Held at CQUni Bundaberg on 7th & 8th October, WriteFest had beautiful weather and the attendees eager to expand their writing horizons. Over the course of the weekend there were many events –
- keynote address & panel discussion
- 8 workshops
- 2 masterclasses
- book chat with three authors
- 7 editor/writer interviews
- booksignings on Sat and Sun at Hinkler Central with four of the authors
- author talk at Bundaberg Library
- and Text as Art in Bourbong St, a public display by 10 artists and writers
Arnold Zable had the room’s full attention with his passionate, insightful and at times humourous keynote address. This was followed by the panel on the topic ‘Write What You Dare Not Say’ with Arnold, Helena Pastor and Kallee Buchanon. Mediated by Ross Peddlesdon, the engaging and deep discussions left a provocative imprint on the thoughts of those seated.
There were a few shocked attendees that came out of Aleesah Darlison’s workshop on Writing for Children – yes people, the children’s writing industry is a big, beautiful mammoth. It’s so important for aspiring writers to hear from industry professionals like Aleesah, as sometimes being an author can be glamourised by the media. But in reality, sustaining a career as an author is a lot of hard work that takes dedication, continual learning and passion. And if those aspiring writers still wanted a ticket on board the writing train, then Aleesah’s workshop gave them the tools to move forward.
I spent some time with Cindi Drennan looking at a location for a possible future light projection installation. I pretty much just stood there while her creative mind saw so many options and opportunities that I was quite in awe watching her clogs turn. What she delivered through her workshop was unique and inspiring as her company, Illuminart, is impressing Australia wide with their innovative storytelling.
Amanda Hampson’s workshop, Anatomy of a Novel, on historical fiction proved a favourite with her attendees. One left feedback saying, ‘Amanda Hampson’s workshop was most valuable to me. How she sets out her chapters, and increases interest in the plot and characters.’
Edwina Shaw hugged me. No, I’m not fabulous, she is just a very warm and appreciative person. After waking up to an ocean sunrise she expressed her gratitude for her accommodation overlooking Bargara beach. At WriteFest we feel the presenter’s experience should be just as memorable as the attendees. And she delivered two great workshops, with one attendee leaving feedback, ‘Both workshops I attended with Edwina gave me more insight into crafting my novels.’
She writes, she sings, she plays guitar – Helena Pastor presented two workshops at WriteFest and also wooed us all with her soulful music at the Gelato Groove gig in Bundaberg a few nights later. Here’s a clip of her magical tunes.
Rachel Bailey spoiled her attendees with not only a faublous masterclass, but also Freddo Frogs. That’s a lady who knows the way to a writer’s heart. When asked what was most valuable to them, one attendeed wrote, ‘Creating Rounded Characters with Rachel Bailey – a fantastic presenter!’
I’ve had a few requests for Arnold Zable to come back to WriteFest. And I understand why. I drove him to the airport at 5:30 in the morning when he shared his feelings about his masterclass. It’s clearly not just a job for him. He feels connected to people and their journeys and I’ll admit my eyes welled up as he spoke with such compassion. Too much lovely feedback to share in one blog post.
Rachael Donovan interviewed 7 writers about their manuscript partials, with half of them being asked to submit their whole manuscript to her. This type of opportunity has led to many writers finding publication and the beginning of their dream career as an author.
We saw many new faces and also familiar ones, with regular WriteFest attendees travelling from Rockhampton, Yeppoon, Benaraby and Hervey Bay.
A new event was Writers in the Regions – a panel discussion with three local authors. It was inspiring and insightful to hear from authors about their journey, their practice, and of course their stories.
All of the workshops were well received by the attendees, and as an organiser I was lucky that they were all fabulous people as well as being professional presenters.
With the sad news that the WriteFest organiser for 2017 had to leave the position, I was asked to takeover to finalise the details and facilitate the event. It was a big job, but the staff at Creative Regions were super supportive and my volunteers on the day were keen to help.
WriteFest this year ran with a new format which was met with mixed feelings. WriteFest was run by the Bundaberg Writers’ Club for 11 years before being handed over to Creative Regions after the 2015 event. WriteFest 2016 ran to the simliar format, but with Creative Regions having to deliver particular KPIs they changed the format for 2017 to expand what could be offered and create broader appeal to bring visitors to the region. Although the workshops and presenters were of exceptional quality, the number of attendees were less than prior years. So unfortunately Creative Regions are no longer in a position to continue managing WriteFest.
What does this mean for WriteFest in the future? It’s all uncertain. The event is owned by the Bundaberg Writers’ Club so it will be up to them to find a way to run it again, or perhaps decide that the event has run it’s course.
On a personal note I feel WriteFest is very important to regional writers. It has provided professional development and publication opportunities for writers who couldn’t get to major cities. It’s also been a wonderful networking experience. Writing can be a lonely job, so with WriteFest being a warm and friendly environment many friendships have been made. It would be sad if WriteFest was no more, but its memory will live on through the writers who became authors and the lonesome storytellers who found their tribe.