05 May 2007

Williamstown literary festival

What I'm reading: student assignments.

Today, I've spent part of my day at the Williamstown literary festival. I began by meeting Sherryl to help her set up the display for our course, but by the time I got there she'd already done it. There was still half an hour before the opening and the library, next door, was having a book sale so we meandered over. Writers should never meander over to book sales. Oh, the temptation. I did come away with three books: one on managing kids with ADD, which I'll give to The Gadget-Man, one on the Bible (Princess Sleepyhead has to study RE till Year 12, and we're not particularly religious, so it might come in handy), and James Frey's biography that turned out to be not so biographaphical at all. When I opened it, I noticed that none of the paras were indented, nor did any of the dialogue have quote marks. Hmm. Still, the writing looked lively, so I'll have to see how I go with that one.

We wandered back to the festival and took our seats. After the speeches, they had a fifteen-year-old guest speaker whose first novel is coming out with HarperCollins next month. This amazed me less than her poise, her confidence in standing up before all those people. At her age, I would've been a quivering mess. But she looked like she'd been doing it for years. Perhaps she had. She did mention she was in the debating club. She spoke with passion and enthusiasm and made the journey from no-one to published writer sound so easy. Pleasing to hear her talk about how she wants to grow as a writer, though. That to me is one of the great joys of writing: knowing that you can improve. She came across as being down-to-earth, very nice, enthusiastic.

Then I went home. Mr Gadget-Man was at work. His job finishes in about seven weeks (everyone's job there does), and yet they were offering them all overtime this weekend -- bizarre! So I had to get Princess Sleepyhead off to rehearsals, which is no mean feat. Rehearsals happened to be at the same venue as the lit fest, which was rather convenient. So I headed back in and saw half a session on the craft of writing. Seems I'd missed the editor speak, which was a shame. One of my students was there and said it was quite pertinent to what we'd been talking about in class. The writer was speaking about sentence structures, which is always going to interest me. One thing he said that I found intriguing was that he spoke about leaning against your strengths as a writer. About making your strengths your weaknesses. That would be one way of assuring growth, I would imagine. We all need to push boundaries.

My next session was about writing the city. Or more specifically about writing Melbourne. So really it was about place. I love thinking about place -- in real life place is one of my touchstones in life. When I left Clarion, I kept thinking, I'll see these people again, but I'm never going to see this room again, never going to enjoy this view. All I'll have are my photos. I don't think anyone else gave a shit -- they couldn't wait to get out of that sweatbox, but for me, well, I lost part of myself when I left there. That is perhaps hard to understand, but place inhabits my blood, it seeps in through the cracks in and pores of my skin. I am grounded by place. But I'm digressing, as I am so apt to do. This session was lively and interesting. Both authors read from their novels, and I remember being particularly impressed by the dialogue in one. And having a laugh when that author was questioned about one of characters and gave a colourful response.

Wanting a change of pace, I went and listened to the singers. I love listening to them sing -- the purity and clarity of their voices. Just lovely. Tomorrow they're singing in a choral festival at Montsalvat, and that will be a real treat because Montsalvat is incredibly beautiful. Last time I was there was for a poetry festival, years ago, and I remember being very nervous because I had to read. That was my pre-teaching days when standing up before an audience was an ordeal with a capital O, and every letter done in bold. Now, it's not nearly as bad.

When the singers finished it was time for the Ada Cambridge Award. Being shortlisting judges, most of Western Women Writers went, and the organisers thanked us and presented us with a free copy of the awards book, which was a really nice touch. I wasn't expecting that.

It's always interesting when you're shortlisting to see whether the story you thought was a standout was chosen or not. Our group was torn between two stories, so were the judges, though only one of these two was in our top two. Our second story was Highly Commended. (They didn't have second or third.) Anyway, from the comments made the judges found the final decision as difficult as we'd found it.

What I love about attending these events is catching up with old friends, aquaintances and old students. I love finding out how people are going -- that curiosity -- must be the writer in me.

No comments: