I’ve been lucky enough to be part of the Avon Valley Readers and Writers Festival since its inception in 2012, and I’m pleased to report that the 2016 iteration was the best yet. For the first time, the AVRWF stretched across York, Northam and Toodyay, with each Wheatbelt town spending a day in the spotlight. The festival kicked off for me on Friday night at Barclay Books in York with Portland Jones reading from her recently-released novel Seeing the Elephant, accompanied by William Yeoman on guitar. Portland read beautifully and I was sure to pick up a signed copy of her book before the night was through. I also met Rashida Murphy, whose novel The Historian’s Daughter was also recently released to widespread acclaim.
On Saturday, I missed out on seeing Ian Reid’s session on writing historical fiction due to my kids playing in a hockey grand final in Beverley (they lost but were proud to have made it that far), but I scurried back to Northam in time for Ron Elliot’s workshop on scriptwriting. Ron won’t remember this, but he’s actually taught me scriptwriting before, way back in 2000 at Curtin University. After lunch, I attended sessions by the very witty Brigid Lowry (who reminds me more than a little of another Kiwi import in Juliet Marillier, not least because of her accent) and Sara Foster. Saturday ended with a bang at the Riverside Hotel, literally a two minute walk from my front door, for the customary dinner and author panel. The panel was facilitated by Kelli McCluskey and included Tabetha Beggs, Ron Elliot, Corina Martin, myself and one other person whose name temporarily escapes me. Everyone got a chance to say their piece, including members of the audience (many of them esteemed festival guests) and a good time was had.
On Sunday the show decamped to blustery Toodyay where I first attended a session by Tabetha Beggs (Chairperson of KSP) and Belinda Hermawan (President of FAWWA) on why WA authors and readers should band together in the face of government funding cuts and other threats. Next up was a fascinating session by Sam Carmody and Brooke Davis on their writing friendship and journeys to publication and acclaim. After lunch we heard from Michelle Michau-Crawford, winner of the Elizabeth Jolley Award and author of the excellent Leaving Elvis and Other Stories regarding a sense of place in fiction. Finally it was time for my own session on writing short fiction and entering relevant competitions, which seemed to pass by without calamity.
Then it was 4pm and everyone was saying goodbye. It was a privilege to have been a part of this year’s Avon Valley Readers and Writers Festival, which almost literally brought a bevy of talented WA authors to my doorstep. Thanks very much to Angi McCluskey for coordinating the whole shebang and to the rest of the hardworking library employees for allowing the whole thing to happen. I can only hope that next year’s AVRWF will be even bigger and better than the 2016 edition.