Inspired by a tweet from my friend and fellow author Lee Kofman, I thought I’d tally up my literary events for 2019 in the interests of record keeping. I haven’t included events I attended primarily as part of my day job, although in some cases, I was invited in both my capacity as Director at Writers Victoria and as an author. Here are the stats.
1 = Number of books I launched written by me
4 = Number of books I launched written by other writers
5 = Festival panels where I appeared as a guest
7 = Festival panels where I appeared as interviewer
3 = Festival panels where I appeared as both interviewer and interviewee
3 = ‘In conversation’ events where I was interviewee
5 = ‘In conversation’ events where I was interviewer
4 = Keynotes/lectures given
6 = Radio/podcasts recorded
6 = Workshops delivered
All up, that’s 44 events for the year (a few short of Lee’s impressive 55!), an average of nearly four per month. Might explain why I feel a little tired!
The books I had the honour of launching this year were Room for a Stranger by Melanie Cheng, Death of a Typographer by Nick Gadd, Present Tense by Natalie Conyer, and Peace by Garry Disher–all books I can heartily recommend. And while Stuart Kells did the main honours, I was also delighted to help my partner Andrew Nette launch a wonderful new anthology co-edited with Iain McIntyre, Sticking It To The Man: Revolution and Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction 1950 to 1980. I celebrated a further 12 launches, sat in the audience at 25 festival panels, and attended 19 other literary events outside of work. I also conducted 12 mentoring sessions, including some on my morning commute on the train (we called it ‘Mentoring on the Move’).
Among my favourite events for the year were the ‘Celebrating Victorian Writers’ panels convened as part of Writers Victoria’s 30th anniversary celebrations. In Horsham in Victoria’s Wimmera region, as part of the Art Is… festival, I appeared as participating chair on a panel with Robert Gott, Andy Jackson and Ingrid Laguna. At Apollo Bay Word Fest on the Great Ocean Road, my co-panellists were Mark Brandi, Bram Presser and Anna Snoekstra. And at Melbourne Writers Festival, I got to share the stage with Melanie Cheng, Andy Jackson and Christos Tsiolkas. (These were only three of some 14 festival panels that Writers Victoria curated during the year). The ‘Celebrating Victorian Writers’ format entailed a brief Q&A with each writer to provide insight into their background, and context for a piece of writing they then read aloud. Audiences responded warmly to the panels, enjoying both the public readings, and the variety of work and genres showcased. Andy’s poetry readings had a particularly significant impact on audiences. Having started the year reading his exquisite poetry collection Music Our Bodies Can’t Hold, it has been an unexpected delight to work with Andy at Writers Victoria and appear alongside him on these panels.
It was a treat to appear at the inaugural Terror Australis Readers and Writers Festival in Cygnet, Tasmania, in Oct-Nov; and to return to festivals I love, such as Adelaide Writers Week, Queenscliffe Literary Festival, Emerging Writers’ Festival, Melbourne Writers Festival, and Word for Word National Non-Fiction Festival in Geelong.
My final literary event for the year was one of my favourites ever, an ‘in conversation’ in Moruya, NSW, with my friend Christos Tsiolkas, talking about his new novel Damascus, my novel Mother of Pearl, literary friendships, writing processes and how to live an ethical life without religion. Moruya is my mother’s hometown, and I wanted this event to be special for her sake, not to mention for the sake of the 120 people who bought tickets to see us. And it was special: we enjoyed warm hospitality and the company of an attentive and thoughtful audience, and even managed to bring a brief dousing of rain to the drought stricken town!
Some of my best writerly times of the year, though, were not public events but lunches, dinners and other social gatherings with writer friends. Indeed, my antidote to the blues is to reflect on the wonderful writers I know, whom I’m honoured to call my friends. As Julie Andrews (aka Maria Von Trapp) would say, ‘Somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must’ve done something good.’
What does 2020 hold? — While I’m not at liberty to go into detail, I hope to appear at a few festivals as an moderator/interviewer and, if I’m lucky, as a guest artist, too. My first workshop for the new year is slated for 21 January, a motivation session to inspire participants to stop talking about writing and start actually writing.
Speaking of actually writing, I wouldn’t mind a bit more of that myself in 2020.
Stay tuned for a post on my reading for 2019 and reading goals for 2020.
Meanwhile, what was your favourite literary event of 2019?