I missed the Perth Writers Festival last year. And the year before. So this year, Day 4 (Sunday, 21 February) was my day.
I checked myself into four very excellent panel sessions with a half-hour of grace in between — which, as it turns out, was barely sufficient to cover transit, overruns, and hellos. It was a whirlwind of a day and I relished every moment.
Below, I have shared some of my gems.
Session 1 – Dorothy Hewett Award Workshop [Terri-ann White with fellow judges, poet Lucy Dougan and author David Carlin, alongside the Award winner Josephine Wilson]
When I heard that the Dorothy Hewett Award judges would be opening up their judging process, I had to know more.
My biggest learnings for manuscript submissions to publishers? Read. Don’t try to emulate what has come before; trust your unique voice. Read: Helen Garner’s essay, ‘I’.
“The most important part of writing is reading …
How are you doing that thing that I love?”
– David Carlin
“Judging a book award is a seduction. You must be convinced.”
– Lucy Dougan
“There is virtue in a deadline.”
– David Carlin
Session 2 – We Need to Talk About This [Kathryn Shine with Stan Grant, Jane Caro and Lindsay Tanner]
From Kathryn Shine’s opening question — “What do we as a community need to be talking about more?” — the panel members leapt into issues surrounding Indigenous rights, mental health, and immigration. Powerful, important words were said, about stolen country and past-moulded lives, about refugees and immigration policy, about anxiety. Mostly, the conversation was positive: “We can do better.” I witnessed more than one audience member blink back tears.
Every word Stan Grant uttered held gravitas. Every sentence from the panel members was valuable; a national dialogue was distilled into one compassionate hour. I wish all of Australia could have accessed Winthrop Hall for this conversation, in which Jane Caro observed, “The richer someone becomes, the less generous they are, the less likely they are to do something for others.” But to give to others makes us richer.
“The very privilege I have experienced is why I should speak up.”
– Jane Caro
“The investment you make in others will become your relational pension.”
– Lindsay Tanner
“If I didn’t mean it that way, but other people are taking it that way, what should we do?”
– Stan Grant
Session 3 – Hygge [Geraldine Blake with Michelle Crawford and Pip Lincolne]
Thank goodness for this breath of fresh-baked air! My main takeaways from this session were: (1) there are many ways to build ‘social cosiness’ and a warm home; (2) maybe I’ll stop striving for an ideal of constant happiness and focus instead on present moments; and (3) look into Cyndi Lauper’s creative process, because anyone who tells you to “take the braces off your brain” is obviously brilliant.
Michelle Crawford also reminded me not to cram my life with stuff — to seek la dolce vita. It’s a manner of being that resonates with me, and I think that could have something to do with my 1/16th Mediterranean roots.
“Make sure that whatever you have in your home is connected to you, makes your heart sing.” – Pip Lincolne
“Push aside the pressures of real life and make time to Poh.”
– Pip Lincolne, on setting time with her daughter
Session 4 – On the Funny Side [Laurie Steed with Helen Ellis, Patrick deWitt and Etgar Keret]
I have added this entire panel [yes, including Laurie] to my dinner party wishlist. Poker-playing author Helen Ellis was marvellous and dry, Patrick deWitt was wry, and Etgar Keret stole the show. The way he talked about his family and his work was beautiful and hilarious. I could have listened for hours.
From this panel, I learned that Jews don’t waste jokes on strangers and buttplugs can earn you dollars. I also picked up extra pointers on the creative process, and the difference between funny and tickle funny.
[And does Patrick deWitt remind anyone else of the writer in the movie Ruby Sparks? No? Just me then…]
“I revert to humour when Plan A doesn’t work.
It’s like an airbag in a car…”
– Etgar Keret
“…when you share your work with your parents, and they have read it, there are questions they don’t want to ask, like, ‘Are you okay?'”
– Patrick deWitt
“It’s easier to kiss a guy than make a joke.
A joke is intimate.”
– Etgar Keret
– Helen Ellis
Yours in words,