At last weekend’s Byron Bay Writers Festival, passions ran hot and the vibe was cool. The sun shone. Relaxed readers, writers and fans wandered from marquee to marquee and speakers offered insight into everything from ethics to inspiration, writing practice to ways of getting published, identity to sense of place and belonging.
What captivated and inspired me most? Prize-winning New Zealand author Lloyd Jones mentioned in passing that he writes from a dreamlike state, and M.J. (Maria to her audiences) Hyland spoke of sitting up in bed with her laptop and feeling her body ‘disappear’ as she immerses in the writing process. Alison Wong didn’t need to describe the dream state – her slow, resonant, considered offerings guided her audiences into meditative serenity; insisted that we slow down our thinking and breathing and allow our creative essence to expand.
Wong’s was one of the novels I had to buy at the Collins book tent – what a treat it was to once again browse in a bookstore! My reading of As the Earth Turns Silver took me deeper still into a reflective dreaminess – one of Wong’s greatest gifts as a writer is to allow people, places and events to materialise at their own pace and in the fullness of their own weight or lightness. Such a treat!
All the New Zealand authors named Janet Frame as their greatest writerly inspiration; I’m off to revisit her work as well.
The session on place and belonging allowed non-indigenous writer Ros Moriarty space to talk about her life as the wife of an Aboriginal man; to tell of her inclusion in secret womens business gatherings; and to share heartfelt and balanced cross-cultural insights that are rarely available to most of us.
It turns out that avid readers who, like me, avoid watching television in favour of reading, might need to revisit that decision. Charlie Pickering, speaking in company with Phillip Adams and Richard Glover, had the crowd rocking with laughter even as the session delved deep into the complexities of ethics in the media and how to walk that ever-shifting line. Thought-provoking! Maybe I should check out Charlie’s TV shows.
Self-publishing authors – notably, Ange Takats with her memoir, The Buffalo Funeral – showed how well they can do when they access professional editing and design expertise and promote themselves cleverly in pursuit of their dream. And when writers pitched their material (some self-published, some still in manuscript form) to panels of commercial publishers, it became obvious that each pathway to publication has its own strengths and limitations.
Days after returning to my busy city world, I still feel the impact of my three-day immersion in the festival’s richness and diversity. Realisations continue to drift in and anchor. Already, when I’ve entered the dream state to engage with my own fiction writing, I have felt my writerly self expanding; I trust that this expansion will continue taking me deeper into my writing craft and enhancing the work I produce.
A heartfelt thanks to all those who contributed to such a rich and inspiring experience. May the dream live on!