Thursday, 6 July 2017

On with the festival, by Sarah Martin

I moved to this town, Mildura, about five years ago. Originally from Sydney, having travelled the globe, I’d never heard of it before – a small town on the border, miles from the culture-filled city centres. I thought it would be a fairly uneventful existence. I was pleasantly surprised to discover the opposite.

A favourite haunt for the Mildura Writers Festival folk
When I arrived in Mildura, I started waitressing at Stefano’s café – a regular haunt of the artisans in town, down the way from the Art Vault and the ‘rent-an-art-space’ in the old dried fruit building. New in town and keen to meet people, I struck up conversations with the regulars, making friends-of-a-sort with those involved in the art-scene here. 

During the last five years I have been working at the cafe whilst the annual Mildura Writers Festival has taken place. Each year, I briefly met a number of the guest speakers – mainly I was introduced by my regulars as I served coffee and smashed avo and fetta on toast. It went something like this - “Sarah, you should meet so and so; they are a writer appearing in the festival, you should read their work [insert title/description of work here].”

I’d hear snippets of conversations around the coffee tables revolving around the festival – who’s attending what, who’s interviewing whom, opinions and perspectives on writer’s work and their talks, who was most impressive, etcetera, etcetera . . . 

Now in my final year of uni, having resigned from my career in the service of short blacks and quinoa porridge, I‘ve signed up with La Trobe’s Writers in Action course and get to be a festival goer myself.

I love to read. Admittedly I have let that love slide in the last few years – taking the time to read for pleasure, around raising a family and copious amounts uni work, is next to impossible.  I’m thrilled to have a valid excuse to tuck myself away and re-kindle that love of fiction, of prose, of literature.  “Darling, I just have to read this for uni – I’m just going to take this book (and glass of wine) over here and ‘study’ – love you.” 

Not only am I excited at the prospect of reading some local fiction, but also at the idea of hearing from the writers themselves.

Often, as I’ve been immersed in the worlds described or in the minds of the characters created by authors, I have questions that are never answered: how do they see this?; what is their inspiration?; are the characters based on people they know?; do they know?; why this place?; this time?; what would happen if….?

Will this festival give me the opportunity to have some of those questions answered? Will these events give us the insight to the thoughts behind their works? We’ll just have to wait and see. While I’m there though, I guess it’s only fair if I visit the old work haunt, but this time to talk writer’s festival chat with my fellow La Trobe students – someone else can bring the coffee.

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