Wow! What a week! From lectures to conversations, to fire alarms and deluges of rain and much much more. This year’s theme ‘Lie to Me’ brought fascinating angles to light and raised as many questions as it answered. By last night I found myself agreeing with a fellow writer who confessed to being exhausted with all the emotion experienced as such hotbeds of learning and literature. It is great to saturate oneself in the words and ideas but how does one stay focused on one’s own little patch amidst the greatness and hype of these events? Some of my highlights included such a pendulum of emotions that surprised me in its intensity.
Monday and Tuesday were spent at the Australia Arts Council for VIP (Visiting International Publishers) meetings. It was fascinating to hear what is going on in the industry in terms of rights sales and so good to catch up with my publishers at Big Sky Publishing as well as reconnect with familiar faces and meet some new emerging publishers.
Tuesday evening was spent listening to the remarkable Rebecca Traister discuss the ways women have been silenced and how labels of emotion and hysteria is all to often thrown about when a woman expresses a viewpoint yet the same passion defined as strong when exhibited by male counterparts. Contemporary American politics were referenced and controversial themes dissected. I went home fired up and somewhat angry with the patriarchy.
Wednesday then further inflamed my sense of indignity when I heard Adélaïde Bon talk about her experience and her research into witches and the historic abuse of women (she herself being a survivor of violence against women when she was nine years old) It made me recall my history lessons back in Scotland where we had field trips to Edinburgh castle and heard all about the draining of the lake at the site that now boasts the beautiful Princes Street Gardens. Many bodily remains of young women who had been the victims of inquisition and died during the water test – that catch-22 where by young women were thrown into the lake. If they floated they were a witch. If they drowned – too bad they were innocent. Horrific stuff indeed. What I had not known was that rape was legalised after the infamous Plague as births rates were at a low and communities threatened by the prospect of diminishing populations. Very raw very real.
By Trent Dalton’s talk I was in need of some emotional rescue and after the audience had reassembled an unexpected fire alarm ten minutes into his talk we were treated to one of the best interviews I have been to with Trent baring his soul and the delightful Matthew Condon demonstrating what a good interviewer sounds like. The backstory of marginalised cultures, institutional failures and bygone values and cultures was recounted with humour, pathos and poignancy and there was hardly a dry eye by the time we were done.
The reflection of society and those on the outskirts was a that continued at the gala opening of the Irish film fest was another reflection on past abuse and trauma. The opening night’s feature film gave a grim account of the past Float Like a Butterfly that told a story set in the 1970’s of a young tinker girl with an ambition to box like Muhammad Ali. This story was beautifully portrayed, showcasing the Irish landscapes and hues of nature throughout, yet left me reflecting on the position of women and the institutional abuse within communities.
By Friday I was ready for a change of pace and this was delivered by the emittable Maxine Beneba Clarke in her picture book workshop at The newly renovated Green Square Library. Maxine has a range and depth of experience that makes her workshops both absorbing and applicable to both new and emerging writers. It is always interesting to get new perspectives and with Maxine’s deeply rooted in the rich migrant cultures of Guyana and Jamaica her narratives and journey as writer are both diverse and inspirational.
My week of literature rounded off on Sunday with Alexander Chee in conversation at Carriageworks. His award-winning writing that explores the memory of traumatic events through fiction has helped him heal were his way of finding himself by losing himself in fiction and the written word.
This past week has seen me lose myself in the written word and has given me more fodder for contemplation and creation. I leave SWF 2019 totally saturated in words and full-on new intentions and revealed purposes for my own creations. Now all I need are plenty of undisturbed weeks to completely devote to the writing, however, I will not lie to you, those such weeks I’m afraid are entirely fictitious!