The second annual Bellingen Readers & Writers Festival is upon us! To find out more about what’s in store this year, we chat to Program Director, Annette Marfordling, and guest author, Charlotte Wood.
The Bellingen Readers & Writers Festival is in its second year. What developments have you made to the event this year?
We are retaining our vision to create an annual regional festival in an intimate setting, which focuses entirely on Australian, regional and local authors and is unique among other literary festivals in valuing local indigenous involvement, staging festival events using the region’s rich natural environment and offering schools in the region the opportunity to allow their students to meet some of the festival guests in a classroom setting.
In 2012, the main festival is expanded from two to three days, the number of guest authors from just over 30 to more than 50, the number of festival sessions and events from 30 to 42 and the number of workshops for aspiring writers from four to six.
The range of special events in an environmental setting has broadened to include not only poetry walks in the Dorrigo Rainforest, paddling with a poet and ‘Talking Stones’, but also surfing and surf stories at Valla Beach and weaving stories on the banks of the Bellinger River.
A new youth writing competition, ‘Shopfront Shorts’, is being run for young people aged 13 – 25. Finalists will have their story or poem shown in one of the shop windows of Bellingen.
Who are some of the standout authors presenting at this year’s festival?
That’s a very difficult question, because almost everyone would give a different answer. Because we want to engage readers of all ages, backgrounds and tastes, we aspire to putting a program together accordingly. Our website has a full list of authors and their achievements.
What’s on the program for this year?
On Sunday 18 March, in the lead up to the festival, a very special marathon reading of our patron Peter Carey’s novel Oscar and Lucinda will be held at Gleniffer Hall, next to the small church that inspired the novel.
The Saturday Literary Lunch will feature Robert Drewe as speaker.
The very successful Poetry Slam has been incorporated into the main program and will take place on Friday night in the larger Memorial Hall.
Saturday Night Live will feature readings by some of the headline authors, a musical performance by amazing singer/songwriter Andy White and the popular Literary Quiz, with prizes for the audience.
And during the day on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the Memorial Hall and the Bellingen Library will be filled with the guest authors, discussing anything from ‘The Lure of History’ to ‘Telling Refugees’ Stories’, ‘Paths to Publication’ and ‘Keeping the Kids Happy’, while book launches, poetry readings and readings by local and regional readers will delight audiences in the Talking Tent.
How do people find out more and/or purchase tickets to the event(s)?
The festival program, including details on all special events and workshops from 21 March, is available on our website at www.bellingenwritersfestival.com.au and in print in all branch libraries in the region.
For queries, firstname.lastname@example.org or phone Festival Chair Brian Purcell on 0401 341 075.
Weekend passes and tickets for workshops and special events can be purchased online at www.bellingenwritersfestival.com.au
or (via the internet) at the Waterfall Way Centre in Hyde St, Bellingen.
When did writing go from being a hobby to a career?
After my second parent’s death when I was 29, life separated into important and unimportant things. I knew suddenly and urgently that I needed to stop thinking about writing and start doing it for real.
I started writing classes and a novel, and my first novel, Pieces of a Girl, was published five years later. I’ve since written three more novels, edited a short story anthology and have a non fiction book about cooking called Love & Hunger: Thoughts on the Gift of Food, coming out in May.
Describe your style of writing.
Hard to do – I usually leave that to others! I guess my work is classed as ‘literary fiction’, and reviewers have described my style as both lyrical and spare. I suppose I think of my style as intimate, contemporary, both funny and sad and – I would like to think – elegant.
I focus on intimate stories and ordinary lives of couples and families. I am always elated when readers tell me they recognise themselves and their lives in my books.
Tell us about your latest book.
Animal People is a 24-hour urban love story that follows the troubled drifter protagonist, Stephen, through one of the worst days of his life – the day he’s decided to dump his lovely girlfriend Fiona.
It’s an exploration of the stresses of contemporary urban life, of our strange and conflicted relationships with animals, and how one man learns that love is not the trap he has thought, but in fact offers him the greatest freedom he could ever have.
It also explores the deep bonds that are possible between adults and other people’s children.
What’s your involvement with the Bellingen Readers and Writers Festival this year?
I’m sitting on two wonderful panels: Exploring Society Through Fiction on Saturday 24 March; and The Power of the Story, on Sunday 25 March at 1.15pm.
I am thrilled to be in the company of wonderful and diverse writers Robert Drewe, Marele Day, Kirsten Tranter and Caroline Overington.