Monday, June 5, 2017

Sydney Writer's Festival 2017

I love going to the SWF, there is always a great buzz in the air and I've had the most wonderful experiences there over the years.

This year due to other commitments I could only go down on the Friday, so I took an annual leave day, got up at 5.30am and caught the Shitkansen down.

I love arriving by train at Circular Quay, you always get those fabulous views from the station. Knowing I'd be busy once I arrived at the festival and that I had to leave promptly to get home for the Symphony, I took time prior to have brunch at Rossini's.

After some people watching at the Quay, and feeling satisfied from the feed, I headed around to Walsh Bay. It's a great walk, with stunning views of the harbour, Opera House, and the bridge. You're also walking on the edge of The Rocks, and see those great old buildings against newer architecture.

I had time for a little wander and work out where I would be seeing my sessions before lining up for my first session. 

It was right next to the green room, so I did a bit of celeb spotting - and writers are my kind of celeb - I saw Wendy Whiteley, Richard Fidler, and Caroline Baum.

Finally we were seated for Fictional Truths. This panel featured Heather Rose, who wrote my latest favourite book, The Museum of Modern Love, and Chris Kraus, a seminal NY feminist writer. 

They both spoke about adding real life and history to fiction and how to marry the two. 

Heather spoke about her idea of intertwining art and love into her story and she wanted to use Marina Abramovic. She worked on the story for 10 years and when she commenced Marina had not held her The Artist is Present exhibition, which was used within the book. Although Heather had ideas about using Marina at a table and people confronting her. She worked on the story on and off, and at the same time Marina and her art were becoming more popular, culminating in that exhibition which Heather attended. She spent a lot of time at the MOMA, and 'sat' with Marina 4 times. She eventually wrote to Marina and asked permission to us her in the book, and was granted permission. She has never spoken to Marina as such though.

Chris was less structured, her seminal book, I Love Dick, was about an affair with a man whilst she was married and she never really hid the fact, nor did she ask him permission. He got a bit upset, and for the most part she ignored him. Chris is in her 60s now, a very Jewish New Yorker, my kind of gal, unapologetic and hilarious. I had heard of her but never read anything by her.

After the session I headed to the bookstore, I had allotted myself ONE book and had already chosen it, but now I felt I needed to by I Love Dick, and I did and got Chris to sign it, being very deaf, we had a clumsy short conversation, but was still cool.

Then I saw Heather sitting by herself, surely she would have a huge line of people wanting their books signed. I had read her book, loved it, but did't have my own copy. I was so drawn to the book, her ideas, Marina etc, I went an bought myself a copy and headed over. She was a sheer delight and here is why writer's festivals are so great, you get access to the minds of books you love. The ultimate thrill. Heather and I spoke for about 10 minutes about the book, her experiences with Marina. I told her about my own experiences at The Artist is Present here in Sydney a few years back. She asked me what I liked the most, and we spoke about widening perspective. We also spoke generally about art and books. It was a deep, thrilling conversation. My day was pretty much made. 

I moved on to my other session, lining up. This was Tragedy plus time and featured the stars of the show, Paul Beatty and Roxane Gay. I have been a huge fan of Gay since I read Bad Feminist, I fell in love, what wit, what intelligence, I wish! ANd I was halfway through Beatty's, The Sellout, the winner of the Man Booker prize this year.

I was lucky to sit in the front row and was mesmerised by these great writer's talking about their craft, their upbringing, and humour. Both are very funny, Gay, intentionally so, although her fiction is far more dramatic. Beatty doesn't mean to be funny, it is just his style. Gay worships humour yet looks like such a serious gal, and Beatty is nonplussed about humour yet has this laughter switched on face. They were fascinating people to watch, let alone listen to.

After it finished, I grabbed a cab and made my train which gave me just enough time to get to the Symphony.

On the train ride home I reflected on the 2 amazing talks and 4 brilliant authors and was sad I couldn't take more in. There were so many more amazing sessions. Next year I really should block out the 4 days and stay in Sydney!

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