It’s on: MWF 2013

The Melbourne Writers Festival kicks off for me tonight and I feel a little bit like it’s Christmas!

I’m starting off my festival experience with some philosophy, hearing Peter Singer speak on ‘Effective Altruism’ as part of the Big Ideas series.

Effective altruism is an emerging movement of people who have  accepted that we ought to live more altruistically, and make our altruism as powerful as possible.  Philosopher and ethicist Peter Singer will discuss the ethical issues that effective altruism raises, and introduce this developing concept by presenting the effective altruists themselves: who they are, how they live, and why they have chosen to live that way. 

As controversial as he might be, Peter Singer I’m looking forward to hearing his thoughts.

altruism

I often ask myself about the complexities of altruism, especially in terms of what’s reasonable to expect of each ourselves and others, and I expect this session will be extremely enlightening.

Are you going to anything at the festival this year? If you’d like to join me at the MWF this year, don’t forget to tune in to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates.

If you’d like to know more about what I’m going to check out at the Melbourne Writers Festival, read more here…

Melbourne Writers Festival 2013

It’s almost that time of year when I kiss the kids goodbye and abscond for days, all in the name of writing.

That’s right, August brings with it the Melbourne Writers Festival, Enquire Within running from 22 August to the 1 September 2013.

The release of this year’s program last night has made my day today and as I’ve just finished booking my tickets, I thought you might like to know which sessions I’m getting along to.

Here goes…

peter singerI’m going to kick off my festival experience with some philosophy, hearing Peter Singer speak on ‘Effective Altruism’ as part of the Big Ideas series.

Effective altruism is an emerging movement of people who have  accepted that we ought to live more altruistically, and make our altruism as powerful as possible.  Philosopher and ethicist Peter Singer will discuss the ethical issues that effective altruism raises, and introduce this developing concept by presenting the effective altruists themselves: who they are, how they live, and why they have chosen to live that way. 

As controversial as he might be, Peter Singer was always a bit of super star around the philosophy department of Monash when I was at uni, and so I’m looking forward to hearing his thoughts.

I’m back to Federation Square on Saturday, changing gears to something a little more light-hearted, although I’m sure it’ll be no less controversial with the likes of Sean Condon, Max Barry and Catherine Deveny chatting about comedy in writing for ‘Dying is Easy, Comedy is Hard.’

Fittingly it’ll be starting to get dark when I attend my second session for the day ‘Tartan Noir’ in which Andrew Nette, Doug Johnstone and Liam McIlvanney talk about crime literature in Scotland and whether or not books in this genre accurately reflect modern life in Scotland.

No doubt spooked, I’ll head home after this session and rest up before a bit Sunday.

I’ve booked in for three great session on Sunday, first up being ‘No Safe Place’ featuring Morris Gleitzman and Deborah Ellis.  Both of these authors write powerful books about children in danger and in this session they’ll explore writing about war, their research, and where they draw the line in showing children what the world can be like. Incredibly relevant, as I struggle with questions regarding books that my 12 year old should and shouldn’t be reading.

michelleAfter that, it’s straight on to hear an in-conversation session with the talented Michelle de Kretser, winner of this year’s Miles Franklin Award. Looking forward to finding out a little bit more about her incredibly successful novel.

To finish off Sunday, I’ll be heading to ‘Destroying the Joint?’ …

More than 28,000 self-proclaimed Destroyers have ‘liked’ Destroy the Joint – a Facebook page that ‘shines a light on sexism and misogyny.’ While social media may provide a platform for participative activism, social commentator Jane Caro, comedian Stella Young, and activist Aidan Ricketts join Sushi Das from The Age to ponder the question: how many likes does it take to change the world?

After this session, I’ll have to wait until the end of the week for my next outing. On Friday, 30 August, I’ll sneak off after dropping the kids at school and get a little bit political.

