11811313_10153219111633051_618038503188595463_nLast week I left Sydney and travelled north to the 2015 Byron Bay Writers Festival – but I wasn’t alone – I went along to the beaches of Byron Bay and the festival to celebrate with my book club for our 10th anniversary. There has been ten years of books, ten years of friendship, love and laughter, ten years of reading books we may not have picked up had we not been in this book club – and ten years of discussion about the beauty of words and the many stories presented to us from inside the covers of these wonderful books.

We’ve read such a diverse range of books –  from memoir to prize-winning, non-fiction to fantasy and classics, literary to popular genre, contemporary, short stories, biographies and more. Some we loved, and others not so much and many more in between, but no matter what the book, no matter the rating we gave it or the genre –  every book has prompted a great discussion.

Our book club began in the thoughts of Angela, (my co-reviewer here at WTML) who started the book club in June 2005. I thank her for that, as I can’t imagine my life without the ten years of diverse reading, the love and friendship that has grown from a love of words and the enormous amount of fun we’ve had, (and there has been a lot!). I don’t even want to think about how much wine and champagne has been consumed in that ten years!! A few members have come and gone and we miss them still, but thank you all Angela, Sharyn, Carlea, Vanessa & Tracy – my fabulous friends – we have had a ball over the years, and thanks again Angela – without you it never would have happened!

Book Club NEW

Here is a picture of ten years of books. If you are interested in seeing the full list carefully recorded by Ange –  CLICK HERE.

Book Club Favourites: The Book Thief, The Boy in the Striped Pyjama’s, Tuesdays with Morrie, The Secret River, The Time Traveler’s Wife, The God of Small Things, Stasiland, Water for Elephants, Life of Pi, The Slap, The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Society, The Art of Racing in the Rain, Still Alice, The Happiest Refugee, The Red Tent, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Light Between Oceans, Boy; Lost, The Rosie Project, Here Come the Dogs.

2015 Byron Bay Writers Festival

Good way to start the festival!

I am a Sydney Writers’ Festival tragic, so I was looking forward to the Byron Bay Writers Festival. Some of the content didn’t appeal to me but luckily there was generally 4-5 different panels on at each time-slot so there was more than enough to choose from. The weather was beautiful, the company fabulous and the various festival marquees provided a relaxed atmosphere to the day. We came and went as we pleased, listened to panels that interested us and sat in the sun! Here is a few snippets of what I enjoyed at the festival:

Day 1:

  • 30 Minutes with Liane Moriarty: Liane talked about what inspires her to write, which included deathbed confessions, secrets and the little lies that people tell.
  • Jeni Caffin lead a great discussion with Robert Drewe, Russell Eldridge & Chigozie Obioma on a panel about Animals in Literature.
  • Sibella Court, Erik Jensen and Joshua Yeldham talked about Why Art Matters – this was a great discussion about what inspires us to create art, and how it is enjoyed by others.
  • Pit Stop: Wine, champagne & beer with the Book Club beauties. We are diverse drinkers as well as readers.
  • Next: On Tour; Five Writers, Five Towns in Five Days – Chaired by Zacharey Jane, this was a funny panel to listen to. Mark Dapin, Chris Flynn, Lian Hearn, Ellen van Neerven & the self-proclaimed handsome Zohab Zee Khan (I have to agree!) had obviously enjoyed their road trip! These five writers hit the road to Coffs Harbour, Grafton, Casino, Alstonville and Murwillumbah, bringing the festival to regional audiences. They visited pubs, clubs, schools, libraries, art galleries and more.  There was plenty of banter on stage, readings, and some awesome slam poetry from Zohab.
  • Following on from Zohab’s slam poetry the next session on our list was Leaping off the Page: Spoken Word ArtThis was great! Slam poet Miles Merrill ‘the driving force behind spoken-word and performance poetry in Australia‘ chaired this panel brilliantly, and we all enjoyed listening to Emilie Zoey Baker, Samantha Turnbull & Zohab Zee Khan perform the art of the spoken word. This was one of my favourite panels of the festival.
  • Friday Night Book Club! Book Club has always been on the first Friday of the month and this month was no different. Tracy hosted a fabulous night and  we had a great time talking books and reminiscing about all the fun times. Thanks Tracy for the awesome food, cake, wine & champers! Book discussed: H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. 

Day 2:

  • A shorter day at the festival…the boutique shops of Byron Bay were calling to us….
  • Four book clubbers went to see Julia Gillard in conversation with Clare Wright. From what I hear from the girls, this was a fantastic panel with our former Prime Minister.
  • Tracy and I went to listen to James Bradley, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The marquee was a little empty which was a shame as it was a great discussion – but James did make note that this was the second time he had been put in the same time-slot at a festival as Julia Gillard. Bit of bad luck there! I enjoyed his talk on Clade, his new novel about time, family and how a changing planet might change our livesJames noted ‘Connections we have are not necessarily biological anymore, how we relate to people is evolving’. What he wanted the book to do was to remind ourselves that we can change the world. Clade is now sitting in my TBR pile – I’m looking forward to reading it!
  • Byron Bay shopping. I may have bought a silk dress for way too much money. And a top, and a jumper, and a scarf.
  • Pitch Perfect with Alex Adsett, Cate Paterson & Sophie Hamley. Three people pitched their book in front of the crowd, two publishers and one agent. Just a little nerve wracking – but they pulled it off – and they did well. The agent & Publisher advice: Don’t wait till the end of pitch to get strong and compelling, start with your hook, don’t compare your book to international authors – you are marketing your book for an Australian market compare your book to Australian authors. Make sure you have a strong sense of the Australian marketplace, publishers are looking for a strong narrative drive and great hook.
  • Wine, dinner, pub, dancing, drinking, another pub, drinking.. bed.

Day 3:

  • I may or may not have had a tiny bit of a hangover and was incredibly tired, but I made it to the festival for a couple of hours. What a champion! Give me a medal! Anyway…
  • First up I saw Jacqueline Harvey entertain a whole gaggle of children in the First National Marquee. They loved her and her books. And no wonder – she has an amazing amount of energy and really knows what kids like to read. And what is that you ask??? Kids like: Humour, adventure, suspense, magic, bad guys, animals, mystery and kids in charge. There you are – go write the next Harry Potter! What are you waiting for?
  • How awesome are Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton? They had adults and children alike eating out of their hands. Hilarious, whether chatting with Simon Marnie on ABC Local Radio at the Saturday Paper Marquee, or over with the kids in the First National Marqee. Andy’s advice on how to grab the attention of a child reader: The title is very important. What kid doesn’t want to read something about a bum? or a Bumosaur? Or a Zombie Bum? Also, the first line and the first chapter needs to SO good, they don’t want to go play the Xbox. You are competing for their attention. Terry Denton also noted that ‘kids are doing an amazing amount of reading, even if it’s not books.’

All in all it was a great trip celebrating books and friendship – and all set in one of the most beautiful places on the Australian coastline.

Writers Fest 1

Writers fest 3

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