Well, the inaugural Bendigo Writers Festival is nigh. Three days of speakers, panels, booklaunches, literature, poetry, music and art.
I’m speaking on Saturday, a half-hour ‘hot seat’ interview about Hammered, my memoir. On Sunday, I’m hosting a panel consisting of award-winning authors Brett McBean and Lucy Sussex, as well as Cam Oliver–scriptwriter, producer and filmmaker who has collaborated with Greg McLean on Wolf Creek (and its upcoming sequel).
Held, as I said, over three days, the festival has a great venue in The Capital Theatre in Bendigo.
The Capital Theatre
The Capital Theatre in View Street is the home of the Bendigo Writers Festival. Originally a Masonic Hall, it dates back to the 1870s and is a grand and ornate building, right in the heart of the cultural precinct, and next door to the much-admired Bendigo Art Gallery. The main theatre will host keynote events on each day of the festival, while panel sessions and spotlight interviews will take place in the Bendigo Bank theatre and next door in the Fire Station. The La Trobe University Visual Arts Centre’s theatrette will also host sessions and workshops, with a special event to be held in the Bendigo Art Gallery as well.
Some wonderful guests make for a potentially wonderful weekend.
Ita is unrivalled in the world of publishing. Her career as a journalist and then ground-breaking editor was recently immortalised in a TV mini series Paper Giants and now she will put her own perspective on her influential and extraordinary life with her memoir, A Passionate Life.
Just say Horrible Harriet, or Mr Chicken and, of course, Old Tom, and generations of young readers will laugh and tell you their favourite episode in one of Leigh Hobbs’ fabulous picture books. One of Australia’s best-loved and most successful writer-illustrators, Leigh is also one of the most outlandish, inventive and entertaining.
A long career in Australian TV and fondly remembered for his writing and directing work on the iconic Homicice, Matlock Police, The Sullivansand mini series Against the Wind, it is Ian’s authority and passion for all things Ned Kelly that brings him to the festival. His successful reference books include the best seller Ned Kelly: A Short Life and The Fatal Friendship: Ned Kelly, Aaron Sherritt and Joe Byrne.
Described as bold, inventive and filled with mystery, Margo’s new bookSea Hearts is a strange, beautiful story based on the selkie myth, the sea people who haunt the imaginations of coastal peoples. Margo will talk about fantasy, and how to set the imagination free as well as how love and romance makes writing live and breathe.
Alex Miller has been short listed for the Miles Franklin Award seven times and won twice. He creates books that sing about the nature of the landscape, and the dangerous and essential power of love. His new novel, Autumn Laing, was inspired by his interest in the Heide circle of painters and in particular Sunday Reed.
Katherine Thomson has written plays, produced by Sydney Theatre Company, Magpie Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Company and Griffin. Diving for Pearls, will be staged in Bendigo during the festival. She will be presenting on Australian theatre, sharing her memories and hopes for live theatre as a contemporary entertainment.
Don has written three books on Australian history and spent several years writting political satire for the actor Max Gillies and political speeches for Premier John Cain and PM Paul Keating. Don is also a screenwriter of several feature films, including The Man Who Sued God, starring Billy Connolly and Judy Davis. Don will give us the first glimpse of his new book, The Book of the Bush.
A Miles Franklin winner and a land rights activist from the Gulf of Carpentaria, Alexis first wrote Plains of Promise and followed with the internationally renowned Carpentaria. Alexis has also published a collection of writings about the land rights movement and the Grog Wars – alcohol restrictions in Tennant Creek.
Sydney Smith is a past winner of the Age Short Story Competition, and her fiction and non-fiction has appeared in the Age, Griffith REVIEW, Island, Imago and the England Review. Sydney founded and co-ordinates the Victorian Mentoring Service for Writers. She has just released her first book, a harrowing memoir about parental abuse and the path to escape.
Lucy Sussex is a prolific writer, editor, reviewer and literature teacher. Her fiction ranges form sci-fi and horror to crime and detective fiction. She has also edited collections of crime and science fiction, and is an expert in early Australian women crime writers.
Paul D Carter
Paul D Carter was born in Melbourne and spent much of his youth going to Collingwood Football matches with his Dad and brother, Marcus. In 2001, Paul completed a Bachelor of Arts with honours from Deakin University and, in 2008 completed a PhD while writing Eleven Seasons which won this year’s Vogel’s Award. Paul grew up in Melbourne in the 1980s and has a keen interest in modern Australian history.
Dennis O’Keeffe graduated from Monash University in 1999, with a diploma specialising in Australian Folklife Studies) However; his greatest education has been his twenty years involvement at the forefront of the Australian Folk Movement. His craft of story-telling has evolved through continuous performances of our wonderful Australian traditional songs and his uncanny ability to compose unique songs pertaining to the tradition. He recently publishing Waltzing Matilda, the secret history of Australia’s favourite song.
Judith Armstrong is a Melbourne writer, who taught Russian literature and culture at the University of Melbourne. Her book about Clem Christesen, the creator of the literary magazine Meanjin, was shortlisted for the Age Book of the Year, and she went on to write many books, including The French Tutor, The Novel of Adultery and, her latest, War and Peace and Sonya, about Tolstoy’s life told from his wife’s perspective. She is also a passionate advocate of the art of reviewing, and will speak about the role of the critic at the Bendigo Writers Festival.
