This weekend, I was a part of Perth Writers Festival – a wonderful relaxed literary celebration in the grounds of the University of Western Australia (UWA). To set the scene, UWA is a cross between the idyllic university campus and the forest of Midsummer Night’s Dream. It is the kind of place that made the 1960s buildings at Edinburgh a severe disappointment.
My first session on ‘Identity’ was held in the aptly named ‘Tropical Grove’. I met the lovely Annabel Smith (Whisky Charlie Foxtrot) and Madeleine Thien (Dogs at the Perimeter) and our brilliant chair Angela Meyer in the Green Room half an hour before the session. We’d conversed a little via email, and it was so lovely to meet them in person. Angela was so well prepared and the session went swimmingly: we had a lively discussion covering the identity of our protagonists, and how that shifts throughout our novels. We also talked a little about the identity of the author and how that changes on publication.
After heading to the signing tent, I went off for lunch at Matilda Bay restaurant and had the most delicious cray fish and a glass of Prosecco with my fiancé. The view was amazing and I think it was the happiest I’ve felt in a long time. I was buzzing to be a part of my first festival, and it was one of those days when everything was perfect.
We returned to UWA for my next slot: a brilliant idea for an event organised by Writing WA called ‘A Glass of Wine and A Good Book’. The combination of a wine tasting with discussions with local authors reminded me a little of our pairing of whisky and How To Be A Good Wife on the #indiebookcrawl that I undertook with my editor and agent in the UK. I had a lovely chat with WA Author Julia Lawrinson while people sipped their wine. There were lots of interesting questions from the audience which kept me on my toes!
In the evening, we went to watch Margaret Atwood talk. I can honestly say she was every bit as witty and clever as I thought she would be. My fiancé, who isn’t a big reader, really enjoyed the discussion too. I got the sense that when you are in her position, with so much success behind you, you can really say whatever you like, and her honesty was very refreshing and aspirational.
The next day, I had my final session, ‘At The Edge of Darkness’ with journalist Caroline Overington (Sisters of Mercy) and Dianne Touchell (Creepy and Maud). We were chaired by Jane Cornes, who instantly made me feel relaxed, and kept us all laughing throughout the discussion. It was another great session, with interesting questions: and it was great to hear what the other writers had to say.
After this, I went to see Kevin Powers talk about The Yellow Birds, a book I loved. I really enjoyed his talk, but I was struck by the fact it must be difficult if you have written about such a personal experience, as it seemed much of focus was on discussing his personal experiences in Iraq when his novel is fiction. It must be tricky to keep that distinction separate.
I met many other lovely Western Australian authors, who made me feel much less alone in the most isolated city on earth. I can’t wait to read their books: Dr Dawn Barker, whose first novel Fractured is out today (go Dawn!); Amanda Curtin; Lynne Leonhardt (I adored her book ‘Finding Jasper’, set in SW Western Australia); and Sara Foster. I wish I’d had the chance to meet Natasha Lester and Vikki Wakefield too!
The whole weekend was a wonderful blur of fabulous author events, starstruck moments, beautiful weather and happiness. After the excitements of the past few months, I felt content with what had happened, and so grateful. I hope this is a feeling that never goes away.