I’ve just returned to cold and wet Melbourne, after four beautiful days in sunny Byron Bay. Boy, does it hurt! It was my first time at Byron Bay Writers Festival and I was thoroughly charmed by the town and the people. Maybe it was the gorgeous weather, maybe it was the breezy tents and green grass, or maybe it was the nearby nudist beach, I don’t know. There was a lovely relaxed feel to the festival, with the ability to wander from marquee to marquee, eat salt and pepper squid out of a paper cone, and bump into fellow authors and friendly locals all over the place. The festival offered such a diverse and interesting program, with experienced and debut authors, international and Australian writers, fiction and non-fiction, politics and environmentalism and feminism.
The highlight for me was the wonderful session with Bob Brown on Schools Day. Here is a dodgy pic I took on my phone:
Bob spoke very frankly with the students about the difficulties he had as a young person, and also spoke passionately about many political and environmental issues. It was such a pleasure to see someone so distinguished talk on a level with teenagers; always being honest and never dumbing anything down. The message he had about how we can be aware of what is wrong with the world and try to correct it, while still remaining positive and taking care of our own happiness, was an important one.
I thoroughly enjoyed my sessions on becoming an author, artists residencies and in the kids tent on Youth Day, and I was so pleased to get to meet so many young people afterwards. There are some serious young writers and readers out there!
One of the stranger things I did while in Byron Bay was to film readings from This Is Shyness and Queen of the Night for Two-Minute TV. We drove up to the Byron Bay lighthouse in the dark and waited for the full moon to rise up out of the black ocean. It was cold and atmospheric on the easternmost point of Australia. The lighthouse looked like the world’s biggest disco ball, and shot out sharp beams of light over the water, all the way to the horizon. The stars were out in their thousands overhead. It was very, very COSMIC. Morris Gleitzman was there as well, reading from his new book, After, and he had such a commanding voice I got chills down my spine!