May is one of my favourite times of year in Sydney. I love the change in weather it brings - the chance to dig out coats and boots and woolly scarves. It also brings the Sydney Writer's Festival, a bustling and bursting-with-culture week of lectures and workshops down at Piers 2/3 at Walsh Bay. I vounteered at the Writer's Festival my first three years in Sydney. It was wonderful to feel part of the whole thing. What I love about festivals like this (and Adelaide Writer's Week) is hearing such a range of different ideas and experiences. I often found myself working on a session that I might otherwise have missed, something that wasn't immediately appealing to my interests, but that I found wholly amazing and inspiring. I loved finding myself with a break for a few hours, and wandering off to whatever writer happened to be featured at that time. I've stumbled upon Andrea Levy reading from her then new release, Small Island, and was blown away by her animated and endearing characters and her beautiful story. I've marvelled at Jeanette Winterson for a good hour as she wandered on stage by herself for a session called 'Ask jeanette Winterson Anything'. She was so composed, so humble, so engaging and witty and kind and smart I went right out and bought her beautiful Lighthousekeeping and read it in a week. I've cried quietly at the back of the audience as David Rieff talked openly about his mother Susan Sontag's work and heartbreaking death.
I didn't have the time to volunteer this year, but made it down to hear a few sessions. I listened as Chloe Hooper and Craig Silvey talked about their uniquely Australian works in an international market. Chloe's The Tall Man has been on my mind ever since. I also attended a session sponsored by my very own favourite, The Sydney Story Factory. The session was titled Creative Writing as Freedom, Education as Exploration and looked at the integration and importance of creative writing for young people. We heard from authors, educators and a young Story Factory student who read a beautiful and moving poem.
* Image by Andreas Schimanski