Wednesday, April 15, 2015


It has taken me a few weeks to digest all I saw and heard at the 2015 Newcastle Writers Festival.

I feel 2015 was the best year yet with a very full weekend and I saw as much as I could.

There was no way I could condense all this amazing into one simple blog post. So I decided to do a post for each session and link them together on one post. From here you can click on the links below to the 10 sessions over 1 night and 2 days.

Friday night was opening night, this year in City Hall which was to be our home for the next two days. We were thrilled to be in the presence of Helen Garner, Jessica Rudd, and Michael Robotham, all talking to Caroline Baum about The Book That Changed Me - an inspiring start by any means.

Saturday began at Newcastle Library with the book launch for Don't Think About Purple Elephants as part of their children's program. This launch was very special as the author, Susan Whelan, is a good friend of mine. The launch was exciting for all involved and the Lovett Gallery was packed with eager readers awaiting a special reading from Susan. 

From there I headed to City Hall for the remainder of the day and a session on The Treatment of Asylum Seekers. This was an extraordinary session, with a passionate and articulate panel including two refugees. They told us their story, and had us in tears, and are now great forces in our community, helping others and assisting fellow refugees.  

My friend, Linda Drummond, hosted an informative session on Self Publishing. I went along to support my friend, but was enlightened with the panel's wisdom and positive stories about Self Publishing.

We followed that session with a talk by author, Marion Halligan. Marion is an ex-Novocastrian, and a great writer of real life, grief and sex. Listening to her talk is always delightful, and this was no different.

My favourite non Helen Garner session was Outward Bound, with Bob Brown, Favel Parrett, and Clarie Dunn talking about connecting with wild places. Their passion, sensitivity, and exquisite storytelling shone through in this exemplary session.

The final session for Saturday was Helen Garner in conversation with Caroline Baum, and what a great conversation it was. What struck me the most was her explanation of writing the type of book she does in the way she does. But you'll have to read my piece to find out more.

Whilst tired after a long and full day, it was lovely to have some dinner at Coco Mondo with my lovely friend B and debrief on the festival and our busy lives. 

Sunday began a little later than expected with the sad withdrawal of Les Murray. So instead of starting my day with him reading his poems, I started by hearing an eclectic group of writers reading their 500 words autobiographical story. As always this was an exciting and varied session.

Next up was This Writing Life, another fabulous panel featuring Don Watson, P.M. Newton, and Brooke Davis. They spoke to Rosemarie Milsom about writing, their inspirations, deadlines, the muse, and everything else in between.

The final session for the day was Radical Lives featuring the formidable Vera Deacon and others, and the launch of the Radical Newcastle book. This was a fitting end to the festival with the feisty Vera stealing the show and enlightening the huge audience about her Radical life.

What a wonderful weekend I had.

I saw and heard so much brilliance I was overwhelmed and my soul overfed. I caught up with many friends, planned and unexpectedly. And I bought more books for later from the fabulous pop-up MacLeans Bookshop.

I brought many thoughts and ideas away from the festival, have many more books to read, authors to share, and I also bow down to the mother of the festival, the incomparable Rosemarie Milsom.

But the main feeling I came away with was how wonderful some people are in terms of their love of our country and the people that live within it. Many of the sessions I attended spoke of overcoming hardship, fighting for our lives or space, being kind to others, working out how to live our best life, and just being good model citizens.

Whether it was Bob Brown fighting for The Franklin, Don Watson leading the way with exemplary writing, and Helen Garner dissecting the underbelly in the most humane and beautiful way. Marion Halligan writing about the elderly and grief, and Vera Deacon raising hell where it was needed. Or glorious survivors like Aran Mylvaganam and Munjed Al Muderis seeking asylum in our country to help others in the most remarkable way, there was a story of passion, altruism, and activism to be told.

These are the stories that shape our nation, and guide us to a better place. And in an ever growing unstable society, we need this more than ever. I was struck and reminded of this the entire weekend. But for every amazing person listed above it feels like there are 2-3 people who just don't get it, and that saddens me. I kept thinking if there were more heroes like those I heard over the weekend, real heroes, surely our world would be a better place. And if everyone heard these stories, and were educated in a more kind-hearted way about them, surely we could turn this country around. And those of us who really do care could stop being embarrassed.

We must connect with each other, our indigenous cultures, welcome refugees, look after our environment, and educate, enlighten and life those that are not so sure to do the same. That is what I took away from the weekend, so I will continue to share these stories with anyone who will listen, and I urge you all to do the same and I hope that a kinder, wiser community will evolve and peace will be at hand.

The written word is a powerful thing, as shown by this array of astounding authors over this wonderful weekend. I am looking forward to next years festival on the weekend of 1-3 April, 2016.

1 comment:

PinkPatentMaryJanes said...

So true. We need to at least double our quota of wonderful people. x