Books and reading,  Varuna,  Writing

An all-round success: the inaugural Blue Mountains Writers Festival

This weekend I had the pleasure of being one of a big team of volunteers at the very first independent Writers Festival in the Blue Mountains. Presented by Varuna the National Writers House, and held at three venues in Katoomba, it was a success both in terms of tickets (most sessions were sold out) and great enjoyment.

Some stand outs for me, in no particular order:

Philosopher, academic and writer Chris Fleming’s candid, and often hilarious, account of his years of drug addiction and recovery. I didn’t expect to enjoy this one, to be honest, but it was wonderful.

ABC radio’s Cassie McCullagh’s chat with Chris Hammer about the inspiration behind his crime novel ‘Scrublands’

James Valentine, Amy Thomas and Melina Marchetta

Hearing about the special working relationship between a best selling author (the wonderful Melina Marchetta of ‘Looking for Alibrandi’ fame and many, many other books) and her editor at Penguin Random House, Amy Thomas, as they chatted with James Valentine from ABC radio and TV.

Tim Flannery describing an ancient Europe and a pre-history when hippos swam in the Thames

Jane McCredie (from Writing NSW) and Tim Flannery

Hearing about the experiences of two women which led to the writing of their extraordinary memoirs about family: Vicki Laveau-Harvie (author of the Stella Prize winning ‘The Erratics’ and Jessie Cole, author of ‘Staying’, interviewed with humour and sensitivity by Benjamin Law.

An insightful and informative panel discussion illustrating how a work of fiction goes from manuscript, to agent, editor, publisher and eventually lands in a book store near you.

And my last session for the weekend, a beautiful discussion between Blue Mountains poet and songwriter/singer/musician Kate Fagan and Tishani Doshi from India. Tishani is a poet/novelist/dancer (can you see a theme here of multi talented people?) who performed several heart stoppingly gorgeous and powerful poems as well as an extract from her latest novel. Such a treat.

As with any festival there were hard choices to make with multiple sessions on at the same time. Ones I missed included a talk by Patti Miller and Leah Kaminsky, a film screening with Clarence Walden and Alexis Wright, a live conversation with Behrouz Boochani (on Manus Island) and Markus Zusak in conversation with Rosanna Gonsalves.

Another lovely feature of the festival was the ‘Social Book Nook’ corner of the comfy lounge at the glorious old Carrington Hotel, where attendees were invited to talk books.

My literary cup truly ran over all weekend.