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Behind the Scenes...My Weekend at the Willy Lit Fest - Part 1

I’ve been reading.

A lot more than usual.

I’m calling it work, but the truth is, I love to read.

Reading is vital to writers.

Words are a lot like flavours. There are so many to sample!

The reason I’m calling it work, is because I was getting ready for the Willy Lit Fest.

I was so pleased to be asked to participate this year, appearing on a panel, to discuss Facebook vs. Citizen Journalism.

Excited to see my name on the program, appearing alongside names the likes of Alice Pung, John Marsden, Graeme Simsion, Anne Buist, Sarah Bailey, Andy Griffiths….

Melissa Longo!!

I could get used to that.

Not wanting to simply show up, do my bit and then leave, I put my hand up to help in any way I could. This consisted of doing a handful of introductions, to some of the other sessions on over the course of the festival – perfect!

More time public speaking!

So, I read.

I read every book, by every author I thought I might cross paths with. I read Into the Night by Sarah Bailey, Working Mums by Danielle Ross Walls and Louise Correcha, Two Steps Forward by Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist, Anesthesia by Kate Cole-Adams. I even read Mr Chicken goes to Paris by Leigh Hobbs, because I was pretty committed to the task at hand.

Feeling more than ready, I headed into the cold wintery night, picnic rug in one hand, umbrella in the other, ready to board The Poetry Bus. My Willy Lit Fest weekend began on Friday 15th of June and didn’t slow down until late Sunday afternoon.

The Poetry Bus was the perfect beginning….

Fellow writer, John Dawson was on the bus with me and he managed to capture the essence of the evening in poetry form. I won’t offer any spoilers here, other than to say that it was a very powerful event. I had never seen performative poetry before, but I was moved beyond words.

Saturday morning was all about Leigh Hobbs. With over 20 books published and a career spanning decades, there was much to learn from the Old Tom author/illustrator. I made my introductions and let the session unfold.

Leigh imparted much knowledge about developing characters and stories, to a room of eager participants. It was an honour to participate in this event – sketching under expert tutelage.

A quick pause for soup in the hub – delicious and warming in equal measure.

My next duties saw me introducing a discussion on Death and Destruction, with crime writers, Sarah Bailey and James Phelan. It was on the main stage in The Supper Room.

The Williamstown Town Hall has so many beautiful spaces – perfect for an event of this nature. The lights were right in my eyes, as I introduced author Sherryl Clark and her guests, but I got my intro out and let the authors do their thing.

With my official duties over for the day, I took my place in the next session, purely as an observer. I was excited to see the 'Working Mums' take to the stage, inspired by their stories and filled with hope to one day share a story of my own.

Exhausted, but not yet done, I headed home for a quick change of clothes, in preparation for Stereo Stories in Concert – the crowning jewel, in an already incredible festival.

Committee member, Carol Winfield is lovely enough to have us on her table each year and it is an absolute wonder to be a part of. I thought last year’s concert couldn’t be topped, but between Andy Griffiths and his Crazy Horses, Lucia Nardo inviting us to Take It Easy and Danny Katz in the Cradle, Vin Maskel has truly outdone himself. Combining the magic of storytelling, with the musical prowess of the Stereo Stories Band – pure magic exists – I know - I’ve seen it!

Brian Nankervis took top honours in my mind…

“The Peugeot chugs up Balwyn Road. Dad won’t be weeding when I pull up and he won’t walk up the drive with the car when I leave. He won’t ask if I had a good run from Elwood, or how’s the car going, or is my insurance up to date, or are we still in the RACV, or how are the tyres and when did we last have a service? I’d reassure him and change the subject, thinking about what tape I was going to play or what show was on Triple R for the drive home. Today I won’t have to make those hasty, guilty excuses, but I won’t feel his hand on my shoulder through the open window and I won’t see that tender, goodbye smile.”

His ability to hold the audience, absolutely enthralled – captured by his warmth and spirit – what a talent he is.

I was on Rockwiz once, many moons ago and it remains one of my greatest life achievements. Whenever I see Brian Nankervis around, I remind him of our night together and he is kind enough to indulge me. Saturday night was no different and I have the photo to prove it.

I went home with words and music floating through my head.

My session was only one sleep and two sessions away.

I was ready for it!


Part 2 coming soon-ish....

#WillyLitFest #StereoStories

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