A Day at the Newcastle Writers Festival

I spent yesterday at the Newcastle Writers Festival, attending several sessions and catching up with a Goodreads friend. I’ve always enjoyed reading Kate Forsyth’s books, so when I discovered that she was speaking at two sessions, it was more than I could resist. Having heard her speak previously at the NSW Writers Centre Speculative Fiction Festival, I knew we were in for a treat.

She was as eloquent and thoughtful as I’d anticipated, and the two sessions we attended were excellent. As a bonus, I now have a beautiful signed copy of Bitter Greens, her retelling of the Rapunzel Fairy Tale. The second session also included John Hughes, who has just launched a book of fables called “Garden of Sorrows” – featuring Australian animals as the characters in the stories. What a fascinating concept! 

I also attended a session on blogging. Being in a bit of a hurry when I was reading the program, I noted that the session was called Rough and Tumblr: Blogging Newcastle, but my brain had very obviously completely ignored the Newcastle portion, so after sitting there for a few moments, I realised it wasn’t actually about the nuts and bolts of blogging in general, but about three different blogs about Newcastle, or “Blogging Place” if you like. 

Once I’d managed to reorient my brain, I found it a thoroughly enjoyable session. The three bloggers had three completely different takes on blogging. Michael Newton has a primarily photographic blog, called “Showbag” on which he posts a daily photo, often with a neat, pithy, title or comment. Mark McLean blogs about Hamilton North in Newcastle, focusing on the walks he takes with his (very cute) dog, Jambo. His blog is called Hamilton North, and is also illustrated with many photographs. Siobhan Curran blogs about all things Newcastle, but focuses on the little stuff (or perhaps it’s really the big stuff), like local artists, restaurants, the local places and craftspeople, and the blog is full of fascinating bits and pieces of life. It’s called “The Novocastrian Files.”

What I learnt was more than just the nuts and bolts – it was that we see things in different, and very valid ways. Blogging provides a very individual voice, and there is no one way of doing it. I found myself fascinated by Mark McLean’s shopping trolleys in the drain, and Michael Newton’s reflective photographs, and today I’ve been poking around Siobhan Curran’s selections of artisans. It’s been quite a nice change, as I usually wander around reading blogs on writing, health, science, and political commentary on a variety of subjects, most often feminist type blogs and those soapboxing about compassion. That list possibly says quite a bit about me.

So what did I take away from the festival? Several things really.

Firstly, meeting a Goodreads friend is a lovely thing – you can talk about books for hours and they don’t think you’re nutty.

Secondly, keep blogging. Because.

Thirdly, writing is wonderful, and I should keep doing it because I love it.


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