Last week I got up very early and headed to Sydney for a day at the Sydney Writers Festival. It was a glorious day when I arrived via train to Circular Quay, in fact unseasonably warm for Autumn. I walked around the water to Walsh Bay where the festival is held. It has been some years since I made my way down to the festival and in the past I have stuck to week days as they are less crowded.
My first stop was to try and secure tickets to John Safran, I've been a fan of his since Race Around the World and had my copy of his book for him to sign. He was sold out, but that would not stop me trying to get the book signed. So I went around to the bookstore to bide my time until my backup session started.
I managed to purchase a signed copy of Alice Walker poems, which eased the pain of not going to see her talk.
I then lined up in the sun for Anatomy of a Song with Josh Pyke, Earthboy, and Sarah Blasko. This was a brilliant session on writing songs, how they do it, subject matter, inspiration and as all three have been doing this for some time, how their songs have evolved over the years. All three had different perspectives and were fascinating to listen to. It ended with each taking a song to dissect and then playing it. Pyke spoke about The Lighthouse Song and Blasko, I Will Run. I love this song so was thrilled to hear her sing it accompanying herself on a grand piano. I ducked out the session early and missed Earthboy as I needed to line up for Safran.
I was first in line and got to see both Christos Tsoilkas and David Marr (yes the photo is blurry!) readying themselves for their long lines of fans. Safran arrived shortly after looking a little nervous and a bit buttoned up. He introduced himself as John Safran from John Safran's Music Jamboree which I thought was funny and of course I went all stupid and fangirl and said John Safran from everything...WTAF!?! But he was lovely and signed my book, chatted a little and when I asked for a photo he insisted I be in it. I am flushed of cheeks because I had been standing out in the sun an hour earlier!!
I then took time to catch up with friends, enjoy some wonderful conversations, have a few beers, enjoy the stunning weather and harbour surrounds, and take in a late lunch of amazing Thai food. I probably missed a few sessions, but the lines were a bitch and I was having a grand time so who cares!
The other session I went to was late in the day and it was People of Letters. I have mentioned the fabulous Women of Letters books here before and they are based on wonderful women getting up on stage to read a letter based on a pre-arranged topic. Curated by Marieke Hardy and Michaela McGuire, I have wanted to attend a session for ages so this was my chance. People of Letters had duos writing letters to each other and included men, so we were in for a special treat.
First up was step siblings Ella Scott Lynch and Andy Sharp, they wrote each other touching and hilarious letters about meeting at 5 and becoming firm friends and how they have supported each other through a seemingly trying family. Next up Liam Pieper (author of Feel Good hit of the year) and his publisher recounting their experience of editing and publishing his book. Benjamin Law and his partner, Scott Spark read a back and forth hilarious account of the many times they probably should have left each other. They had the audience in fits of laughter, with their lovingly comical take on each other's faults. Dr Karl Kruszelnicki and Zan Rowe were next, with Zan reading the most lovely letter to Dr Karl leaving him a little unstuck when he got up to respond.
Finally Kristin Williamson took the stage to read the most haunting and beautiful letter to her husband, playwright, David Williamson, about how she felt when he had his stoke last year. An accomplished writer in her own right, Kristin's letter was funny and poetic and so very upsetting to listen to. She struggled to get through it understandably and you could feel a pin drop as the room wiped back tears. Then the great man himself was up, but he could not read his letter, he was so unstuck, he muttered something about the session going overtime and he couldn't go on anyway and sat back down covered in tears. Wow!
People of Letters was everything I thought it would be and much much more. What a thought provoking and compelling session, though it left me a little unstuck, as I wandered from Walsh Bay back through to Circular Quay taking in Vivid.
Vivid was as spectacular as I expected with great sights from the Walsh Bay side of the harbour, but as soon as I hit the Quay and Overseas Passenger Terminal, I was struck gridlock, wall to wall people and it was most unpleasant. Never a fan of crowds of any level, this was crowding unlike I had ever experienced and I pushed my way through to the railway station, made my way back to Central and took a train home. Satisfied in a full and fabulous day.