Ahoy from Sydney!
Before I head on to Friday’s activities, here is a quick recap from Thursday night, Jeffrey Eugenides.
I said I wasn’t going to write as Eugenides told me it was going to be basically the same talk as Melbourne, but can I tell you: he was wrong!
The venue was beautiful, and I arrived early.
Much to my delight, there was a night market of some description happening right outside, so I wandered the stalls.
There was also very pretty bird cages hanging from the surrounding buildings; in the dark they were lit and looked amazing.
Proof that Sydney people are lovely: I was sitting, waiting for Eugenides, and got talking to the people around me about the festival and books and what not. One of them asked where I was staying and immediately offered me a lift back! She said the park I was using to cut through from the station was dodgy at night and said she was going right past there to drop some stuff off to her daughter’s house. How lovely of her!
Some notes I took:
• Apparently, The Virgin Suicides is one of the most shop-lifted books
• Just like in The Virgin Suicides, where the boys call the girls and play records over the phone, Eugenides did that too
• He spoke about the anonymity of the road, how you can become anyone you want to be
• He writes stories that interest him, and hopes that they interest others
• He was asked about writing so brilliantly from the point-of-view of females, and he said he doesn’t write from the POV of all females, just one. You can craft one female and get it right, but if you write about ‘all’ females, you start to generalize and get it wrong
And now! Yesterday’s post!
My very first session was one I was really looking forward to: the beautiful Toni Jordan with Kathy Lette, hosted by Gretel Kileen.
The queue! I arrived over an hour early and already there was madness.
I noticed that Sydney-siders have no qualms pushing in; I was second in the queue behind a lovely lady and we chatted a little bit, and inch by inch several other ladies started to push in front of her.
What really got me was several times, when yet more ladies tried to push in front of the ones who had already pushed in front, they told them the back of the queue was the other way and they were at the front!
So they were allowed to push in and no-one else!
Regardless, we finally were allowed in the venue and I made a bee-line right to the front (duh!). I had prime position right in front of Toni in the front row, which was excellent.
I swear, being a book nerd never gets old!!
Before I launch into my notes, I have to say I was happily surprised with Gretel as the host.
I only knew her from two instances: Big Brother (no more need be said!) and one of her novels, I Love You, Zelda Bloo, which I didn’t particularly enjoy.
But as a moderator for a session? Amazing.
She was educated, informed, had intelligent questions, kept the ball rolling, bounced easily off Toni and Kathy.
I’ve always said that Kirsty Murray was the best moderator I’ve ever seen, and I think Gretel has to be a close second.
The topic was chick-lit, and, as always, this divides people.
- They opened the session with Kathy telling a story of when she killed a man! She was at the premiere for Mad Cows – the movie based on her book – and there was a backpackers and one of them was leaning out the window to watch what was going on and fell and died instantly! How awful.
- Toni said that the term ‘chick-lit’ was made up by marketing people who like to segment and place books in categories so they know how to sell it (side-note: as someone who works in Marketing, I can attest to this! I love to segment!)
- Kathy hates the term
- There was a big discussion on men, and it was said that the equivalent men’s novels – ie Nick Hornby – aren’t talked down to, or treated as fluff
- ‘Advanced condensation,’ Kathy said
- Toni spoke beautifully about the magic of fiction, saying that it’s the ‘merging of two minds’ with the reader coming half way
- ‘[It’s the] magic space that means the book is different for everyone,’ Toni said
- Toni also said, ‘The rude bits are my favourite bits to write’
- Kathy spoke about justice, saying, ‘Poetic justice is the best form of justice; you can impale a misogynist write a pen’
- Kathy’s philosophy on writing is, ‘Thou Shalt Not Bore’
- ‘I write the book I wish I had when I was going through something,’ Kathy said
To illustrate her point about book covers and marketing, Toni had two different cover versions of her second novel, Fall Girl, to show us.
See the difference? One looks literary, the other Barbie Girl-pink – classic chick-lit.
You wouldn’t even know it was for the same book.
It was an hilariously funny session, informative and could, should, have gone on for hours.
After that, I rushed off to the ABC studios as I had a ticket to The First Tuesday Bookclub filming (yes, I am that person who goes to events like this by herself!).
Before the filming, I had time to browse in one of the local bookshops, where I treated myself to three notebooks.
The filming was, at they often are, lots of sitting around, then bang, it starts and just as quickly finishes.
Jennifer only had to re-do her introduction once – and then her closing once as well – and over all seemed really nice and professional.
I find the whole business of television and movie filming fascinating, and I love seeing how it all works.
Because I’m a nerd, I was the first person in the studio, and thus got my pick of all the seats. I picked in the middle, about half way, reasoning that the cameras in front aren’t glass and thus I should be a bit above them.
I was quite concerned when the rest of the audience started pouring in, and all I heard was, ‘Let’s sit here, like last time’ ‘These were great seats last time we were here’ – everyone was talking about their great seats, which were on the side… I started to panic a bit, and moved back two rows, but still in the middle.
In the end, I had a perfectly good seat! After the filming, I had a few hours before my next sessions.
Earlier in the day I decided I’d like to go to the Aquarium, so I pre-booked a ticket.
This left me with a couple hours to kill (staggered entry tickets) so I went back to the backpackers. I had two options: nap or blog. I admit, ladies and gentlemen, that this was the reason I didn’t blog yesterday. I spent forty-five minutes napping on one of the other beds.
This festival business is exhausting! Don’t worry, I thought of you often as I laid there, mind too wired to actually sleep, but the mere actions of lying under a blanket: amazing.
I dragged myself up and headed to the Aquarium.
At this point, I would have happily lost my money and just stayed in bed – but where would the fun in that bed? It’s always the way, you’re tired can’t be bothered to go to that late-night session.
But it’s always worth it. I’m so glad I went to the Aquarium, I just love marine life (did you know in a former life I wanted to become a marine biologist? I’ve always had a fascination with marine life, sharks and whales particularly) and it was so interesting and fascinating to see it.
Look at this! So cute!
After that, I had two sessions to go to.
I have to admit, I was seriously contemplating going home as I was just so tired and the venue was ages away from where I was staying.
But like before, I’m so glad I stayed.
I saw two sessions, a late-night almost chat-show-esq deal with the boys from The Chaser, who had various festival guests: Jeffrey Eugenides (hooray!), Alice Pung (always a pleasure listening to her) and Julia Baird (so interesting!).
They also took off festivals in general with a funny skit and generally had everyone in stitches.
The main event that night I was waiting for, however, was Teen Diaries – where three writers read sections from their teen diaries.
Marieke Hardy was a part of it and went first, and I have to say I was most looking forward to her as I am a huge fan.
The entire session was hilarious and definitely worth the expensive taxi ride back to the backpackers and little sleep.
So that was my day two!
What did you get up to?