Every year Melbourne hosts the Melbourne Age Writer's Festival. It used to be called the Writer's and Reader's Festival way back in time, before the Age newspaper was involved. The latter is a more accurate title and I wish they'd reinstate it.
This year I went last Friday from 10.00 am until about 5.00pm. I started the day hearing the author of Mao's Last Dancer, Li Cunxin, talking about how the book began - as an over-dinner discussion wtih children's book writer, Graeme Base.
Then I heard Carrie Tiffany, Kate Grenville and Shalini Akhil speak about being a writer. They were all terrific - I particularly loved Carrie Tiffany's extracts from her book, and Kate Grenville's discussion about writing. Kate Grenville has a mop of irrepressible red hair and a lovely, measured voice.
After this we heard writers talk about rebellious Melbourne - Barry Dickins and Arnold Zable both showed enormous heart and compassion in completely different ways - Zable reaching out to asylum seekers, Dickins remembering the rebellions of his grandmother and her sister.
Then to a discussion about plot by Tash Aw, Sonya Hartnett and Elizabeth Knox. It was illuminating to hear how three writers could write in such different ways. I'm always persuaded, hearing anyone speak about how to write with any kind of authority, that I'm going about it in entirely the wrong way. This says more about me than it does about any speaker, of course. So, it was terrific to hear that Tash Aw works tangentially, Elizabeth Knox's most recent fantasy books started with a premise while Sonya Hartnett has developed a highly organised way of plotting her material.
Last night my son, Alasdair, and I went to hear the Perfect Pitch Gameshow, a session in which four contestants get to pitch their proposed book projects to a panel of publishers.
I have spent today recovering! I also bought too many books - not simply from the Festival but also because Alasdair and I had an hour to wander around the city and discovered that Dymocks was having a 20% off almost everything sale. When I see signs like this for either yarn or books I go into seige mentality, buying up for when the enemies barricade us in. Look at my stash, I will crow, I can knit for years and years without leaving this house! Look at my books, I will crow, I can read for - hmmm, not really that long at all. Does this mean I get to buy more books? In case the Vikings come?