Tamar Valley Writers Festival 2016

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Last weekend was the Tamar Valley Writers Festival – two days (well, for me – there were other events on other days too), of non-stop panels and book-signings and networking!

Those of you who’ve been following my blog for a while now, may remember that around this time two years ago I attended the Festival of Golden Words, in Beaconsfield, Tasmania. This is that festival – rebranded, and I have to admit I was a little disappointed with the name change.

Unfortunately I missed the opening of the festival, arriving just in time for the second time slot of the day, with two talks of interest to decide between. With three sessions for each time slot, there were a few clashes over the weekend, which make it hard to decide what session to attend!

The first couple of sessions of the day (Saturday) were sparsely attended, and I worried that the festival wasn’t going to draw the same crowds as the first time around, (a big concern as this is the closest writers festival to me, and I want to be sure it continues!) but by the third session of the day there was standing room only in the sessions I attended, and the atmosphere was bustling, though some of the panelists seemed to lack confidence speaking to such large groups. Sunday continued on much the same as far as attendance was concerned, though the panelists seemed to be much more comfortable and relaxed, with more banter occurring between panelists.

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Petrarch’s Bookshop was in attendance, and with authors signing their books I spent up…

There were some fascinating discussions, and so much to think about – I ended up with seven pages of sometimes-barely-readable scrawl in my notebook! I won’t retype the whole seven pages here – just a few snippets from the weekend.

  • In ‘Mosaic Australia: words and cultural voices’, Ellen van Neerven (author of Heat and Light, which I read just recently – look out for my review soon!) commented on the use of the word ‘myth’ in regard to Aboriginal stories, for these stories are real and current for the Aboriginal people, and are held in the land itself.
  • In ‘Lost Voices: recreating historic characters’, Historian Michael Cathcart stated he was interested in confronting the mythologies of the past, that ‘they are not us’, and his interests lie in the differences between now and then. He said it was useful to look at the strangeness of the past, that we find the story in the difference.
  • In ‘Questions and Lessons from our History’, someone (my apologies – I didn’t jot down who!) commented on how stories from history are never actually finished, there are always ongoing discoveries. When asked about choosing the stories of ‘minor players’ of history, Steve Harris, author of Solomon’s Noose (a story about a hangman in Hobart during colonial times and now added to my TBR list!) commented that unless we acknowledge our own stories of the past – good and bad, we can never expect anyone else to.
  • ‘The Rich Tapestry: diversity in life and literature’, introduced me to Erin Gough, who spoke of her experiences growing up as a gay teen, and the lack of gay characters in any of the books she read. ‘We read to find our place in the world’, she said, and she wanted to write stories for teens today, so they can see themselves reflected back in fiction. (Seeing yourself in fiction is so important on so many levels and there’s a website ‘Visibility Fiction’ which promotes diversity in fiction – not just regarding sexual identity, but also colour, and disability, and any other way people may be different from each other).
  • Historian Patsy Cameron gave me goosebumps in ‘First Voices: Our Indigneous past’, when she spoke of trekking to a cave where thousands of years ago her ancestors left their hand prints on the walls. And later, in the session entitled ‘Our Island Home: issues in Tasmanian history’, my views on the past were re-arranged yet again (it’s happened quite a lot over the course of my research for my current WIP), when Patsy commented that she sees the war between the Tasmanian Aborigines and the white settlers as the ‘White War’, not as it is more commonly known, the ‘Black War’, because it was the whites that caused the war, not the original inhabitants of the land.

I’ve come away from the festival with so much to think about, not only from the panels and discussion, but from personal conversations with people – friends and acquaintances and those I only just met.

I have no doubt what-so-ever that my novel will be much stronger from the changes I’m making, due to what I learnt over the two days, and I’m so inspired and encouraged to continue with my writing.

Looking forward to the next one!

