My Highlights of Byron Bay Writer’s Festival

top-ten-goldAfter four days of conversations, insights, revelations, tears and laughter it is hard to pull 10 highlights … but well I had a go.

1. Meeting and having chats with Nick Earls.

2. Being asked by Sam Cutler (the former tour manager of the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead) if I’d pop on into the book tent for him, peeling off two $50 notes, “It’s OK, I’ll mind your bag for you” to buy Stephen Dando-Collins “Pasteur’s Gambit” and Domenico Cacciola’s “The Second Father”. Which of course I did. I told him I can’t wait for him to be on Spicks and Specks next so I can tell Dylan I bought books for that man.

3. Sharing with Gretel Killean that it is actually a weird sort of compliment for a mother to walk up to her in the airport and tell her that she read her son to sleep with her book.

4. Meeting a new Brisbane writing friend – hi Shelly! All because us Queenslanders are so crap at reverse angle parking and we happened to be trying to do it next to each other on the last day of the festival. So in a weird way have to say thanks to the guy at the hostel who didn’t turn up at all to open the office and refund my key. And thanks to said guy’s brother who did. Perfect timing.

5. Meeting the director of the Castlemaine Arts Festival and being able to swap a business card with him.

6. Hearing Don Walker read from his book Shots and sing “Angry Women” … and seeing his face light up when he laughs. What a glorious sight to behold.

7. Seeing Judith Lanigan, hula-hoopist extra-ordinaire do part of her dying swan act and sharing the crazy story about the clown-napping of 1572 – which forms some of the basis for her book. I know know that dwarves were owned by royal families and given as gifts. There has to be a Captain Juan story in that.

8. Sharing with Craig Silvey – via the microphone, that yes teenage girls do create hypothetical story situations – they just do it Dolly quiz style, rather than interrogation style – and to then ask if writing give men permission to be vulnerable.

9. Mungo McCallums recounting of an Indonesian journalist’s story of the caucus consensus among journalist of what would be sent back via newsfeed after the original Bali bombings 1. no pictures of mutilated/bloodied bodies and 2. every story to have something about the Muslim relief effort … because they were all certain the attack was from Muslim fundamentalists and were aware of the retaliation which would rain down like Sodom and Gomorrah on the innocent Muslims in Bali if they reported it like they normally reported the news. Mungo was choked up and had tears in his eyes as he told the story – illustrating why it is sometimes dangerous to pander to the public’s right to know everything.

10. Hearing the Buttery Recovery Choir, introduced by Jonathon Welch (best known for his work with the Choir of Hard Knocks) I was moved to tears to hear their voices soar and had the luck of meeting and chatting with one of the female choir members the next morning when I went in for breakfast.

These are the first things which come to mind and as I wade through my notes I’m sure many more will come to mind. I was also wonderfully looked after by the staff at Why Not! … with their amazing food, friendly service and their free wifi –if only I had have known that earlier. I look forward to going back next year. I see a tradition developing.

3 thoughts on “My Highlights of Byron Bay Writer’s Festival

  1. BS: I found #9 interesting also.

    I was head down and madly finishing uni assignments during the Bali bombings and therefore only heard the occassional news item to and from uni. I didn’t see or hear any of the TV reports, so unfortunately wasn’t able to marry the story with what I had experienced.

    But it proved to me that there are ethics in journalism – that there is intergrity and that a few people do have the ability to make a big difference. Reminds me again for the saying “Bad things happen when good people do nothing.”

    Diane: looking forward to reading your reflections. Every year I take so much away. Sue Woolfe had the most profound effect on me in 2008 … I’m yet to see who had the biggest impact this year. It often – as you said – take a while to process it all.

    Wondering what your favourite session was? Or too many good ones to just choose one?


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