'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Sunday 5 September 2010

The Melbourne Writers Festival

When I saw the program for the Melbourne Writers Festival, I was in awe - so many great workshops and seminars, so many authors I'd love to hear present their topics.

Then reality hit and, with limited toddler-free time at my disposal and a number of other commitments, I knew I had to choose wisely. I also wanted to select events that would relate to my dream of writing for children.

I ended up at two events over the last weekend of the Festival: a three-hour fiction workshop on the Saturday and a one-hour seminar on the Sunday. Here's how they went:

Saturday: The fictional character development workshop was held at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne's CBD. Housed in a renovated wing of the State Library of Victoria, a beautiful nineteenth century building with a rich history, the Wheeler Centre is the new hub of writing for Melburnians.

I found myself in a small room on the fourth floor with fifteen other attendees and, with all the discussion of conflict with characters, I couldn't help but ponder the confusion of the setting we were in. Here was a grand old structure, with ornate design and stunning detail, fitted out with the ultimate in modern detail. With its nineteenth century origins combined with twenty-first century lighting, lifts and resources, it was the perfect place to sit and discuss conflict.

Led by Scottish author Louise Welsh, the workshop was an insightful, hands-on, three-hour discussion between a number of writers and aspiring writers. Each one of us was so completely different in our ideas, aspirations and writing styles that it made for an interesting session.

There is something amazingly refreshing and inspiring about being in a roomful of people so passionate about what they do, sharing character sketches that open your mind to different ways of approaching your own fiction.

It's also very liberating reading your own work aloud to a group of strangers - a daunting task for someone like me doing such a thing for the first time, until I realised that everyone else was feeling the same way.

Sunday: Australian authors Steve Toltz, Angelo Loukakis and Rebecca James were the presenters of this one-hour discussion about building suspense and revealing secrets within a novel. Having never read any of Toltz's or Loukakis's work, I was particularly looking forward to hearing from Rebecca James, whose hugely successful first novel was one I really enjoyed (you can read my review of Beautiful Malice here).

Rebecca was funny, engaging and honest and I loved her admission of a lack of planning with her book, instead just writing and seeing what came out.

Toltz and Loukakis had entirely different perspectives and, interestingly, both choose to write long hand rather than on a computer, talking about the ways in which one's thinking can change depending on their method of writing and the setting they are in.

This session was held in a cinema - a place that provides its own feel of intrigue and suspense - at Federation Square.

I'm already hoping to be able to set aside more time next year to attend more events. This fantastic Festival really does have so much to offer writers and book-lovers, and there are countless inspiring people sharing their talent.