Last year, HarperVoyager had a strong presence at the Bryon Bay Writers’ Festival. I shared the stage with Fiona McIntosh and Traci Harding, and we had the time of our lives. We enthralled audiences with talk of magic spells, quantum physics, time travel, totems and how best to portray the sounds of screams from the dungeon. With our then Voyager publisher in the audience, Stephanie Smith, we were all on fire. The memory was so buoyant, I wasn’t sure how this year’s festival would measure up.
Being the only Voyager author, I wasn’t sure who I would connect with this time around, but that all changed in a flash. There was another speculative fiction author present and when I met her I was immediately reminded of the binding tie that makes fantasy authors kindred spirits no matter what ‘house’ they hale from. Sharing the stage on topics of fantasy, creativity, dreams and the spirit of the written word was the well known and loved fantasy queen, Isobelle Carmody. I had the pleasure of being ‘in conversation’ with her to a packed house of YA fans, a most enjoyable session. I can attest without doubt, the love of speculative fiction is alive and well! What a fabulous experience.
Other highlights included Wild Things, a tribute to Maurice Sendak. His books have expanded the way we think about children’s literature and what is possible to write, treating children as ‘people’ with strong emotions, drives and desires. On similar topics were panels addressing education, literacy and the future of books. A personal favourite of mine, ‘The Perfect Pitch’ was a lively panel where publishers, including HarperCollins publishing director Shona Martyn, listen to six hopeful writers try to sell their work. Very exciting!
At the extreme end of the reality scale was the ‘Righting the World’ discussion with Australian environmentalist Ian Lowe, author Niromi De Soyza, who ran away from her family home in Sri Lanka at 17 to join the Tamil Tigers and fight for her country’s freedom; Indonesian author Andrea Hirata; and American author Katherine Boo, who is known for her works on the disadvantaged and poverty stricken. They shared horror stories but every one of them ended in hope, a most moving and uplifting panel.
I was pleased to see again this year how every session at the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival began by acknowledging an empty chair. This is part of the PEN program and represents a writer who is in prison for writing what someone in power, somewhere in the world, believed is ‘off Limits’. Acknowledgement of the Pen empty chair reminds us all the freedom of expression we otherwise take for granted. Sobering.
On the nuts and bolt of writing side of things, I gave a workshop on writing, selling and promoting genre fiction. You can see the PowerPoint presentation with live links here. All in all, though I missed my Voyager sisters, it was a wonderful Byron Bay Writer’s Festival 2012.
Filed under: Author guest blog, author tour, Byron Bay Festival, Events, Fiona McIntosh, Guest Blogger, Kim Falconer, traci harding | Tagged: Andrea Hirata, Byron Bay Writers Festival, Fiona McIntosh, Ian Lowe, Isobelle Carmody, Katherine Boo, Kim Falconer, Niromi De Soyza, PEN, traci harding, Writers Festivals |