Tag Archives: biography

Bendigo Writers Festival 2018: Let’s Get Curious 10–12 August

Bendigo Writers Festival 2018

It was by accident that I attended the Bendigo Writers Festival last weekend, thanks to someone who was part of the program but couldn’t attend. I was asked to help out and I was happy to because it meant that I would finally commit to going. Each year I have considered going but other events or projects have gotten in the way.

On arriving in the city centre, I remembered how pretty Bendigo is with its stately buildings and gardens. I instantly knew that I was going to enjoy myself.

I’ve been to many writers’ festivals around the country and I consider the ones held in regional areas much better than the big cities. I think this is because the cities are so spoiled for choice when it comes to bookish events and the regional areas appreciate the opportunity much more. This festival was no exception.

Now in its seventh year, it felt like the festival is well established as an annual event to the region and I could feel the excitement and anticipation in the air despite the chilly winter weather on a Friday afternoon when I arrived.

My first panel was about DIY publishing and the room was full of enthusiastic writers. Everyone was engaged and I loved the conversations I had with my sister panelists, Mira Schlosberg and Amy Doak.

After the panel, I was free to enjoy the festival until Sunday when I was to be part of the Share Fair at Trades Hall. It was hard to choose what to see with each timeslot having four or five different events from author talks, to discussion panels and live performances. I decided to see things that were not my usual choices:

  1. Nurturing Yiddish with Bente Kahan and Arnold Zable.
    I cannot speak Yiddish but I found this an interesting discussion from the point of view of a language that needs to be preserved.
  2. Opening Gala (Let’s Get Curious) with Benjamin Law, Ann Cleeves, Gareth Evans, Carly Findlay and Jenny Graves.
    An almost full house at Ulumbarra Theatre (the old Bendigo Gaol) with a lively discussion about curiosity. Benjamin Law is a great presenter and handled being heckled for his shoes-with-no-socks fashion very well.
  3. Secrets, Lies and Dark Deeds with Michael Robotham and Cecile Shanahan.
    I’m not a big reader of thrillers but I found Michael very personable and funny and who doesn’t love a good story story about getting the first book deal the way he did? I’m adding his books to my TBR (to be read) pile.
  4. Death, Decay, Disaster with Sarah Kasnostein and Gemma Raynor.
    I can’t remember where I had heard about The Trauma Cleaner but I was curious to know more. And there is so much more to this story. I’m looking forward to reading this book, also now on my TBR pile.
  5. Not Such a Bad Place to Grow Up with Paddy O’Reily, Jay Carmichael, Sofie Laguna and Ellen van Neerven.
    I attended this because of my own love of the bush and because I had noticed that many books are being set in urban landscapes. The Choke was already on my wish list but after this panel, I also got Jay and Ellen’s books. I was particularly impressed with Ellen and have put her book at the top of my pile.
  6. Surviving Words with Bente Kahan. I attended this because again I was curious to see how she was going to present the various artists that she promised. This was a mix of English and Yiddish and I found it very moving and even a little tear inducing, even though I can’t really explain why.

I realise that my descriptions of each event are brief but I could do a full review for each. It’s enough to show that there was great variety and big names attending and that is only a portion of the 100 or so events.

Going to writing festivals is good practice for many reasons. Not only is it fun to immerse yourself in books but it gives you a sense of what is happening in the industry, you learn something from each event in terms of writing practice or the journey of a story. All of this will add to your skills as a writer and as a businessperson because writing is a business. It isn’t enough to just sit and write despite the fact that is what we’d love to do. Yes, you do need to focus and write the book but once that is done you will need to work out how that story gets in front of readers. This is the same whether you are published traditionally or do it yourself. More than anything, attending writing events will give you inspiration because it’s hard not to be buoyed by bookish conversations.

Do yourself a favour and get along to something. We really are rich with events around Australia. The Melbourne Writers Festival starts 24th August and Write Around the Murray (another great regional event) is 7–9 September. If you feel that the expense is beyond you, think about volunteering for a festival. That way you will meet people behind the scenes and get free entry to events.

Have fun!

Blaise the book chick

Write for Your Life Part 6: The Senses

Stories are better with sensory description. Photo by Blaise van Hecke

Write for your life. Have you been doing it? You’ll have nothing to work with if you don’t sit down and put words on a page, no matter what you feel about your writing ability or how you are putting the story together.

I’ve been writing about different aspects of life writing over the previous five blogs, so this is the last of this series. At the end of the day there are no ‘rules’ about how to write or how to write your memoir or biography but I know that there will be something from these blogs that will help you push forward and create something that others want to read. There’s nothing more ‘eye-glazing’ than a biography full of dates and events but no emotion or actual story.

You might have the bones of your story. You may even have identified some themes and feel that the story is reading well. But is it engaging? Does your reader feel like they are right there with you in 1975 when you skinned your knee at Uncle Tom’s funeral?

By uses the senses, you can infuse life (pun intended) into your story. There are the obvious senses like sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell and there are the subtler ones like intuition, feelings of pain and balance. The latter senses are more about how we react to the physical world around us.

The reason that the senses are important is that we react to the world in different ways through them. For instance, some people learn better through auditory stimulus, others need to see things and visualise them. These sensory stimuli create a different experience for each individual. By being more specific with your description using the senses, you will be able to really connect with your reader on a more emotional level. This is especially useful if writing from a child’s point of view who will have less verbal capacity to relay what they feel.

Writing exercise
Think about an event in your childhood that is strong in your memory. It could be your first day at school, the day a pet or relative died or when a sibling was brought home from the hospital. For this exercise, I want you to write from the point of view of your age. This means that your vocabulary might be limited as will be your understanding of the world around you. If you were five, write as a five-year-old would speak. Use the senses. What are the smells or sounds around you or can you feel something (physically or intuitively) that you don’t understand? Write about this for 10 minutes and then stop. Don’t overthink this and write as freely as possible.

When you read the piece, have you managed to infuse very specific sensory details into it? If not, go over it and see where you might be able to put in more. Often, it’s in the rewriting that you can see where this will add layers to your story.

Once you’ve tried this exercise, go over your own story and see if there are opportunities to infuse more life into it through sensory description. You’ll find that it becomes more engaging.

If you want to extend yourself further in your writing practice, think about attending one of our many workshops. My next Life Writing workshop is in June.

Blaise van Hecke, the book chick