Today was my first day at the Sydney Writer’s festival and in a day where everything wanted to make my life a little bit more inconvenient I still managed to have a great day. I had a total of four sessions today, some amazing, some interesting, some enlightening and thought provoking, all adding to the wonderful atmosphere that the Writer’s Festival can produce,
Gender, Genre, and Literary Prestige was a highlight, moderated by Aviva Tuffield who was one of the founding members of the Stella prize with Ceridwen Dovey, Kate Grenville, and Emily Bitto on the panel. It was a wonderful session in that it once again highlighted where women stand in the literary world and the unintentional neglect women have gotten and the lack of recognition for their work. Just having the Stella prize Aviva admitted, meant numerous male judges have told her they hadn’t thought that much about women writers, and that the Stella has opened their eyes to unconsciously overlooking their work.
I also attended the short but highly enjoyable On the Problems with Jurassic Park with John Pickrall. John discussed why Hollywood had chosen to ignore the new dinosaur facts that had been discovered in it’s recent film Jurassic World when Steven Spielberg had done such a great job in 1992 making sure his dinosaurs reflect the current knowledge of the time, even the Raptors which John explained was confusion between two species with similar names.
As a minimally educated dinosaur fan it was also fascinating to hear him discuss the discovery of feathers on many if not all carnivorous dinosaurs and the possible reasons why this was chosen to be ignored in the new film in favour of the reptile-like creatures instead. He also agreed with my own personal pet peeve, about why a new hybrid breed of dinosaur needed to be created when there are many great other big dinosaurs that could have been used. Overall, while he said he will still be going to see the film (won’t we all), it is not so much a dinosaur movie; it could be a dragon movie for all the little dinosaur actually in it. It is just another monster movie.
So those two were the highlights of my day but they weren’t my only sessions. The Art of the Short Story was the third session and it was interesting to hear Danielle Wood, Nicholas Jose, and Abigail Ulman discuss with Alice Grundy their own short story works, and where their ideas come from, as well as technical aspects like word counts, collection themes, and how they developed their current collections. And Roanna Gonsalves chatted with Ellen van Neerven, Paul Dawson, and Anna Westbrook in A Pack of Lies: Narration in Fiction discussing virtues and different intentions of writing in first or third person, and how literature has the ability to pressure governments, and how dangerous it really can be.
Lining up for each of these sessions I got to chat to a few great people about writing, writer’s festivals, and even got to explain the Newcastle Writer’s Festival to a woman who did not know it existed. From unavoidable eavesdropping I did learn this was also her first year at the festival so I hope she, and many other first time attendees, got as much enjoyment and wisdom that I had in my first year and of course, in subsequent years.
As my first day comes to an end I have yet to be approached for a survey this year which is a shame, I like getting the sticker at the end and need it to add to my new notebook, tradition demands it. I still have three days left though so hopefully I can snag a sticker at some point during this time.