 

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Festival of Golden Words, Beaconsfield, Tasmania

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This weekend I attended the Festival of Golden Words, in Beaconsfield, Tasmania. It is the first time a writer’s festival has ever been held so close to my home, and I had such a brilliant time. I started off with a workshop on getting published, which confirmed a lot of what I’d read elsewhere, but also gave me a few new hints and tips that will be very useful in the future submissions.

The weekend continued with a series of free author interviews and panels, and I was so lucky to start my Saturday morning attending an interview with Hannah Kent, author of Burial Rites, as she spoke about the process of writing her book. From where her idea emerged, through the process of writing, and the struggle to write the ending – to write of a woman facing her own death. Among the many  wonderful tidbits she shared was the fact that most of the dreams recorded in Burial Rites were dreams actually dreamt by the characters!! Each one had been recorded at some point in time! How amazing is that! Afterwards she signed my book, and I mentioned my own WIP, also a historical fiction. Though our conversation was brief, she was such a lovely person to talk to, and there was so much of what she said in her interview that really resonates with me. Keep an eye out for my review of Burial Rites in the coming weeks. It is such a brilliant story – I devoured it in a matter of days.

‘The Author-Editor Relationship’ was an interesting panel, featuring two authors: Katherine Scholes and Heather Rose, alongside Amanda Cromer, an editor with the Society of Editors, and Margaret Johnson, whose company ‘The Book Doctor’ provides everything from manuscript assessment through to finding a publisher. The authors shared their experiences with their editors, and how working with a great editor can teach you so much about your writing, but also about sticking up for yourself when you know you’re on the right track. Heather Rose gave a great example of this. She has written a children’s novel – Finding Serendipity – which was co-authored with Danielle Wood under the name of Angelica Banks. In the story is a pirate who dies, and then comes back to life. Her editor suggested she change it, because the pirate then became a zombie – but Heather and Danielle argued that he was not a zombie he just came back from the dead – just the same as he was before – no mindless drooling, no hunger for brains – just that he’d been dead, and now he wasn’t. The stuck to their wish, and the book has been published, and not one reader has said that the pirate is a zombie.

The editors all pointed out that their advice and suggestions are just that, advice and suggestions. Though there may be spelling/grammatical points that you really *should* fix, any other ideas about story, plot or characterisation is exactly that, their idea. Every editor you go to will have a different idea, but the point is to listen to what they are saying is wrong with it, and think about it, and work on fixing it – whether you use their ideas on how to fix it, or come up with your own, it’s important to take into consideration that they are (usually) well versed in what publishers are looking for/selling at that time, and they know what’s needed to make your manuscript shine.

Sunday the highlights of the day were probably ‘The Pitch’ in which a handful of aspiring authors were invited to pitch their story idea to a panel of publishers (there were representatives from Melbourne University Publishing, Random House Australia, Forty South and Island magazine), in front of an audience of close to 200 people! While the level of professionalism in the pitches varied, it was fascinating to see the different ways in which authors presented their stories, and to hear from the judges what made the winning pitch (the prize was a bottle of champagne, and consideration of your manuscript) stand out – namely telling the story succinctly, stating her audience, and validating herself – she spoke of what her story would achieve and she spoke with confidence and certainty that she could do it.

The other panel I attended on the Sunday was ‘Our Black Past – Aboriginal Stories that Had to be Told’ with fiction author Rohan Wilson, and Academic Authors Dr Kristyn Harman and Professor Henry Reynolds. This is particularly interesting to me, as my current WIP features an Aboriginal woman as one of the main characters. There was discussion of appropriating stories belonging to another people (something which was also discussed by Hannah Kent in her talk), and of representing a people for whom there are no records outside of their interactions with white settlers. Rohan Wilson’s book ‘The Roving Party’ has to jump to the top of my reading list, for his story, so I understand, discusses the frontier conflict between Aborigines and settlers, with sections from the point of view of the Aborigines themselves.

The weekend gave me so much to think about, I’m still making notes from remembered talks, and I’ve been furiously jotting down ideas for my own story as the inspiration from the weekend just flows!