February 25, 2013
I don’t know what it is about writers’ festivals, but I always get on the homebound plane feeling bereft, as if someone’s taken an ice-cream scoop to my lower belly. This post is likely to be brimful of post-festival love, but I’ll try to be professional.
Wednesday, 20th: I stepped out of the airport to find Perth was on fire. I coolly dismissed the 39 degree temperature, saying something stupid, like, ‘Oh, Australia’s like this ALL the time,’ to my fellow shuttle passengers, Madeleine Thien, John Freeman and Tim Soutphommassane. Madeleine and John were dressed in winter clothing, having flown from Montreal and New York, respectively. My makeup proceeded to slide until I had another face on my chest, while Madeleine looked on, unfazed and unsweaty.
Thursday, 21st: I had two school events: my solo which, predictably, started a bit wobbly and ended with a lot of laughter (polite or genuine, it doesn’t matter to me), and the ‘Being Bold’ session with Julia Lawrinson and Dianne Touchell, chaired by Bonnie Davies. We discussed the merits (or lack) of being considered ‘bold’ writers and agreed that we don’t write to be deliberately provocative.
Now, Julia Lawrinson. Julia, Julia. We have such a rapport on-stage. I think we’re getting a reputation as a double-act, and that’s fine with me. Julia, however, needs to find a totem to ward off the bad juju I seem to exude (see Julia’s post here on her tendency to spike temperature, pass out, histamine-overdose and hyper-react whenever I’m near) so that we can still hang out. I may need to up my personal liability insurance.
Dianne Touchell—whom I found to be as clever, genuine and uplifting as her writing—kept me laughing the whole time and I will stalk her forever. If that’s okay, Ms Too-shell? (For the record, that’s my own mispronunciation but now it’s stuck.)
On Thursday evening, political commentator and novelist Ahdaf Soueif gave a beautiful opening address and spoke about the Egyptian Revolution of 2011. Illustrated with stirring street-art images, she told of writers and artists who honour their martyrs and keep up the fight for freedom by painting stories and commentary on the walls of Cairo. Those who oppose are often shot through the eye, publicly. The artists’ response to this abomination was to paint eye-patches on prominent city statues, at risk to their own lives and to the safety of their families. One short film traced the bloodied steps of a dying man, overlaid with the soundtrack of a wailing woman. I couldn’t understand what she was saying but the emotion was universal. I felt very small and safe in my theatre seat. I did cry.
Saturday, 23rd: ‘Not Just for Kids’ was an adult session with Julia and myself, chaired by the incomparable A J Betts. We were discussing why adults are reading YA and may have strayed off-topic a few times. Since we were preaching to the converted (such an engaged, supportive audience) it didn’t matter. Of course adults are reading YA—we’re cool. Not dumbed-down, inarticulate, baa-ing goobs, as a few quotes I shared would suggest.
I also met the lovely bloggers Jess (The Tales Compendium) and Rebecca (Reading Wishes) who made my day by saying nice things… and keeping up the celebrity farce by lingering in my signing line.
After our session A J Betts whisked me away for quick trip to Cottesloe Beach. There, I discovered the setting for the cracking opening scene in Myke Bartlett’s Fire In the Sea. This photo is supposed to depict ‘The Groyn’ sticking out of my mouth (classy, I know) in case you were wondering. If you weren’t, sorry.
A few honourable mentions to people who made this festival extraordinary, fun and inspiring for me: Margaret Atwood (the extraordinary part), Isobelle Carmody (with whom I’m presenting at Adelaide Festival next week), Ambelin Kwaymullina (soul-sister), Gus Gordon (hilarious and ridiculously talented), John Doust (whose table I crashed) and anyone whose name I have omitted but who was a recipient of one of my rare smiles. You must have deserved it.
Finally, I love the word juju; I seek it out—and I found it in the Perth airport toilet. There’s good juju, bad juju, and plain weird juju:
Told you there was a whole lotta love. Congratulations to Katherine Dorrington and Del Robinson for putting together a fantastic festival.