Yarra Valley Writers Festival

The inaugural Yarra Valley Writers Festival was broadcast online last weekend and, as Festival Director Brook Powell put it so eloquently in her opening remarks, ‘No, it’s not the same, but it is of the moment.’ While I missed not being in the beautiful Yarra Valley, mingling with readers and writers, engaging in lively conversations over local wines, I did get to listen, learn, share ideas, question and reflect. As an added bonus, I got to do this with friends.

Screen shot of my online interview with Christos, courtesy of LJM Owen who was watching from Tasmania

In a real treat, a number of bloggers wrote up the sessions, including the two that I chaired. I say this is a treat because I always want to write posts after the festivals I’m part of, but try as I might, I’ve yet to master the art of simultaneously chairing and live blogging (or even tweeting).

Sue at Whispering Gums blogged the session I did with Christos Tsiolkas, The Road to Damascus. She writes, ‘I’ll start by saying it was a lovely conversation, held between two people who obviously know each other well. That’s one of the lovely things about these writers festivals – you get to see the camaraderie that exists between some writers, and discover some of the ways they support each other. In this case, it came out that Savage had read some of Tsiolkas’ drafts and had had discussed them with him. She praised him for the time he takes with his work, for the way he honours his art.’ (Read the whole post here).

The lovely thing about Sue’s response is that Christos and I had decided in advance that there was no point in pretending we didn’t know each other as well as we do and we made this part of the conversation. It turned out that this was a big part of why we were programmed together. Said Brook, ‘There is something wonderful about watching people communicate that have a genuine love for each other. I really wanted the audience to feel and experience that – whilst also being given so much in the actual literal content too. In a time where people are missing connection, some desperately, I felt it was important to share that with them wherever we could.’

There is a particular joy and ease in interviewing people whom you know well as friends as well as writers. For one thing, I think it makes it easier to forget about the technology and delve into the conversation. After interviewing Christos, in a slightly nerve-wracking jump from one Zoom room to another, I chaired a session with my crime writing mates Emma Viskic, Jock Serong and Robert Gott. In addition to talking about their work, we also talked about their 2019 US tour as ambassadors of the genre, together with another dear writer friend, Sulari Gentill. Again, Sue did a terrific write up of the session on her blog, capturing in particular Jock’s response to the question of what defines Australian crime fiction besides the setting: ‘we are bringing indigeneity into our stories, and are exploring Australian identity in terms of how far you can push the Australian character.’

You can read about other festival sessions (several of which I attended) at Whispering Gums, ANZLitLovers, and Resident Judge.

Heartfelt congratulations to Brook Powell, Program Direector Hannie Rayson, and all the team behind this adventurous event. It lifted my spirits to be part of a writers festival during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.

About Angela Savage

Angela Savage is a Melbourne writer, who has lived and travelled extensively in Asia. She won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript, and the Scarlet Stiletto Award short story award. Her latest novel is, Mother of Pearl, published by Transit Lounge. Angela holds a PhD in Creative Writing, is former CEO of Writers Victoria, and currently works as CEO of Public Libraries Victoria.
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8 Responses to Yarra Valley Writers Festival

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    It sounds as though everything went really well, Angela, and I couldn’t be happier for you. No, it’s not the same. But it sounds like there was a lot of good participation and interest, and that’s fantastic.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks so much for linking to my posts Angela. I really enjoyed those sessions.You did such a great job. I did attend more but may just write a sort of summation of them because Lisa has covered them well.

    BTW You may be interested to know that I have scheduled a post on On the Run for tonight’s Monday Musings, as it sounded such a wonderful and inspired project. (I have now read all the blog posts on dailymail.com.au and thoroughly enjoyed them – the personalities of the writers, and just their responses to visiting the US which is a place I love (despite all its failings.) Robert Gott is a hoot (and I read somewhere that his hometown is the same as mine.)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. residentjudge says:

    Thanks for linking to my post, too, Angela (although I feel rather sheepish that my posts are so sketchy compared with the ones that Lisa and Sue wrote. I still shake my head in amazement at Lisa being able to blog so coherently while the session was underway!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jo says:

    Congratulations! It’s such a new normal isn’t it – and I can imagine how hard everyone worked to get it over the line in such a short time frame.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I thoroughly enjoyed all the sessions that I was able to attend. I think it was a great success. So thank you to all involved. I for one am very glad it wasn’t cancelled. I look forward to going back and looking at some of the sessions I missed when time permits.

    Liked by 1 person

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