Last week I was lucky enough to be part of the Voices on the Coast Festival over on the Sunshine Coast. This awesome event is run by Immanuel Lutheran College with the support of the university of the Sunshine Coast, and sees thousands of young people attend dozens of sessions with authors and illustrators from around Australia. This was my first time there and I’m hoping it won’t be last. Such a wonderful atmosphere. Such wonderful organisation. And such wonderful young audiences.
Highlights for me:
1. The kids. My audiences ranged from year 5 through to year 12, and all were attentive, asked thoughtful questions and (perhaps best of all) laughed at my jokes.
2. Running the same writing workshop – titled You CAN Write Poetry – three times in two days and it being different every time. Each group of students was different, and I found that this lead to us doing different exercises, and to different things being produced. What was consistent was the enthusiasm of the kids. Everyone left each workshop having written something wonderful.
3. Being looked after by the gorgeous Kelly and her ever-enthusiastic team of helpers. Running a festival like that is a massive task, but Kelly does it so that everything runs really smoothly and, as a presenter, I felt so very appreciated.
4. A shared session with Sue Lawson, a fellow author who I’d never met in real life before. That didn’t stop us becoming instant friends, and chatting with our audience as if we’d known each other for years. (Not only that, but we shared an apartment at the hotel, too, and chatted for hours every night. ) Sharing a session meant that we could really delve into each other’s thought processes and experiences, and the audience got to see how we were both different but similar.
5. The friends old and new among the other presenters. Writing can be a very solitary pursuit, especially when you live in a rural area. So meeting up with a bunch of other creative types and sharing the journey is always a delight. Some I’d met before, and others I hadn’t, but each one soon felt like an old friend. One of the volunteers at the festival asked if we saw each other as competitors, and I laughed (politely). Maybe sometimes our books compete for attention, but I see my peers as just that – peers – and fellow survivors of this mad, crazy, amazing business. Spending time with them is an absolute delight.
As always seems to be the case I arrived home exhausted, and still seem to be playing catch up, but I loved every moment.