Writers spend a lot of time alone, and I'm no exception. And even though I do some teaching at UQ every week and try to interact with my fellow man, there's plenty of downsides to isolated toil (in fact, this comic from The Oatmeal is pretty spot on). So, you might think that I'd be excited about Brisbane Writers Festival merely because it's a chance to socialise with like-minded people in my backyard and get away from the monitor-glow. Well, that would be selling it short. Bluntly, BWF was awesome. Now, I've been in other years, but this was my first year as an artist (very exciting) and that meant access to the green room where some of my literary heroes were just to be seen wandering about (OMG). The festival also happened to enjoy the early spring in Brisbane this year (those who remember the frosty tea-room panel last year with Nick Earls will be grateful). All that meant for a lovely few days by the Brisbane River, talking about books and writing and more books. One could almost have forgotten there was a federal election going on in the middle of it.
A highlight for me was the opening night. Festival director Kate Eltham gave the perfect address, highlighting the meaning of stories. And then ... Matthew Reilly. His speech with the theme 'The Space Between' covered everything from how he came to writing to hollywood movies and back, and exemplified the reason writers write: love of story. A genuine and heart-felt address, without an ounce of pretention. A better choice of opening speaker could not have been made.
And the goodies didn't stop. There was the fabulous Roll in the Hay rural romance panel (with Rachael Treasure and Anna Campbell, and complete with fire alarm delay - many jokes made); coffees with friends and fellow writers in the cafe - Inga Simpson, Rebekah Turner, Dawn Barker. The How I Got Published panel with my lovely publisher Bernadette Foley, Nina D'Aleo and Meg Vann. Reading at Whispers on Saturday afternoon. And, on Sunday, the Future Imperfect panel with Antony Funnell, James Bradley and Sean Williams.
Of course, I'm barely skimming the surface. I could mention the stories printed on cushions in the Maiwar Green tent; the buzz of seeing queues of fans lining up for signings from their favourite writers; meeting the lovely Nalini Singh and the ever-fabulous Sarah Wendell; heading out into southbank for japanese, churros and dumplings; conversations that ranged from the challenges of writing history for television executives, to Churchill, to the failure of science fiction to imagine the future.
BWF was a giant stimulus, far beyond a writers' festival. It was affirmation of the diversity of all of us: of our interests, or loves and our tastes. And for me, a reaffirmation that I'm doing what I love. If you've never been, there's something there to tempt you. I'm looking forward to next year already.