It’s been a week since the Perth Writers Festival finished – how did that happen?! I don’t want to let it fade away without mentioning a few things, so here are my Top 5 highlights:
1. Margaret Atwood
Anyone who was lucky enough to get to the Perth Concert Hall on Saturday night was treated to a fascinating and entertaining hour listening to Margaret Atwood talking about everything from her childhood to writing The Handmaid’s Tale (one of my all-time favourite books) to her use of Twitter and co-writing an online zombie story! The hour was over far too soon, but I’d highly recommend not only her fiction but also her collection of essays entitled Curious Pursuits, which contains great material for anyone interested in writing.
2. Perth writers
Perth is booming – and thankfully it’s not just the mining sector! So many talented writers from Perth have introduced new books in the past few months, from the debuts of Dawn Barker (Fractured) and Emma Chapman (How to Be a Good Wife) to the second novels of Annabel Smith (Whisky Charlie Foxtrot) and Natasha Lester (If I Should Lose You). They were all at the festival talking about their work, they’ve all been getting rave reviews, and I’d highly recommend checking them out.
3. The Stella Prize Trivia Night
I thoroughly enjoyed myself at the Stella Prize trivia night. I had a brilliant team – comprising Anita Heiss, Annabel Smith, Susan Johnson, Ailsa Piper and Mardi McConnochie (who, thank goodness, knew some of the answers!) Everyone present made it a fun, relaxed evening, making up for my distinct lack of knowledge! The Stella Prize has recently announced its inaugural long-list, which you can check out here.
One of the sessions I was most looking forward to was called ‘Rise of the Apocalypse’. I’ve long been attracted to dystopian fiction, and the genre has had a resurgence in the last few years. After listening to readings by Peter Heller (The Dog Stars), Karen Thompson Walker (Age of Miracles) and Isobelle Carmody (http://www.isobellecarmody.net/books/) I want to go and find all their books. Dystopian fiction is widely classed as science fiction or speculative fiction nowadays – however, what Peter Heller had to say really struck me, particularly after all the research I’ve just done on endangered species for Shallow Breath: ‘…we are in the sixth great wave of extinction… don’t ask what will be the next apocalypse – we’re in it. We’ve lost half our coral reefs. What happens when the plankton goes? The ocean goes. You don’t need to know all the facts to know that things are changing at a faster and faster rate.’
5. Talking about Shallow Breath
On Saturday afternoon I got to talk about Shallow Breath as part of WritingWA’s ‘A Glass of Wine and a Good Book’ series. I was paired with Julienne van Loon, another fantastic WA writer (Harmless, Road Story, Beneath the Bloodwood Tree), who asked some great questions and allowed me to talk a lot about different aspects of the book – particularly re-creating the old Atlantis Marine Park in WA – as well as some of the more harrowing research on dolphin hunts in Japan. I was lucky to have Amanda Curtin (The Sinkings, Inherited) in the audience, as Amanda is a WA writer I greatly admire. Her comment that she found the ending of Shallow Breath to be a brave one was one of the greatest compliments I have received about the book. So I raced off to see Margaret Atwood on a high – thank you, Amanda, and everyone who came!
The next day I spent the morning as part of the family day at PWF, helping out with a Room to Read awareness stall. Room to Read is a fantastic, accessible charity promoting school libraries in developing countries, and girls’ education worldwide, so I’d urge everyone to find out more about them. I then rushed off to the Wilderness Society’s Concert for the Kimberley – and enjoyed listening to Missy Higgins and John Butler with 20,000 others while adding our support to this vital cause. More on that another time, but after a fantastic Perth Writers Festival weekend I can’t wait until 2014.