May 24, 2011

Sydney Writers' Festival - 2011

One of the highlights of my reading year is the annual trip to the Sydney Writers Festival which I went to this past weekend in the glorious Walsh Bay area of Sydney under THAT bridge!
I attended some great events and heard some amazing authors and women (yes, all of the events I went to this year were delivered from the perspective of female authors) speak about their work and the way their lives have impacted their writing and vice-versa.
In one event I heard two writers, Kate Holden and Emma Forrest talk about the memoirs they have written with honesty and gusto. Kate's first memoir, In My Skin, tells the story of the time in her life when she was addicted to heroin and working as a prostitute in Australia. At the risk of placing people into stereotypes - Kate does not come across as your typical past drug user and sex worker - she is articulate, humorous, intelligent and generous in giving of her story to complete strangers. Hearing her speak was a reminder to myself to never place people in boxes - let people tell their stories and do not judge. I have not read her book as yet but it is waiting on my shelf and after hearing Kate speak about her experiences in writing and publishing the book I can't wait. Emma Forrest's recently released memoir Your Voice in My Head is the story of her experiences with severe depression and the psychiatrist she found to work with who helped her through this time in her life and again, although I haven't read her book as yet that will soon be rectified. Attending this session was another great experience in how hearing authors speak about their work (especially such personal books as these) can help a reader to connect with a book in a totally different way.
My favourite, and most inspirational event, of the festival was a session entitled Family Politics where the three speakers were Fatima Bhutto, Ingrid Betancourt and Aminatta Forna.I had heard of all three of the women before attending the event but I had only read the work of Forna having just finished her award winning novel The Memory of Love the day before the festival (review to come soon - enough to say for now that I simply LOVED it). The Memory of Love has recently been named as the winner of the 2011 Commonwealth Writer's Prize and it is on the short list for the 2011 Orange Prize - the winner to be announced on the 8th June .
This event was amazing - hearing from three such intelligent and passionate women about the significant and traumatic events that have occured in their lives as well as what drives them to keep going in the fight for freedom in their countries. You can listen to some of the events from the festival here.


Rebecca Chapman said...

Glad you loved it, I had a great weekend too. The highlights for me were seeing the Commonwealth Writers Prize awarded, The Big Reading and the closing address (which was all about ebooks and was completely fascinating).

Karen said...

Hi Becky - it sounds like you got to go to some of the more amazing events!