This weekend I attended several sessions of the Melbourne Writers Festival. Every year I look forward to the MWF and every year I am not disappointed. This year I eagerly anticipated not only the sessions I had chosen, but also the atmosphere. Apart from the many writer’s talks, book launches, forums and other sessions to choose from, there is also the festival club where one can sip on a drink or have a bite to eat. You never know who you will bump into.
Instead of writing about the sessions I attended, apart from saying Geoff Dyer is amazing, I want to describe my thoughts at what I heard and saw.
I arrived quite early for my first choice session, a writer’s talk, which was free and required no tickets. I thought I had better be there well before time as the seating might have been limited. So I was in the queue for a long time. I started chatting with the lady in front of me. Like me, it was not her first festival and, like me, she arrived early just in case. We talked about many things; grandchildren, social media, Mark Latham’s meltdown at the last festival. These random conversations with strangers are a part of the atmosphere of the festival, a part I thoroughly enjoy.
I enjoyed that particular talk but it also made me realise the writer, who is the focus of the talk, is only as good as their interviewer. I’m not saying this particular interviewer was bad, but there were some stumbles and long pauses which, for me, stilted the flow of the conversation. However, I enjoyed the writer’s responses. At the end I so wanted to ask a question or three, but was far too shy to put my hand up. I would have liked to know more about the writer’s research. I love research. Maybe next time.
Did I mention Geoff Dyer is amazing? I am not the only one to think so. He was quick with replies, witty and generous with his details. He and his interviewer danced through the question and answer session with ease. The audience lent forward to catch every word. At later sessions I discussed this with other people who had listened to him and we all had had similar reactions.
I met a couple from Auckland, NZ who had travelled to Melbourne just for the festival. I chatted to a nice young girl who sat next to me at a later session. I exchanged smiles with other attendees as we sipped our wines at the festival club. It is one of the benefits of the MWF, this random meeting of like-minded people, this feeling of belonging to one big club.
I learnt a lot from the writers I listened to. I definitely felt a connection to some more than others, but that was to be expected. Each session underlined what I already knew; we all have stories to tell, we all tell them in different ways but they are all important and they are all out there, just waiting for us to read them.
My list of books to read has just increased again.