I’m really looking forward to the first session ‘New News: The News About News’ as I’m often quiet perplexed, concerned even, about what’s happening with media and journalism…

Is journalism in rotten shape, or better than ever? Is information still reliable? Will big media continue to dominate, or will citizens and startups step up? Eric Beecher (Private Media), Katharine Viner (Guardian Australia), Mark Forbes (The Age) and Pamela Williams (Australian Financial Review) take the media’s temperature with Margaret Simons (Centre for Advancing Journalism).

politics of sexI’ll follow this up with a session featuring Anna Krien, Shereen El Feki and Sophie Cunningham ‘The Politics of Sex’ as they discuss how the politics of sex provides a literary lens from which to view society.

The second Saturday of the Festival is exciting because it has quite a few free sessions, which I’ll stay around for in the afternoon, after I’ve gone along to a professional development seminar ‘The Art of Literary Criticism’. I’ve not been to one of the seminar sessions before (they cost a little more than a regular session) but I’m really looking forward to this one, I think I’ll learn a lot…

The London Review of Books publishes the biggest names in contemporary literature, ideas, society, and the arts. Editor Mary-Kay Wilmers, publisher Nicholas Spice and contributors Jeremy Harding and Jacqueline Rose take us inside the LRB, Europe’s leading literary magazine. Chaired by Sally Heath.

I think it’s fair to say that by the end of Saturday my brain will be well and truly full, and I’ll be able to go home and fall in a happy heap.

The Melbourne Writers Festival program is out now, and you MUST take a look! If you’re going to be attending, please feel free to connect with TBYL… I’ll be on Facebook and Twitter the whole time and no doubt loitering around Fed Square on and off, I’d love to hear from you!

Here’s to the countdown to August 22nd!

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Sure beats another cat video

I’ve got a bundle of new reviews lined up for the second half of this week, but I thought I’d begin my blogging week with the words of some people far wiser than I.

If you’re a little tired of Youtube’s usual fare of flash mobs, classic crashes and crazy kitties, maybe you’d like to take a look at these interesting videos from ABC TV’s Big Ideas

How about some real class?
Great English actor, writer and director, Simon Callow was the headliner act at this year’s Melbourne Writers Festival and he based his keynote speech on his biography of Dickens – titled Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World. In this address, he discusses the importance of theatre to the life and work of one of the greatest storytellers in the English language. You can watch the video of his presentation here.

I’ve not read Anna’s book yet, but I hope to soon…
This year’s Miles Franklin winner, Anna Funder is in conversation with writer Anne Summersabout All That I Am. You can watch the video here.

I’m missing the Melbourne Writers Festival now that it’s over, so I’m going to revisit one of the sessions that I went too…
Labor in Vain – Is the fate of the federal Labor Party sealed? Is it in crisis or just experiencing the odd catastrophe? You can watch this conversation here.

And lastly, some food for thought…
‘Foreign aid is a waste of money” – this was the proposition for this IQ2 debate in Melbourne. Watch this polarising debate here.

Have you come across any interesting ‘thinky’ videos online lately?

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My wordy weekend

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the Melbourne Writers Festival is the highlight of my literary year. Never am I happier than when I’m listening the wonderful words of people like Carrie Tiffany, Gillian Mears, Jenny Hocking…

It wasn’t easy to fit the festival in this year, I’m not sure how we got so busy this month, but I worked hard to carve out a little time over the weekend to get to a couple of sessions.

Saturday, I revisited my own rural childhood through the works of Carrie Tiffany, Rachael Treasure and Paddy O’Reilly. Three talented authors, all of whom in their novels, have captured the essence of country, the hardship of the outback and the beauty of the rural way of life. In this wonderfully relaxed session, Carrie, Rachael and Paddy helped us to get a little closer to their characters, and also told us something of why writing rural is so important to them.

