We’ve been in lockdown due to COVID-19 for over a month now in Australia. My partner and I are working from home. My daughter is doing her high school classes from home (my brother, a teacher, reminds me not to refer to this as ‘home schooling’). My work meetings are all online or by phone, as is my socialising.
I refuse to refer to what’s happening now as ‘the new normal’, however. For me there is nothing ‘normal’ about this time. I think of this as time to be endured, occasionally enjoyed, but not to be embraced. Lockdown, self-isolation, social distancing–these are necessary restrictions to avoid a public health emergency in the short- to medium-term, not a blueprint for living.
With the current period defined by uncertainty, it feels like tempting fate to plan anything at all. But the fearless Yarra Valley Writers Festival programmers have done just that, transforming what was to be a traditional writers’ festival in Healesville into a digital program over Sat 9 and Sun 10 May, teamed with monthly book clubs.
“We were right in the thick of everyone cancelling everything and it just felt like such a bleak landscape and we didn’t want to be just another organisation that said, ‘Oh well, we’ll do it again next year’,” says festival programmer Hannie Rayson. “So we thought, ‘No, damn it, we’re going to do it. We’re going to find another way to make it happen!’ And it’s paying off, it’s exciting.”
The whole program looks fabulous. And while I’m sorry to miss out on visiting the beautiful Yarra Valley I’m delighted to be chairing a couple of online sessions on Sat 9 May:
15:45 Road to Damascus | Christos Tsiolkas & Angela Savage
16:45 If I Tell You I’m Going to Have to Kill You | Robert Gott, Emma Viskic, Jock Serong & Angela Savage
I’ll also be part of the Yarra Valley Writers Festival Book Club, an interactive and engaging monthly book club, taking place at 6.30pm (Melb AEST) on the last Wednesday of the month, hosted by YVWF Director Brook Powell and Ambassador Michael Veitch and joined by a variety of authors each session.
Wed 27 May Tony Birch – The White Girl
Wed 24 Jun Chris Flynn – Mammoth
Wed 29 Jul Angela Savage – Mother of Pearl
Digital programming can’t replace my most cherished aspects of writers festivals–interacting with readers and networking with writers–but I’m grateful to have any alternative when it comes to shining light on my work and that of writers I admire.
I hope to have some more online events to announce in coming weeks.