So here I am, a few days after going to the Melbourne Writers Festival, wondering why I do it to myself – two trips to Melbourne in one week (2 hour commute each way), sick kids at home, hardly touching base in the evenings, house putrid and no milk in the fridge for days on end. Oh well. Exhausted.
So, what of MWF? I’ve got to say that I miss the Malthouse as a venue. I know it was crowded, but that was the point! Standing in the food queue, hanging out for a coffee, and looking up at the balcony where Isabelle Allende is signing books: that’s what a writing festival is all about. Noticing people in the queue in front of you, possibly wearing their latte down your front when you press in for a chat. That doesn’t happen in a venue the size of Fed Square. Who knows who was there? Where did the speakers disappear to after their signing? Could have been hijacked by aliens for all I know. Too big, too sprawly, too distancing.
But the speakers were great. Of course, I went to see Garry Disher talking on his panel about X-rated themes in crime writing. His point was: why focus on crime writing? Why not ask a bunch of children’s writers about the decisions they make on a day to day writing basis about what they think should stay out of their books? Every writer deals with these issues: not just crime writers. He said it much more eloquently that I write it. Great point, though.
On Wednesday, we went to see Justine and Scott and Sean Tan. The cinema venues were pretty much packed. Justine had her New York (or were they Sydney?) boots on – fantastic. She was very frank about her writing journey. Scott showed some amazing slides from Leviathan; on the huge screen, they were incredible. But I gotta say that nothing beats a Sean Tan illustration blasted gigantically onto a cinema screen. They are just the most amazing creations: full of detail, craziness, warmth, cold, thoughtfulness… Inspirational.
Two main things I got out of all that listening: Finish things. Writers get really good at beginnings, OK at middles and lousy at endings because they don’t get enough practice at it (who said that? I think it was Scott). And mix with like minds. Be involved with other writers. Bounce ideas off them. I’m pretty sure it was Justine who said that her writing improved in leaps and bounds after she linked in with writing friends. I gotta say that I loved the idea of the group sitting around in a cafe writing, casually asking each other ‘What’s another word for pulchritudinous?’ Sounds great to me!
Oh, and a third thing that maybe I didn’t get out of going to the MWF but that I needed to get out of me: deadlines. Got a year planner off the net and am planning the next 12 months writing. Seriously. If something else turns up (like a contract – whoah, that would be cool) then I’ll change it. Until then, I have a plan. And that feels pretty good.