As is often the case with these sessions, we were also really lucky to be able to get a glimpse of the writing process. Carrie describing her writing as a little like creating a colleague, a collection of “found objects”, whilst Rachael revealed her desire to affect, to support a “paradigm shift of some kind” helping people to understand through fiction the importance of soil health and smart operation in the production of our food and the care of our land. In turn, Paddy recalled a need to explore the paths people carve for themselves, especially in small towns; “they follow the same tracks, go to the same places, see the same people.” The effect that this has on small town folk is captured wonderfully in her novel, The Colour of Rust. 

I was incredibly grateful to these authors, as they’ve encouraged me to revisit my own small rural background, after many years of hurriedly moving away from it.

On Sunday, I had a little more time in at Federation Square and made it to two sessions.

Firstly I heard from the inspiring and poetic Gillian Mears, the author of The Age Book of the Year, Foal’s Bread. A sold-out session, the BMW Edge was filled with dedicated fans of Gillian’s work, most of whom could be seen reacting with a real appreciation and tenderness for the work of this talented author.

Again, the session itself afforded us an opportunity to hear more about how this book was written, including a little on why it’s taken so long to be published. The answer to this often asked question is that it was as a result of consideration for an older sister with her own story to tell. Eventually though, Gillian admitted, this novel had to see the light, with the Narcarrow’s story aching to be told.

Gillian’s love of horses, riding and jumping was evident from the outset of this conversation – she spoke of horses in poems, rich with sensory details; their smell, their shine, their silkiness. In turn, her grief at her illness and the restrictions that it has placed on her riding and writing was palpable. She was open and generous in her discussion of MS, and the significant effect that it has had, and continues to have on her life.

If you’ve not already read the award-winning Foal’s Bread, I’d strongly recommend it. You can read my review here.

After this moving conversation, I was up for something a little more political, and attended a fascinating session Labor in Vain. The panel, featuring Maxine McKew, Steve Bracks and biographer, Jenny Hocking, discussed the question of whether or not the Labor Party could be said to be ‘in crisis’ and if they are, what they should do about it.

The session was very revealing, and raised many important questions about party dynamics, the importance of the ‘party line’, and the role of the media and opinion polls. I could have happily heard more, and one hour hardly seemed to do justice to this important topic.

In addition to the sessions themselves, one of the real highlights of the MWF for me was the opportunity to have a book signed and to share a quick word with the authors. I’m really pleased to have been able to add to my book collection, two more signed copies…

I’ve one more event to attend on Thursday. I’m very excited about this keynote address by Germaine Greer, who’ll be discussing our language and its use… “in an oration that will make you think seriously about our place in the world and the role that language plays in putting us there.” Stay tuned for my review of this session, or if you’d like to come along, you can book here.

Have you been able to get to any MWF sessions this year? You can check out their program here…

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Booked in, now out of my way!

When I started That Book You Like… 18 months ago, I did so with the aim of reading differently. My goal of reading widely and outside my comfort zone has led me to meet a most incredible range of new authors and readers, and most enjoyably, to share them with a fantastic community of bookish people.

I’m pretty sure that this year’s Melbourne Writers Festival will allow for many more such meetings, and I’m thrilled! Enquire Within promises to be a fabulous gathering of wonderful minds from across the world; authors, intellects, commentators and of course, readers.

Here in Melbourne, we are incredibly spoilt for choice. Scarcely a week goes by that there’s not an author event or a big idea on stage, presented by The Wheeler Centre or the many fabulous bookstores and libraries around the state. To me, Enquire Within, Melbourne’s 2012 Writers Festival (running from the 23 August until 2 September) is the delicious icing on the cake of twelve months of amazing literary adventures.

The program promises to not only be entertaining, but also rich with insight, analysis and review:

“Our program addresses questions about liberty and responsibility; it takes inspiration from beautifully told stories; it listens to startling newcomers and intellectual heavyweights; it revels in literary coups and writerly gossip; and it celebrates words and language and hence, life.”

Opening with words from Simon Callow, on Dickens, the festival starts on a high note. This leads a program rich with authors and commentators from across Australia and the world.

