After three days at the 2011 Brisbane Writers Festival I'm feeling immensely inspired. Not just from the sessions I attended but also the conversations I had and the questions I'm now asking about my own writing projects.
Of the eight sessions I attended, the standouts for me were:
Creating Character and Conflict with Rachel DeWoskin who had some great advice and writing exercises on dialogue, character history and character motivation. DeWoskin is also an advocate of approaching the writing of a book a couple of pages at a time. This gives me confidence in my new writing routine that I'll chat about the progress of in my next post.
Another favourite was The David Unaipon Award Retrospective that raised the interesting questions for me - Who owns historical stories? Am I limited to writing about only the things I've experienced? And how much can we depend on research when creating stories? Whatever the answers I can't wait to start reading 'Purple Threads' by Jeanine Leane, winner of the 2011 David Unaipon Award for Indigenous Writing.
A contrast to this session was Meet Kate Grenville who spoke about her book 'The Secret River' and sequel 'Sarah Thornhill' that explore what it means to be a 'white' Australian. Most interesting for me was her mention of the sealers and Maori women. While I've spoken of my father's migrant history that we celebrated last year, there are stories my mother has told me about our Maori heritage, in particular our great great grandmother. Attending this session made me want to know more. Grenville also had some interesting tips on how to capture a character's voice.
A slight diversion from the BWF was the Land, Sea and Sky: Contemporary Art of the Torres Strait Islands exhibition at GoMA. It had the most amazing lino prints, basket weaving and a multi-media installation of a glass house with family photographs projected through the roof and onto the floor of the house and a soundscape of waves lapping on the shore. This beautiful quote by Terri Janke from the novel 'Butterfly Song' (2005), featured on a wall at the exhibition, sums it up perfectly:
"They say if you live on an island for too long, you merge with it. Your bones become the sand, your blood the ocean. Your flesh is the fertile ground. Your heart becomes the stories, dances, songs... They say when you leave, the sound of the waves stays with you... The island calls to you, and your children, and their children. It will beg for you to join it, and know it, forever. No matter where you and your children travel, the island is home."
While the exhibition was unrelated to the BWF it was a wonderful spontaneous find as I'd hoped for when I was planning my BWF visit.
And what would the BWF be without a visit to the festival bookstore (ok - three visits!). Here's my collection of reads for this year:
That cute little rabbit at the back is on the cover of Katherine Battersby's new book 'Squish Rabbit' that my daughter has already read more times than I can count. I'll review these books in upcoming posts, just as soon as I finish the three books I'm already reading! Stay tuned.
After three days of writing immersion I have a handful of writing exercises, ideas to consider, books to read and questions to ponder about the drafts of my two novellas. Exciting times ahead!