredith read lines still fresh and burning from her time in the States. A family friend of mine kept running out of the room. I wondered, quietly, if she was projectile vomiting into the nearest bathroom. Little did I know the Lesbian Networks of Auckland were hard at work to get Linley’s number, and ring her. But she didn’t pick up, asleep on the couch. I had to call her afterwards to say: I won. Both divisions.
Fast-forward to 2019 and my debut novel is coming out in May. I’m reading at two events at Same same but different, the ‘Opening Night Gala’ and ‘Break-Out New Talent’. I know now, first-hand, what it means to be nurtured as a budding queer writer. I feel supported in very real terms by the festival. Over the years, it’s helped me to get my name – and voice – out there. It’s given me a platform, it’s given me recognition, it’s given me a chance to meet and hear from amazing people, and it’s given me confidence. Thank you, Same same but different.
You can see Ruby perform at the Opening Night Gala.
Same same but different
For the the fourth year in succession, delegates and speakers will meet at the Same same but different Writers Festival in Auckland (4-9 February 2019) to celebrate LGBTQI writing talent in Aotearoa New Zealand. The festival was the brainwave of Peter Wells and his board, who saw both the opportunity, and the need to bring together a marginalised people to celebrate queer creative power as a way to positively shape a more tolerant world.
At this year’s festival some of the strongest and most respected queer voices in Australasia will be speaking. “Voice”, in fact, was the focus of Peter Wells’s 2018 presentation. He talked of the decades it took him to overcome the bullying he received at school because of his ‘‘soft’ ie effeminate/cissy/homo’ voice”. The 2019 festival is especially important because, following in the footsteps of Witi Ihimaera, Ngahuia Te Awekotuku and Renée, the career of Peter Wells will be celebrated in the Honored Author session. This event will feature the launch of Peter’s new book, Hello Darkness, which documents his battle with terminal cancer.
The Founders Lecture will be given by Georgina Beyer. The festival’s grand finale Hudson and Halls: tragedy and triumph is the Saturday Night Special at the Basement. Long before homosexuality was decriminalised, the inseparable Hudson and Halls introduced New Zealand television audiences to high-camp cooking, yet they were “silent” (or voice-less) about the great issues of the time: HIV and Homosexual Law Reform. Jeremy Hansen will chair a rollicking live chat event featuring best-selling author Joanne Drayton (she will serve sweet avocado pies and talk about her new book, Hudson and Halls: The Food of Love), London-based superchef Peter Gordon and actor Todd Emerson (who played David Halls in Hudson & Halls Live!).
See the full list of events here.