Gideon Haigh is a world-renowned cricket writer and also an authority on business and culture. He won the John Curtin Prize for Journalism in the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards in 2006 for an essay about the Google phenomenon. His books include Mystery Spinner (about Jack Iverson), Asbestos House (about the James Hardie company), The Racket: How Abortion became Legal in Australia, and his new one, The Office, a social history.
Hanifa Deen is an award-winning Australian author who writes narrative nonfiction and lives in Melbourne. She now works full-time as a writer, which she sees as the perfect medium for a woman with an irreverent tongue, a maverick Muslim perspective on life, and a passion to subvert stereotypes. Her books include The Jihad Seminar, Broken Bangles and Ali Abdul vs the King, about Muslims and the White Australia Policy.
Professor Kevin Brophy
Professor Kevin Brophy is a poet and novelist. He has had eleven books published. From 1980 to 1994 he edited the small press literary journal Going Down Swinging. His poems and essays have been widely anthologised and his book, Creativity, was shortlisted for the NSW Premiers Nonfiction Literary Award in 1999. He was awarded the Martha Richardson Medal for poetry in 2005. He was co-winner of the Calibre Prize for an outstanding essay in 2009. His books include Patterns of Creativity and a new book of prose poems, Radar, published in August.
Lisa lang was co-winner of the Vogel Literary Award in 2009, for her novel, Utopia Man, based on the life of Edward Cole, who created Cole’s Book Arcade in late-19th century Melbourne. She first wrote a biography of Cole “Chasing the Rainbow” and was subsequently selected in the Australian Society of Authors mentorship program.
Emilie Zoey Baker
Emilie Zoey Baker is a published award winning poet and slam champion. She has performed her poetry all around the world and is a state coordinator for the Australian Poetry Slam. She is also the winner of the Berlin International Slam as part of the 2010 Berlin International Literature Festival. She is co-cordinater of the Liner Notesspoken word tributes to classic albums. She has featured at Women Of Letters, Ted, The Sydney Writers Festival, The Melbourne International Arts Festival, as well as the Bowery in NYC and The Green Mill in Chicago. She also coordinated The Super Poets, who travel into schools exciting and delighting kids about the joys of writing and performing poetry, and developed the first state teen team poetry slam called OutLoud.
Tony Birch was born in inner-city Melbourne, into a large family of Aboriginal, West Indian and Irish descent. His upbringing was challenging and difficult, and much of this is captured in his remarkable debut, the semi-autobiographical Shadowboxing.
An alter boy and exceptional student at his local Catholic primary school, in adolescence, Birch went ‘off the rails’ as a teenager. He was expelled from two high schools for fighting and found trouble with the police for the same reason. Although somewhat adrift following his expulsions, he remained a voracious reader – once, when he was arrested by police, all they found when they patted him down was a copy of Camus’ The Outsider, which remains his favourite book.
Returning to night school to complete his studies, Birch met his mentor, Anne Misson, whose credo was very simple: ‘You’ll be great, but only if you work your arse off.’ Birch still lives by this and applies it to everything including his passion for running, which is where his writing is created and shaped.
Birch’s work is widely read and loved including by those who might normally avoid books, particularly teenage boys. Through his outreach work, he visits many schools to speak to students, and takes particular pleasure in returning to the two schools that expelled him, as both of his previous books are on the syllabus.
Janine Burke is the award-winning author of books of art history, biography and fiction. Between 1977 and 1982, she lectured in art history at the Victorian College of the Arts before resigning to write full time. She has degrees in art history from the University of Melbourne, La Trobe University and Deakin University. She has written extensively on the Heide Circle, including Joy Hester, Dear Sun: The Letters of Joy Hester and Sunday Reed andThe Eye of the Beholder: Albert Tucker’s Photographs. Australian Gothic, her acclaimed biography of Tucker and the final book in the Heide quartet, The Heart Garden.
She has lectured extensively on art, curated exhibitions, written for newspapers and journals and acted as a consultant to films and documentaries.
Arnold Zable is one of Australia’s best-loved storytellers. He was born in Wellington, New Zealand, and grew up in the inner Melbourne suburb of Carlton. He has travelled and lived in the USA, India, Papua New Guinea, Europe, Southeast Asia and China, and now lives in Melbourne with his wife and son.
Arnold is the award-winning and highly acclaimed author of the memoir Jewels and Ashes (1991) and the bestselling Café Scheherazade (2001), which was recently adapted for the stage. His other books includeThe Fig Tree (2002), Scraps of Heaven (2004) and Sea of Many Returns (2008) and the recent collection of true stories Violin Lessons (2011), which takes the reader on an intimate journey into the lives of people Arnold has met on travels over the last forty years.
Arnold is president of the International PEN, Melbourne, and is a human rights advocate. Formerly a lecturer at the University of Melbourne, he speaks and writes with passion about memory and history, displacement and community. His writing has appeared in the Age,Sydney Morning Herald, Monthly and a range of journals.