A Day at the Sydney Writers’ Festival: it’s… the vibe… of the thing

The Sydney Writers’ Festival is an annual event featuring talks and panel discussions from authors around the globe. It’s a time when I get my writing/reading nerd on so I thought I’d share a feel for what a day at the festival is like.

  • I arrive. Sodden from the rain.
  • I get directed and redirected until I find the correct ticket window. Volunteers are in abundance, but unfortunately hold no clues.
  • I get misdirected again.
  • The queue is large by the time I arrive; the line stretches along the pier. It’s a free talk with limited space so volunteers count people waiting… 15, 16, 17…photo(1)
  • We huddle under umbrellas as the skies open up once more.
  • “Why can’t we go in yet?” asks a grumpy man. The volunteer doesn’t know, but pretends to care and keeps smiling.
  • This panel discusses narrative in documentary. I take notes I’ll never read again.
  • Edging between talks the squeals of milk steamers fill the air.
  • Women in ironed slacks, bulky coats, and Kumfs block thoroughfares when they run into other sensibly-shod friends.
  • Nearly everyone bustles.
  • I reach my next talk: The Origins of Sex. Faramerz shows us a photograph of a plate from 1730 that was used in sex clubs for men to wank into. We all laugh and now want to buy his book. I wonder if he’s single and straight.
  • Knowing where to go now I avoid the helpful volunteers.
  • 45, 46, 47… We queues for talks, tickets, tea, and the toilet (from all that tea), but no one pushes in.
  • Un-ironic berets, literary scarves and intellectual spectacles join the line… 61, 62, 63…
  • “Family Matters” discusses the challenges of writing autobiographies featuring those closest to you. I think about my extended family unit who are struggling to deal with grief and are breaking down. Part of me feels sad for them. Another part wants to write the story.
  • 101, 102, 103… I step up my pace to beat the crowd to the next talk. It’s not that difficult.
  • The ‘Satire in Politics’ room is alive with enthusiastic nodding and lol-ing at intellectual jokes.photo
  • Minds are stimulated and there is discourse. Andrew Bolt and Christopher Pyne are made fun of. I am thankful I live in a country where it’s ok – encouraged even – to make fun of those in power.
  • 159.
  • I made the cut off by standing in line for 30 minutes; many others didn’t.
  • But the waiting isn’t over. If I really want to be a writer there is a long slog ahead… and I’m not ready to give up just yet.
  • See you next year #swf2013!

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