Byron Bay Writers Fest 2009 Highlights

* ‘Only begin.’ Tom Keneally’s advice to writers. I try to do this every day (sometimes unsuccessfully). Start writing, be consistent, don’t make excuses.

* Sam Cutler telling me that Ben and Jerrys ice cream is coming to Australia. You haven’t lived till you’ve tasted New York Super Fudge Chunk or Cherry Garcia.

* Judith Lanigan busting out her hoops for a crazy hula at the end of our sessions.

* The near-brawl when the locals got involved in the Byron: Magic or Tragic session.

* Nick Earls’ tale of his big break … as a storytelling armchair. Nick’s was basically a stand-up routine. He’s an inspiring speaker.

* Mistaking Stephen Dando-Collins for Stephen Spielberg at the Random House dinner. (From back and profile, identical.)

* The audience in the kids’ tent on the Saturday. So keen and engaged, and with great ideas to offer. Very cool.

* Most writers seem to agree with those old chestnuts that, ‘You have to write the first draft to find out what the book’s about,’ and ‘Books are not so much finished as abandoned’. These sentiments were echoed by authors throughout the fest.

* Tom Keneally and Marele Day’s advice on organising your research notes: Place vaguely-related pieces of paper in piles either on the floor or on an unused pool table. Nice to know that such fine writers share my filing approach.

* The suggested nit-cures in my Nit Boy / Mac Slater session: mayonnaise, orange juice and toothpaste are apparently at the cutting edge of edginess in head lice treatment. Remember where you heard it first.

A new venue for the fest this year. Less grass, but plenty of blue sky, scorching sunshine, good coffee, cool people, big ideas and lots of laughs. Giddyup. Bring on 2010.



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