It has been… a little while since writing anything substantial here, so my apologies for that. With so much of my focus on my next novel, as well as co authoring another seperate story, it’s been difficult to find the time to even bother with my blog. But I do think the Cairns Tropical Writers Festival is a nice way to dive back in.
Friday the 10th of August 2018 was the first day of the Cairns Tropical Writers Festival and for many months I’d been trying to figure out what the hell it really was. I bought some tickets a few days prior and wandered into the Hilton Cairns having only a few images from previous years to work with. I was so unsure in fact that I didn’t even see the sign on the way in pointing to the designated Festival entrance, and instead sat in the Hilton foyer until the event i’d bought tickets to began. And… if we can all ignore the fact that I forgot to show my tickets to the staff over all three days, that would be great…. Oops.
First up, a Luncheon with Jane Caro, a face i’d seen on television many a time but knew fairly little about. With my trusty Editor, Juliette Lachemeier, helping me appear less lost than I was, we took our seats ready for… whatever it was we were there for. Despite this being in Cairns, and despite the sun being out and as ultraviolet as it could be, I regret not taking my jumper. From the moment we took our seats until returning to the Hilton, a constant sea breeze took up residence in our Luncheon balcony/wind tunnel. When Jane did take to the mic however, my frostbite was a distant memory as she leapt straight into her work as not only a writer, editor, and dynamic addition to several morning news shows. Her novel that she edited, Unbreakable, a collection of women detailing their experiences from sexual assault, domestic violence, racism, miscarriage and depression, definitely held the spotlight. But that wasn’t the only issue that Jane charged head first into, as talk of #metoo and the dead weights of the likes of John Howard, Alan Jones and Tony Abbott (not surprisingly at all, a lot of women hate these men) also had us laughing and sympathising with Jane and the women she was representing in her work. A heavy, but captivating start to the festival, thanks Jane ^_^
Day two and i’m on my own, but no less excited for my midday sessions of an interview with Julian Burnside, as well as a follow up discussion on whether our democracy is working, which included Julian Burnside again, but also Richard Fidler and Anna Broinowski. Both sessions focused on topics like our Borders and outright abuse of those that leave their homes in search of a new one in Australia, only to be placed in detention off shore and treated like cattle. Not forgetting of course the role of Media in modern politics and how ineffectively our current democratic system is at working for the people, not the powerful. Clearly neither sessions brought particularly good news, though a decent exposure to the mornings headlines and political spin would show that to even the most apathetic consumer of current events. Instead it did show that on many different sides of politics, there is common ground and that basic human rights are being trampled regardless of your place on the spectrum, and that clearly those in power right now are far more interested in listening to themselves, other politicians, or donors from fossil fuel industries. A downer for sure, but not without its rays of hope.
After these sessions were over I managed to stop off at the bookshop that was being run
just inside the main doors of the festival. I’d been informed about it for some time and had assumed it was really just for the events presenters to show off their own work and sign copies for the masses. What I didn’t expect was to walk inside and actually see my own novel, Born Again, in amongst the other books. It’s almost hit me that i’m an author, maybe after my next novel it’ll finally catch on. Following this I stopped in to listen to a brief chat on the similarities and or difference of Pauline Hanson and Bob Katter. To be honest, I arrived expecting a bit of a laugh, and whilst I wasn’t disappointed, it is clear to me now more than ever, than the worst of these two people is surmountable, if only the side of empathy and justice wereable to get its message across better, as these two Queensland politicians seem to say very little to maximum a devastating effect. Something to think about.
My third and final day at the writers festival was far more focused on my own interests as an author, with a segment straight up on Non Fiction writing with Richard Fidler and Ashley Hay. Despite the focus on Non Fiction, the topic swirled around at times to my own field of Fiction and it was remarkable the similarities they both hold, despite their focus on far different fields. Next up was Jane Caro again speaking on her trilogy following Queen Elizabeth 1 and her process of writing such a renowned, powerful and undoubtably intelligent woman. I can’t say whether or not I have or will write female characters as effectively as I hoped that I can, but it is encouraging that now when I do, I have such a deep well of information to draw from that can scour over the female characters that I do write, to help me make them the most effective, diverse and forward thinking as they can be. It truly is an exciting time to be a writer!
Back after morning tea and I’m back with Jane Caro yet again to speak about writing for young adults, though this time she is joined by Fiona Bell and Lyndell Sellars. Once again an intriguing discussion, and one i’m familiar with as an author now. It is difficult to catch a young persons attention, especially when the activity of reading a book is still considered such a dull, boring, sissy thing to be doing, predominantly among males. Not to mention our current climate in which knowledge and facts are considered dismissible. But at least when I looked around at the other attendees I saw people of all age groups, young and old. On the Friday, students from both high and primary school were attending different events and seemed actively engaged with not only reading but with a hope to bring reading and writing to a far wider audience with poetry and music.
Speaking of which, my last session of the day. In one of the smaller rooms, a young woman named Manal Younus held her Power of Language and Storytelling. After brief introductions, Manal broke into three seperate poems that she had written and memorised, that detailed different stages of her own life. Often times young people are considered lazy, ineffective, drains on society that just want and never give back. They clearly haven’t met Manal, who’s passion for her work far outstrips many of our current politicians in dedication, despite their insistence to the contrary. It was almost perfect really to have started my time at the festival listening to the elder members of society (and still highly relevant of course) discuss what they’ve learnt over the years, to then come to its end with someone younger than me exuding such a love for her stories who will no doubt become our future of storytelling.
As a first timer at the festival I was impressed with just how much of a crowd it drew in. My suspicions at first were that each hall would be barely half full with only the most dedicated bothering to attend, but I was severely mistaken, with nearly every session full to the brim. I’m not really one for chit chat, as anyone who’s met me knows, I’m a person of few words, but spending my time listening to the insight and experience of those that have come before was riveting and empowering. Each and every session provided me with either knew knowledge, or the assurance that maybe I wasn’t insane, and maybe I am capable of this career path I hope to follow. No greater examples of this are, as i’m waiting for Manal to start her session, a woman, sitting next to me, Amanda, compliments my tattoos, one on each hand. I explain their significance to me and she actually knows what they are! We get to talking and as we return to the halls of the Festival, she asks to see my book, then buys it and asks me to sign it! I can’t really believe my luck, but then it happens again, with Avril, a woman i’d met at a workshop run by the cairns group Arts Nexus.
The Cairns Tropical Writers Festival has been something of an afterthought in my mind for months, with my focus being on my own work and little interest in events such as these. But now that it’s been and gone, I regret not buying tickets sooner and dismissing it so easily. I am an author, and this really is my domain, whether I have the confidence to call myself such or not. Maybe I won’t live up to the heights of those that I admire, but reading, writing, art and craft, these things are what help me keep going and hearing people like Jane, or Manal show such an enthusiasm for their work, only makes me want to do the same for people like Amanda and Avril, to show that I do care about my work and want to be the best that I can be. I’ll be thirty years old by the time the next festival comes along, and hopefully with two more stories in people hands by then. I appreciate the company Juliette, and it was a pleasure to see you working the bookshop Dot, and to everyone who made the event as enjoyable as it was, Thank You.