Telling Your Story

Adelaide Writers’ Week

adelaideLast week I attended some of the events at Adelaide Writers’ Week. It was stinking hot while I was there so it did take a bit of effort to gather myself up and make the trek from another venue where I ran my own publishing workshop.

Luckily Adelaide’s traffic is not nearly as dense as Melbourne, even though Adelaide-ites were telling me how crazy it was with so many events on.

Writers’ Week is held in the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden, off King William Street. What an oasis this is. Sitting under a canopy of trees, a breeze skipping through the leaves, were hundreds of eager writers and readers listening to novelists, poets, short story writers, memoirists and the like. The heat was soon forgotten as we listened about the craft of writing, browsed the book tent or just reclined in the cool grass.

Not only is the setting apt for this event but all the sessions are free. Food and books were available if desired – small bottle of coke a bit pricey at $5 but when it’s hot I guess you don’t care.

I’m not sure how this festival is funded but I can say that it is top quality, with a lovely glossy program and a great line up of speakers. It might sound like I am a bit gushy about it but it’s because I was pleasantly surprised.

So, what about some of the sessions?

I managed to hear Tony Birch and Paddy O’Reilly – this session called ‘Outsiders’ – talk about the outsiders in their fiction. Both writers write quite differently in terms of writing habits. Tony (he mentioned he has OCD) likes everything to be orderly and planned out while Paddy writes slowly and a bit haphazardly. I gleaned from their discussion that both put a lot of themselves into their writing, hence the characters are fringe dwellers. This makes for authentic characters. I especially liked Tony’s comment about ‘place’ always having story happening right now (story is always happening in place was how he said it).

Two pieces of advice from these authors: Tony – Give your work distance before putting it out into the world. Paddy – Don’t show early drafts of your work to anyone.

I haven’t read either of these authors but I was intrigued enough to put them on my ‘to read’ list.

Another session that I enjoyed was ‘A Guide to Berlin’ by Gail Jones. Her novel is set in Berlin, obviously, and follows six travellers who meet and share stories. What I loved about this discussion was the journey to writing this book in the first place. Gail had gone to Berlin on another project but was surprised by Berlin when she got there. ‘Here was a city that is meant to be a shiny, hipster place but I felt a sense of melancholy’.

This is a great example of how story comes to us in mysterious ways. There was also some great discussion about Vladimir Nabokov, which made me think that I need to explore his writing a bit more.

The most interesting thing about my visit to Adelaide Writers’ Week is that there is always something to learn, something to discover, something to think about when it comes to writing and stories. I just might go again next year.

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