Melbourne Writers Festival 2009 – A Flying Visit

Quick and dirty visit to Melberlin (actually, not dirty at all, not even slightly soiled; very, very clean and pristine visit).

Arrived Thursday night, checked into hotel at 9.30pm, ordered room service, sat in front of tv for a few hours channel surfing as my brain wound down like the clockwork monkey it is … kept thinking how I should take the chance to transcribe the notes in my Moleskin for the final draft of Gallowberries … and yet could not get my ass out of the chair. This, I think, is the universe’s way of saying ‘Y’know, you’re tired. Why don’t you just rest, dumbass?’

Friday: woke up at 4am – so unfair. Went back to sleep until 9am. Had late breakfast, wandered down to Federation Square – which is a great space filled with some tremendously ugly buildings. Buildings so ugly it’s quite breathtaking and, in a way, admirable. Awesomely, defiantly ugly buildings. The BMW Edge lecture theatre is quite cool though, looking out over the river and this is where I went to the first of the two sessions I attended.

The Future of Fiction with authors Stephen Amsterdam (Things We Didn’t See Coming, winner of The Age Book o’the Year –, China Miéville (Perdido Street Station, The Scar, The City & The City, etc) and the able and amusing Ronnie Scott (editor of The Lifted Brow as the moderator. Some very interesting discussion about whether books will survive and in what form. I’m still reeling after hearing Dr Miéville had recently scanned in about 80% of his book collection and then recycled the bodies. The book-loving luddite in me screams ‘Vandal!’ and gets a nervous rash. I’m trying not to think about it.

It was the night of two dinners – first one was with my colleague, friend and all-round clever clogs Meg Vann, she of AWMonline, at The Quarter in Degraves Lane (which, for some reason, keeps coming up in my brain as ‘Gravesend’). Then there was a brief stop at the Sofitel 35 (fabulous bar on the 35th floor) and meeting Harvest editor and poet, Geoff Lemon and poet Josephine Rowe ( Next, dinner the second at the Melbourne Wine Bar with Ronnie and Pete. V nice!

Saturday: lunch with fellow Clarionite, Suze Willis, at Blue Train – much noise and laughter and very good food (bacon makes everything better). Then a wander across the bridge, back to Fed Square and into the line for the next session, Visions of the City, starring China Miéville (awesome), Margo Lanagan (awesomer) and Jack Dann (awesomest), and moderated by talented spec-fic writer Rjurick Davidson. Some interesting stuff, but a little meandering … and as usual, there are the members of the audience who ask questions that aren’t really questions, but incoherent burbles with a subtext of ‘This is actually about me, I really, really want to hold a microphone!’ A dead giveaway is when a question starts with ‘This is a two-part question’ … There was also the horror of the city councilor who had apparently not seen her speech before she read it out; did not seem to know the word ‘renaissance’ and, I’m pretty sure, pronounced ‘version’ as ‘virgin’ … it was a bit hard to swallow the trumpeting of Melbourne as a city of literature at that point. Maybe that’s just me being cruel and unreasonable (it happens), but I do think public officials should be better at speaking in public. Call me crazy …

Good to see some other fellow Clarionites, Amanda Le and Steve Mitchell; and then to go for a far-too-brief drink with Kirstyn McDermott (amazing writer, soon-to-be Picador author and general cool chick And then to the MWF launch party with Meg V once again – met lots of people, drank passable wine, ate some great finger food … and then back to Sofitel 35 to discuss writing with the Steel Megnolia. Listened to outgoing festival director, Rosemary Cameron talk – and she’s wonderful. She used to direct the Brisbane Writers Festival and it’s great to see she brought the same energy and vibrant life to MWF that she did to BWF.

Sunday: off to the airport, arrived early in order to sit through a 2 hour delay. Huzzah. Back home about 5.30pm.

I’m not sure I had a real festival weekend … but I had a weekend and it involved a festival and there were writers …

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