If you’ve been reading my blog, or listening to my podcast, for a while, you’ll know that I’ve been heavily involved over the past six months or so in organising the inaugural Shoalhaven Readers’ & Writers’ Festival. Well, the event took place on Saturday (4 August) and I’m excited (and, yes, relieved) to say, it was, by all accounts, a roaring success.
I thought I’d share some images and impressions of the day, for me as much as you!
As the director of the children’s program, I was thrilled to see audiences turn out for terrific sessions by Tim Harris and the incredibly popular Jackie French. (Even Wombat from The Block came along to meet Jackie French!)
An unexpected highlight for me of the children’s program was the storytime session in the morning, where the Nowra Library’s Children’s and Youth specialist librarian Carla De Castri gave as splendid a storytelling performance as I’ve seen anywhere. My school visit on the Friday morning, part of the festival, also went really well!
The adult program was held in the beautiful old School Of Arts building in Nowra, with staging by the team from So & So Events setting up a fabulous ‘literary salon’ vibe right from the beginning.
As an author, I was delighted by the gold velvet curtains that created an air of glamorous mystery for the signing room.
Highlights from the adult program included a thoughtful conversation between Walkley Award-winning journalist and non-fiction author Mark Whittaker and Catherine McKinnon, shortlisted for this year’s Miles Franklin award for her novel Storyland; a lively panel on the role of place in historical fiction, featuring Jackie French and Eleanor Limprecht; and an entertaining discussion on the everlasting appeal of genre fiction, starring Dianne Blacklock and Alan Baxter (both of whom also conducted popular workshops for writers).
They all look at home on couch, don’t they?
The highlight of my day was interviewing the wonderful Melina Marchetta, author of YA classics Looking For Alibrandi, On The Jellicoe Road and Saving Francesca, as well as a host of other titles (her crime novel Tell The Truth, Shame The Devil is a great read!). We snuggled into the comfy seating and just got right into it. I have lined her up for a podcast interview early next year when her new novel, The Place On Dalhousie, comes out.
All in all, it was a terrific day and being part of the organising team for an event like this really opens your eyes to the work involved. As an author, literary festivals of all kinds are invaluable for a host of reasons, from sharing ideas to lifting your profile, meeting readers to finding new writers to read, and allowing you to connect face-to-face with the huge community of people out there who love books and words as much as you do.
So I tip my hat to every volunteer out there who works hard to ensure that Australia’s wonderful tradition of readers’ and writers’ festivals not only continues, but flourishes.