I went to the Melbourne Writers Festival last weekend. I wanted to revel in writing and books. I wanted to learn more about writing and publishing, and I wanted to be reassured that I was on the right track with my writing. I also went to two sessions specifically to use them as sources for articles to write for Divine.
I saw some authors soar and some perform aerobatics, but some just engaged the autopilot, while others failed to take off, and one smacked into the ground. The first session I went to had me thinking I was intellectually out of my depth, but the other sessions reassured me that I am not that ignorant after all.
The sessions I went to were:
· The Future of the Novel
· On The Spectrum
· Dying is Easy, Comedy is Hard
· Healing Words
· First Flight
· Fred Watson’s Guide to the Universe.
The Future of the Novel was not a discussion about ebooks and Amazon destroying the publishing industry. It was about the influence of social media on novel writing. One of the two panellists was American novelist Teju Cole, whose intellect daunted me at the start, but when his ideas were teased out a bit more, I began to see his twitterverse.
On the Spectrum was a discussion about Asperger’s Syndrome in writing. The two writers on the panel were Graeme Simsion who wrote the novel The Rosie Project, which has a main character with Asperger’s, and Jo Case whose book Boomer and Me (which I have nearly finished reading) is about bringing up her son who has Asperger’s. Simsion proved to be a wonderful performer and read a very funny section of his book. This session was the best I saw over the weekend and it was free, unlike the other five.
Dying is Easy, Comedy is Hard lived up to its name with one of the writers dying so horribly that you just wanted to look away. But Max Barry read a very good section from his book Lexicon, which he admitted was not a comedy, more a thriller. I would have rushed out to buy it had not I already visited Monitaur that morning and purchased it.
Healing Words was another session I went to because of my writing for Divine. The panellists left me thinking about the various ways reading and writing can help people cope with health concerns.
First Flight featured three first time authors. They did readings from their books and talked a bit about their pathway to being published. Yet again, who you know played a big role in getting published.
Fred Watson is an Australian astronomer who has just written his own Guide to the Universe. In a dazzling slide show I learnt much current astronomical knowledge.
What I Learnt
If there is one thing I will take away from the weekend it is that if I ever am doing readings of my work I will choose a section that doesn’t need ten minutes of backgrounding. I would also try to find a section with humour in it, as laughter shows the audience is engaged with what is being read.
I plan to write more detailed posts on the various panels in coming weeks.
I spotted Jason Steger from The Age and The Book Club, but I felt unworthy to speak to him.
I found Federation Square to be a very sparse and soulless venue, its lack of crowds seemed to emphasis a lack of enthusiasm for books and writing in Melbourne, unlike the very crowded Malthouse Theatre complex that I attended last time I went to the festival. Federation Square also lacked sign posting, but had plenty of people to ask where to go.
Overall, I learnt a bit about writing, and I was regularly reassured that I was on the right track. I also have an article to write after seeing the Asperger’s panel. But the best thing about the festival was the many ideas that had my brain turning concepts into patterns.