I was lucky enough to attend my first Melbourne Writers Festival event for this year today! I was a little bit cheeky and made the trip up to Fed Square during my lunch break, listened to the session and then rushed back to work afterwards. Then I had to leave early to pick up my car from the mechanics for the second day straight (long story) so it was a good day in terms of numbers of hours actually spent at work!
I haven't been to the Festival at all for a couple of years and the year I did go I just bought a couple of session tickets, but this year I have gone all out and bought a Paperback Pass which entitled me to 5 events and 2 free Friday events. Some time in the next couple of years I am hoping to start volunteering instead of just attending.
Here's the summary blurb of the session I attended:
As Sartre may have put it, drama is other people. Gail Jones, Elizabeth Stead, Jane Smiley and Marion Halligan discuss how relationships lie at the heart of their fiction, and how we cope with others - family, lovers, enemies, colleagues, neighbours, strangers. Chaired by Enza Gandolfo.
The other three authors on the panel are Australian authors and I haven't read any of them. I walked out of the session wanting to read something from all of them! I can see I am going to have to exercise a lot of restraint when it comes to requesting books from the library and/or buying them as a result of attending the festival. I am especially interested in picking up Marion Halligan's short story collection Shooting the Fox as one of the short stories that she talked about today sounds like a really fun read!
There were a number of other questions asked including about relationships being the vehicle for exploring character and actions, and also about the title of the session itself which prompted Marion Halligan to say that she didn't see relationships as glue as such.
Another aspect of relationship that Jane Smiley touched on was a triangular relationship between the narrator and the reader as well as the author and narrator which was an interesting concept.
There was some discussion about there not only being emotional relationships, but also spatial relationships - almost like if we put this thing next to that thing and see what happens which prompted Gail Jones to comment that there is likely a lot more randomness in stories than the reader suspects.
The last point that was explored before the session was opened up to questions from the floor was that relationship between characters and place with specific examples of Marion's novel Valley of Grace which is set in Paris featuring all French people, but written wholly in English and Gail's books which feature Sydney. Elizabeth Stead also mentioned that there have been times when she started with the place and the characters grew from there whereas the reader may expect the process to be the other way around.
Questions from the floor touched on the difference between men and women when it comes to reading about relationship and a craft question about showing versus telling in the context of relationships. The answers to this question were quite interesting with Jane Smiley talking about how time has to pass and the question being how which will dictate whether the author shows or tells. I really liked Gail Jones answer as well which was basically she never really liked the writing rule about showing and not telling but rather prefers to look at who the narrator is and deciding what they could reasonably know when it came to deciding how to tell that particular aspect of the story.
One of the quotes that she shared came from Henry James - Experience is never limited, and it is never complete; it is an immense sensibility, a kind of huge spider-web of the finest silken threads suspended in the chamber of consciousness, and catching every air-borne particle in its tissue.
My next MWF session is on Sunday, and then I will be spending all day there next Saturday! Can't wait.