Perth Writers Festival

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Over the weekend I had the amazing experience of going to the Perth Writers Festival - twice! It was held over four days (Thursday 21st Feb to Sunday 24th Feb) and I managed to attend on Friday (22) and Sunday (24). 
Both experiences were quite different, but I had a great time and am feeling excited about writing and reading, and also eager to attend again next year. Just because I'm still super happy about everything that happened (despite being sick the whole time!) I will share my experiences of the festival here.
FRIDAY: I attended two talks on Friday with a good friend of mine who has been studying creative writing. She has always been very positive about my new foray into writing (starting a new degree in writing this year!) and so I thought of her when I wanted to attend with someone. 
We were originally going to go to a few more talks, but arrived late (parking = diabolical) and then got a little lost in UWA's orientation day festivities. By the time we arrived at the actual site of the festival, we truly just wanted to sit down (and my friend wanted to drink her coffee) so we chilled out in an area called Writer's Central - specifically put aside for resting between talks. While there, we became addicted to these homemade icey poles that were being sold by a lovely lady nearby (I ended up having three by the end of the day... two of salted caramel. YUM.) and attempting to complete a crossword on books (we got about half done).
The first talk we attended was brilliant. Having just finished 'The Antidote" (please see earlier posts for a review) I was very excited to go see Oliver Burkeman speak in a session titled 'On Happiness'. He spoke alongside Damon Young (a young philosopher and writer) and Geoff Gallop (for those that don't know, former premier of Western Australia). The session covered many different aspects of happiness and how we relate to it as a construct. It touched on how we seem to be forever chasing this ideal of happiness, and how this constant chasing seems to be doing the most damage to us. In the end, I realised just how important this area of research and thought is to me, and I ended up purchasing Damon Young's book Distraction (I'll hopefully review that later in the year).
The other talk we attended was titled 'the soundtrack to this book is...' and featured Gus Gordon (an illustrator and author) and Myke Bartlett (a journalist who has recently written a novel for young adults) being interviewed by William Yeoman (Book Editor and Senior Arts Writer for The West Australian). The authors discussed the effect that music has on their writing and the specific songs they listen to while writing.
I found the idea of hearing or needing to hear specific music while writing something very interesting, as I often feel the need to listen to something specific to get a certain type of writing done, but it didn't stretch to the same extent as the two authors on show. They also took the opportunity to play some of the music they were listening to during recent books, and I particularly liked the idea that Myke Bartlett operated by, where he found specific songs to represent certain moods or characters.
After that, we grabbed a final icey pole and headed home! A great day.

SUNDAY: For my second visit to the writers festival, I went to a couple of talks with my parents. 
The first one mum and I attended (dad headed off to a different talk) was all about memoirs ('Keeping it in the Family') and I was very excited about this one, too, as one of my favourite writers, Benjamin Law, was going to be speaking. (Note: Benjamin Law is a regular writer for frankie magazine, and has written two books including The Family Law and Gaysia - both are excellent, but I have to say I found Gaysia to be particularly interesting.)
Two other authors were there, including Lily Chan (author of 'Toyo' - a memoir all about her Japanese grandmother) and Scott Johnson (author of 'The Wolf and the Watchman' about his father, a CIA agent). The discussion was very interesting, and I found myself not only enjoying being able to see Benjamin Law speak, but also becoming more interested in the other authors, as well. (I ended up buying Lily Chan's book, too!)
The second talk we attended (all together this time) was 'The Library of my Mind' with John Freeman (author, editor, and book critic) and Ramona Koval (author, interviewer, editor, and originally radio presenter of the ABC's Book Show). Their conversation was quite lively, and I particularly enjoyed their short discussion on why they read in the first place - not only did they seem to see it as some sort of compulsion; something pivotal to their life - but they also seemed to have deeper reasons. Ramona Koval mentioned that she read to understand the world, and John Freeman took that a step further and said that he sometimes read to make sure the world was actually out there.

Overall, I feel very happy to have had such an excellent experience. I ended up buying four books at the festival - I will try and post a photo of my loot sometime soon!
Happy reading everyone :)


  1. I didn't realise you were at the festival too! I was there on Friday to see Margaret Atwood and China Mieville - they were absoloutely brilliant! Caught a few other talks as well (none of the ones you listed) but that was the highlight for me. Where are you thinking of going to study Creative Writing?

    1. Hello! Oh, I saw Margaret Atwood walking around - so amazing!
      I've actually decided on the Professional Writing and Publishing course at Curtin Uni :)

    2. She was wonderful! Really glad I got to hear her talk.

      That's great! Best of luck with it :)


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