Brisbane Writers Festival 2010

Each year the Writers Festival sets State Library buzzing with troops of school children, readers, writers-in-the-making and passers-by who drop in just to see what all the fuss is about. The star attractions, of course, are some of the best home grown and international authors! As State Library’s Queensland Authors Librarian I was set loose on the Festival to slave over a hot cup of coffee and get around to as many sessions as possible! (Have I mentioned lately how much I love my job?!) Here are some of the sessions that I attended and my thoughts:

‘Hush Your Mouth: Chick Lit is Valid’

This was one of my favourites! Three very articulate, intelligent and highly amusing women writers, Anita Heiss, Rebecca Sparrow and Jessica Rudd, questioned critics’ views of commercial literature and lamented the position they found themselves in having to devote their entire session to defending their genre. I was struck by the thought that 19th century women novelists, such as ‘George Eliot’ and Jane Austen, could have been up on that podium with them joining in this discussion. Those women writers also had to waste a lot of time and energy defending the ‘Domestic Novel’ genre, which was written by women and was concerned with issues of interest to women of a certain age, like: domestic affairs, fashion, etiquette and ‘matters of the heart’. Today their novels are regarded as classics because of their valuable social comment and historical detail. This subject matter, written with wit and good humour, is always a pleasurable read, now or in one hundred years time – so why wait?


Above: Queensland Authors Anita Heiss (photo courtesy Random House), Rebecca Sparrow (photo courtesy Queensland Writers Centre) and Jessica Rudd (photo courtesy Text Publishing).

Book launch:

Writers’ Footsteps: A Queensland Literary Companion

Book launches are wonderful things! The author nervously anticipating that wonderful moment when their brainchild makes its debut; readers chatting animatedly, eager to clasp the latest addition to their bookshelves and smell the new ink on its pages.

The launch of Stanton Mellick’s, Writers’ Footsteps: A Queensland Literary Companion, last Friday evening teased these emotions to twanging point. Right up until minutes before the launch, the glue was still drying on the binding and there were legitimate fears that it would not make it to its own launch!

This new reference book examines the places around Queensland that inspired authors to write poetry, prose and plays about them. He covers 530 authors spanning the past 150 years.

(Above Photo: Me with the author, Stanton Mellick, at the launch of his book, Writers’ Footsteps: A Queensland Literary Companion)

I also enjoyed some very intriguing trivia that emerged during panel discussions over the week:

‘A la-Francaise’

Jean-Francois Vernay observed that David Malouf’s, Johnno, was the only one of his larger works that French publishers were not interested in translating into their language probably because it was set in Brisbane and there was too much Australiana that would be difficult to grasp by a French readership without frequently turning to an encyclopaedia.

‘Writing about Crooks’

Val McDermid (of Wire in the Blood fame) was beaten up by a wrestler. She explained that this was why, when her protagonists got knocked around, they didn’t immediately bounce back and pursue the villain. She knows how they would feel so she always gives them a reasonable period of convalescence before putting them back into the fray.

Jake Adelstein (author of Tokyo Vice) explained why many Yakuza bosses have liver transplants: It’s because the Japanese tradition of body tattooing requires the use of a particular ink, which is highly toxic. It creates a lot of stress on the liver and in many instances causes liver failure. He also mentioned that the traditional method of tattooing is extremely painful because traditional needles are much longer than the modern ones and their use kills the skin cells, which in turn results in the loss of the ability to sweat. This is why people who have these body tattoos find it very uncomfortable to be in the sun. He also added that women with body tattoos are highly prized because tattooed flesh remains cool, so it is very pleasurable for men to lie on top of them in summer! It’s amazing what you can learn during Brisbane Writer’s Festival.

Leanne Day

Queensland Authors & Legal Deposit Librarian

State Library of Queensland


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