Sydney Writers’ Festival 2013 and the Stoned Crows book launch

Sydney turned it on.

The SWF2013 makes the Adelaide Writers’ Festival look like a tea party. A lovely one. An inspiring, engaging, wonderful tea party. But a quaint one nonetheless. The scale of the SWF is mind boggling. In fact the queues to many of the events were so long that emergency poets were engaged, wearing fluoro safety vests emblazoned with POET, and giving poetry performances to the folks in the queue. So that we didn’t revolt I guess.


The scale was so big that the enormous venues on Pier 2/3 and 4/5 were not large enough for many of the events. Just to paint the picture for you – these are old storage warehouses that were used in shipping before they were transformed into uber-cool arts venues. And they were not big enough! Many people missed out on seeing the writers and instead had to sit outside in the sun and/or rain to listen to the session broadcast on a loudspeaker. I suffered this fate and missed out on seeing the marvellous Arnold Zable. I heard him. But it’s not quite the same. I wanted to see him too. He is a man of such enormous compassion and humanity that to hear him without seeing him left me feeling bereft. I wanted to see what it looked like on his face when he talked about the things he writes about. Did his face register the pain and pleasure of these people whose lives he has documented so carefully? Or had he become hardened to it during the processes of writing? But. I guess that is the advantage of the smallness of the Adelaide Writers’ Festival – I’ve never missed out there. In Adelaide you can always stand in the wings, under the trees, and listen in.

This is just some of the people who, like me, sat on the bitumen and listened devoutly to Mr Zable over the loudspeaker. (No, the red painted toes are not mine.)


Of course I was in the Harbour city for the launch of Stoned Crows and Other Australian Icons – the anthology that my story ‘The Swarm’ is published in (you can buy it here!). The venue was superb – the Bangarra Mezzanine at the end of Pier 4/5. Waiting for the doors to open I sat on the end of the Pier and looked out over the Bridge and Luna Park, all lit up like a fairy tale. There were people doing the night climb on the Bridge and they looked like a lazy caterpillar wriggling up, up, up, their lights bobbing and blinking all in a row.


And here is the beautiful Bangarra Mezzanine where the launch was held. Sydney Harbour really does know how to do pretty.


The launch. It was standing room only! The room was filled to bursting. Carol Jenkin’s Judge’s speech (which you can read here) was more performance poetry than ‘report’. Mark O’Flynn proved why he was a worthy winner of the competition with his reading, and I was inspired to go back to the collection myself and read some of the stories again (Moya Costello’s piece was wonderful too). This really is a very good collection. I’m so proud to be part of it.

Walking back to my apartment through the Rocks after the launch, Sydney looked like a drag queen’s hyper-coloured lolly pop – all lit up for the VIVID Festival. The Opera House was dressed up in gaudy colours and there were installations spotted around in every place where there was space. Light shows ranged from glowing apples that had fallen out of a fig tree, to the ostentatious displays on the Bridge and Circular Quay.

The Rocks Market was in full swing by the time I got back to my lovely little apartment and I stopped for some delicious Turkish bread fried with spinach, fetta and chicken…to die for!

The next day I was thrilled to get into the Naomi Wolf/Mia Freedman session at the Fest – for free! Naomi’s flight had been cancelled due to her back injury so the session (which had been ticketed) was opened up as a freebie and Naomi was bigger than Ben Hur on the Skype screen above Mia. A fascinating, illuminating discussion was had between these two clever, articulate women. Naomi’s latest book, ‘Vagina’, is titled provocatively, and certainly the content is also provocative, but utterly backed up by mind boggling, stupendous, cutting edge science. I can’t wait to read it.

My last little thrill of the weekend was seeing the stack of Stoned Crows replenished in the Gleebooks bookshop at the Fest. Friday the pile looked sad and small…Saturday it was a skyscraper…which I can only assume means that people are buying it and the stock is being replenished. Here’s hoping!



PS Thanks to the lovely Alfredo (and another nameless mystery person!) who asked for my signature in the book. I didn’t know quite what to do – how are you supposed to do these things? Anyway, I hope I didn’t muck it up!


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