The full program is available now, from the Enquire Within website. But here’s a little heads up on what I’ll be attending and reviewing…

Outback Lives, Saturday 25 August
Does rural fiction have an agenda? Is the bush a setting or the reason for the story? Rachael Treasure (The Girl and the Ghost-Grey Mare), Paddy O’Reilly (The Fine Colour of Rust), and Carrie Tiffany (Mateship with Birds) discuss why they are drawn to tales of life on the land. I’m particularly excited about this one after having chatted to Carrie earlier this year.

In Conversation with Gillian Mears, Sunday 26 August
Her first novel in 16 years, the Miles Franklin-shortlisted Foal’s Bread, has immediately returned Gillian Mears to the literary spotlight. The award-winning author of Ride a Cock HorseThe Mint Lawn and The Grass Sister talks with Ramona Koval about her life, living with MS, and her love of northern NSW, so often the setting for her writing. You can read my review of Foal’s Bread here.

Labor in Vain, Sunday 26 August
As its state governments are blasted from office and its federal fate seems sealed, is the Labor Party in crisis or experiencing hiccups? Former Victorian premier Steve Bracks, Whitlam and Lionel Murphy biographer Jenny Hocking, and former member for Bennelong Maxine McKew, discuss Labor’s present predicaments and its future. Hosted by Laura Tingle.

Speaking Australian with Germaine Greer, Thursday 30 August
To define us is to negate us. Those who are trying to impose a standard English on all the varieties of Australian speech are not simply wasting their time; they are applying an inappropriate notion of standardisation that would crush the life out of the living language. Australians contribute to literary culture all over the English-speaking world. Are they bilingual? Are they secure enough to distinguish between – and enjoy – different kinds of Australian, or are they hamstrung by spurious notions of correctness? In this keynote address Germaine Greer will discuss our language and its use, in an oration that will make you think seriously about our place in the world and the role that language plays in putting us there. Proudly supported by Queen Victoria Women’s Centre.

Are you going to anything at this year’s Melbourne Writers Festival?

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Dark, cold, dragony night

I really like going out with my kids, it’s one of my favourite things.

I’ll admit that Oscar can still be a little bit of a handful, but he’s a showman, so what can you expect? Evan on the other hand is pretty much at the perfect hanging out age – good company, old enough to be really interested in what we’re doing, but still just young enough not to be (too) embarrassed to be seen with his daggy old Mum.

I’m making the most of it, because I know it probably wont last for very much longer, and so when I saw that Christopher Paolini, author of the Eragon series (Random House) was coming to Melbourne I thought it would be the perfect night out for Evan and I. Presented by the Melbourne Writers Festival, and the Wheelers Centre it promised to be a fun-filled, fan-filled evening and despite the cold, dark, wet, wintery night, it delivered.

I’ve got to say that I’ve not read any of the Eragon series myself. Sorry. But Evan has read the first three, and is half way through the forth (and final?) in the ‘four part triology’. And, although I’ve not read them myself, I do understand their appeal. They’ve got it all, heros, villains, dwarven languages, battles and journeys and of course lots of dragons. This combination of elements has seen an army of dedicated, extremely loyal fans build around the Inheritance Cycle. Standing in line for the book signing, with hundreds of readers with arms ladened with multiple copies of the four huge tomes, you could be left in no doubt that these people where committed – to the story, and to whatever this inspiring author was ready to do next.

Personally, I was fascinated by the fact that Christopher was only 15-years-old when he wrote the Eragon, the first in the series and couldn’t wait to hear more about what exactly brought that impressive feat about. In short, home schooled, living in Anchorage, Alaska and bored out of his brain, Paolini decided that the only thing to do was to get his head out of other people’s books, and bury himself in creating his own. With family support; as editors, publishers and publicists, Eragon was born and the rest, as they say, is history.

It’s the great self-publishing success story…

Christopher was a very entertaining speaker, and Evan genuinely enjoyed every minute of the event. There were plenty of backstories, in-jokes and teasers, all of which had the audience on the edge of their seats in the hope that they might find out a secret or two about this world they’d clearly immersed  themselves in.

