Tomorrow marks the start of Adelaide Writers’ Week, and I’m giddy as a kid on Christmas Eve. Writers’ Week is one of those events that makes me so gosh-darn proud to call Adelaide home. Every year, a selection of Australian and international writers take to the stages in the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden off King William Street to perform readings, discuss their craft, sign copies of their books and answer readers’ questions. The best part? It’s free. FREE! (A fact that I took for granted until I made the move east and found myself paying $25 per session at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival.)
The ambiance is a little bit special and a whole lot unique. For interstate and overseas readers, allow me to paint a picture: the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden is a large, shady park on the city fringe, complete with rose beds, stately trees and rolling lawns. Four white tents are spread across the grass: two serve as stages, with hundreds of chairs fanning out from the podiums, another is for (monstrously overpriced) food and wine and the last is a pop-up book shop. Chairs and tables are scattered between, where friends meet for coffee and to share their book hauls between sessions. Others picnic on the grass, fanning themselves with their programs, or else jostle for the best seats inside the tents. If you’re lucky, you might even spot your favourite author moving through the crowds. Basically, it’s the best garden party a bookworm could ever hope to attend.
Today, I want to share a some of the sessions I’m eager to see, but first a few words for Adelaide’s young readers and writers: please come. I say that because a lot of you don’t, and I sort of understand why. I remember looking at the program the first year I went at eighteen and feeling utterly bewildered. The only writer I’d even heard of was Robert Dessaix, and only because State Theatre was staging an adaptation of his novel Night Letters at the time and I’d won free tickets (this was back in 2004 and he’s appearing again this year). I felt like an impostor because I had this idea that I was already supposed to be familiar with all the writers, an idea enforced by many of the (arguably pretentious) conversations I heard going on around me. Even though I knew it was silly, I kept waiting for some member of the literati to grab me by the wrist and drag me from the garden, point me towards the library and tell me to come back when I’d got my head around the who’s who of world literature. Which is obviously ridiculous. Writers’ Week is about discovering new authors as much as it is about seeing old favourites. That first year alone, wandering overwhelmed between the tents, I heard, among others, Jeanette Winterson, Carmel Bird, John Harwood and Garth Nix—names that meant nothing to me before the festival, but now inhabit prime real estate on my bookshelf.
The crowd can also be intimidating (read: terrifying.) Writers’ Week’s got a reputation for being the one of those events where Adelaide gets her snob on. (And by golly, she can be a queen bee bitch when she wants to be.) The eastern suburbs book clubbers will be out in force. As will the English and creative writing professors and PhDs. And we like to talk shop. Also, many of us don’t see sunlight all that often and get a tad overexcited when we do. Don’t be deterred. Writers’ Week is for everyone. Or, at least, it’s meant to be, and at thirty, I’m thoroughly sick of still feeling like one of the youngest people there. So do come. Listen to writers you’ve never heard of, as well as those you know. Ask questions. Bring friends. Tweet about it. Blog abut it. Bookstagram it. Claim it.
If you’re not sure where to start, here’s a few of the sessions I’m excited to see:
Day 1: Saturday
9:30am, West Stage: The Short Story (Etgar Keret, Fiona McFarlane, Jim Shepard)
Day 2: Sunday
9:30am, East Stage: How Enid Blyton Changed My Life (Robert Dessaix)
12pm, West Stage: A Marriage (Lauren Groff, Virginia Reeves)
2:30pm, East Stage: Political Women (Jane Caro, Annabel Crabb)
Day 3: Monday
2:30pm, West Stage: On Crime Writing (Peter May, Margie Orford)
5pm, West Stage: Poetry Reading (Aidan Coleman, Jelena Dinic, Jill Jones, Kate Llewellyn, Thom Sullivan)
Day 4: Tuesday
9:30am, East Stage: The Mitfords (Laura Thompson)
5pm, Weast Stage: True Crime (Gideon Haigh)
Day 5: Wednesday
10:45am, East Stage: Women and Children First (Jennifer Clement, Margie Orford)
12pm, East Stage: Novels in Novels (Debra Adelaide, Gail Jones)
1:15pm, Weast Stage: Inbetween Days (Vikki Wakefield)
Day 6: Thursday
9:30am, East Stage: The Natural Way of Things (Charlotte Wood)
2:30pm West Stage: Outsiders (Tony Birch, Paddy O’Reilly)
You can view the full program here, and I have vague, ambitious plans to write a daily blog summary of the sessions I enjoy, time and work permitting. Regardless, I’ll be posting pics on Instagram (@project_lectito) throughout, and maybe the occasional tweet (also @project_lectito). If you’re in Adelaide, I hope to see you there!
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