This morning dawned an apocalyptic orange, heavy with outback smoke and dust. Gone was the bright blue of springtime. As I neared the city, gusty winds swirled around, making it difficult to know whether earth particles were coming in or being blown away. Blinking dry eyes, I photographed the pallid light which struggled to illuminate the city skyline.
I was pretty annoyed at the weather’s bad timing. With thousands of people, both local and international, converging on South Bank for the Brisbane Writers Festival, it made outdoor conditions uncomfortable. I spared a thought for the farmers and those suffering terribly as bushfires rage across Queensland. We need our wet season now!
I was trying not to hurry. I could taste the dust as it rasped in and out of my lungs. Nerves and excitement made me shallow breathe, this was the first morning event at Brisbane Writers Festival. After a quick swig from my water bottle, I headed towards State Library. “Slow down”, I chided. “Take a photo of the whales”.
After my paper ticket was beeped, I entered the Queensland Writers Centre rooms, oh, the joy of filtered air. I settled into a well-designed (and comfortable) white upholstered chair ready for “Writing Futures”. Placed in front of me was a bowl of sweets to fortify and information to read. Two people were already standing beside a whiteboard. One was the QWC spokesperson and the other was UK author Jasper Fforde. He was about to give us a three-hour almost non-stop workshop based on his “narrative dare” principle. Pens, paper and iPads were certainly worked overtime!
On arrival next day, a more pleasant day, I turned the corner and there was the solid, colourful comfort of Angel’s Place, a 7.5metre high dome structure which features a print of an original artwork created by artist Gordon Hookey. Angel’s Palace is a multi-disciplinary collaboration that represents the voice of Indigenous Australia and celebrates Aboriginal storytelling and literature in a powerful experience for audiences.
While I was photographing Angel’s Place, I heard a cultured Englishman’s voice behind me, asking a question about the dome. I recognised that voice! Sure enough, when I swung around I saw author Jasper Fforde walking past, heading towards Gallery of Modern Art with others on the “Dream Worlds” panel. A fanfic moment rushed over me. Before I knew it I was following the VIP group. Walk, click, click, walk and they disappeared inside. The audience was ushered in shortly afterwards and we took our seats in Cinema B for some serious (and silly) stuff on sleep and dreams.
Had lunch at home prior to returning for “Early Riser: An Evening Conversation” with Jasper Fforde and hosted by John Birmingham in The Edge auditorium, State Library of Queensland. Tough words, Jasper doesn’t swear but John does, and there were jibes, a bite to their conversation. Jasper talked about the creation of his current book and John advised him not to give away any spoilers.
Below is what the queue looked like while I was waiting for Jasper Fforde’s autograph. And I stood with an old work colleague I met quite by accident. Jasper kindly signed my copy of “Early Riser”, stamped it “This book has been declare SKILLZERO Protocol Approved”—an author/reader joke—and tucked a postcard inside. I asked him what his favourite pet would be, Dodo or Quarkbeast, and he said Quarkbeast (from “The Last Dragonslayer” series) so the family was happy.
You may have noticed that I do not describe the full content of each event. This is personal preference, I don’t want to divulge things which may be copyright.
The organisation and facilities for this experience are first-class and everything ran smoothly. As a past volunteer at other literary occasions, I appreciated the knowledge and friendliness of the current volunteers. Their fluorescent aqua t-shirts stood out!
Another day draws to a close. I looked forward to tomorrow and perusing more free activities, strolling around the abundant bookshop, then chatting at author “Book Club” with drinks and nibbles, sitting on cushions in the sunshine on the River Deck at State Library. It’s not difficult to appreciate the luxury of it all.
Ciao for now!
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward