This year Melbourne Writers Festival (MWF) is celebrating its 30 year anniversary. I remember first going to the festival at The Malthouse, on my own, about 25 years ago. I was a closet writer, scratching angst poetry in a notebook that I stashed in a far corner of my cupboard and thought that no-one knew about.
The session that I remember the most, the one that made me really think that I want to be a writer, was a conversation with David Malouf. I can’t remember who interviewed him, or if there was a release to celebrate or a theme to discuss, but I do remember coming out of there blown away by the feeling that, for the first time, I knew what I wanted to do.
I had a few false starts at the writing life but only recently made the move to saturate myself, my work and my time in the writing world. I’m committed to far more than my own writing and have never been happier.
One of the things that Malouf talked about, the idea that I so often come back to, was a writer’s power to control time. Who else can make a morning last a chapter or a decade pass in a paragraph? If you’ve heard him speak I’m sure that you can hear the gentle way he would articulate this and other aspects of the writing life that he called a privilege. For a 17-year-old who couldn’t wait to leave school but was overwhelmed at what that might lead to, this man and this hour was my own session where time lapsed didn’t reflect the duration, or impact, of this experience at all.
I thought of what he’d said when I read ‘Poem’ a decade later:
“You move by contradictions:
out of a moment
of silence far off
in Poland or January
you smile and your body
returns to my touch.”
MWF has always been ‘for readers’ but it’s now expanded to include such a diverse reading, thinking and international community. That said, I’ll probably still drift to the “traditional” sessions (including both of Malouf’s) and will no doubt come out of one with an urgent need to find a table or a bar stool in a noisy MWF space and scribble something that feels important to capture.
Because I’ll be attending or volunteering at a lot of the festival there won’t be a WriteSpace Retreat in August, but for those of you who, like me, come away from these events inspired, the next one isn’t far away.
Enjoy the festival and happy writing. Jen