Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sydney Writers Festival - 2014

I just returned from a very busy Sydney Writers Festival.

David Braddon-Mitchell feeling the love
For the first two days I hosted the new 'Curiosity' lecture series: fourteen lectures on an astonishing variety of topics from cooking, to offence, to living and dying well. (I hosted twelve, then scampered off to my own panel.)

Highlights for me included Luke Russell on evil (see his essay here), David Braddon-Mitchell on love, and Chris Andrews on the Oulipo group.

(Chris' lecture also included my very favourite audience question. Inspired by Oulipo, I joking said the question had to be five words, and no 'e's. The commenter asked, quickly: "Why such a boys' club?" Brilliant.)

Tara Moss, Joker, Angela Meyer
I then spoke on a panel, 'Writing Bodies', with novelists Tara Moss and Irvine Welsh, hosted by the ABC's Rafael Epstein.

When I conceived the panel, I hadn't read Tara or Irvine's latest books: The Fictional Woman and The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins. But they are just spot on: Tara reflects on the stigmatisation and commodification of women's bodies, while Irvine brilliantly satirises the media cult of the fit physique. These themes, and others, complemented those of my How to Think About Exercise.

You can read a short Guardian review of the panel here.

"But my nanna is a..."
My next gigs, on Sunday, were for the festival's Family Day: a reading of My Nanna is a Ninja, and comedy storytelling (basically ten minutes of gross standup), alongside kids' authors James O'Loughlin, Tristan Bancks and Oliver Phommavahn.

My story involved diarrhoea, mucus, a bruised nose and dog biscuits. Good times.

I had little time to myself between gigs, and tried to avoid book-bloating (my European trip required a new backpack, just for books). But I did get to buy myself Captives, the handsome new book of flash fiction by Angela Meyer. Some marvellous awkwardness and uncanniness packed into those few words.

Kudos to the festival's artistic director Jemma Birrell, and all of the hard-working and astonishingly patient staff and volunteers.

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