Further, his story is inspiring. In my opinion, it’s fantastic for kids like Evan (and grown-ups too) to hear of someone putting themselves out there, backing themselves and having great success to show for it. I hope it reinforces in Evan’s mind that anything is possible, even if it’s a little out of the ordinary.

I can’t wait until the next of these events comes up, I’m looking forward to another night out with the kid. I’ll be keeping a close eye on the calendar…

In the meantime, I’ll just enjoy watching Evan enjoy reading.

 

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On the calendar

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve fairly well had my head constantly in one book or another. This, of course is one of my favourite things to do, but once it’s been a few weeks I do start to feel that maybe I’m missing out on something that’s going on. It’s then that I know it’s time to start perusing the events calendars and making some bookings, which is exactly what I did.

I thought I’d share a few choice finds with you, which will in turn give you an idea of the event reviews coming up over the next few months.

First up, I’ve booked myself a ticket to a fantastic event being presented by the Wheeler Centre and the St James Ethic Centre. Freedom of Speech is Over Rated is a debate which promises to be enlightening, entertaining and perplexing. The line-up is impressive; Marcia Langton, Michael Gawenda and Catherine Deveny arguing for the proposition and Julian Burnside, Gretel Killeen and Arnold Zable speaking for the opposing side. I think it’s fair to say that the night might get a little heated, and it’s most definitely bound to get a little cheeky.

It’s being held at the Melbourne Town Hall, and you can book tickets here if you’re keen.

Next is a free exhibition currently being held at the State Library of Victoria. Love and Devotion: From Persia and Beyond, showing until 1 July 2012, is a celebration of Persian manuscripts and affords us the opportunity to see a selection of beautiful and rare original manuscripts.


Somewhat selfishly, I might sell this one as a day-trip and take the kids into the city for the day. After all, Oscar has been nagging me to go back to the ‘Big Library’ ever since the Children’s Book Festival. It’ll be good for them… If you want to find out more about the event, you can visit the exhibition’s beautiful website here.

Lastly, this event is a little bit further away, but Evan and I are both very excited about it already. We’ve got tickets to hear Christopher Paolini speak. Christopher is of course, the author of the incredibly successful Eragon series and his story is an inspirational one. I can’t wait to hear more about just how he managed to put Eragon together at the tender age of fifteen and I think Evan is just excited about seeing the author of a book he’s reading as we speak – brilliant timing! The event is being presented by the Melbourne Writers Festival crew, and will be held 21 June 2012. You can book tickets here.

Plenty to do, learn and write about! Love it!

Have you got any planned bookish outings on the calendar?

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Back for more MWF fun

I’m so pleased to have been able to arrange for another (bonus) day at the Melbourne Writers Festival today. I had Saturday and Sunday lined up already, but now with a little help from both helpful Grandmas I’ve been able to score a little extra kid-free, literature-rich time.

I’m not sure what sessions I’m going to go to yet, I’m playing it a bit by ear, but I’ll be sure to let you know this evening when I get reviewing.

In the meantime, you might want to have a little look at this fun item I bought last Sunday, at the Dymocks bookstore set up at Federation Square for the festival…

I’m looking forward to reading How I Became a Famous Novelist, Steve Hely’s reputation precedes him and I’m expecting a very funny read. The fact that this is a signed copy just makes it all the more fun.

Stay tuned for a couple more days of festival fun.

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Mythbusting at the MWF

On a good day I learn something new. On a really good day, I might get a few ah-ha moments. An excellent day is full of new facts…and that was my Sunday.

The issue of gender, as it relates to identity, equity and ability is an emotive one. I certainly know it’s a topic quick to raise my ire. It’s a passionate topic, but still, it is one best treated with intelligence and reason. The two sessions that I attended on Sunday did just that.

Dissecting Gender presented neurological, biological and psychological perspectives on what it means to be male or female, and explored whether or not we are in fact hardwired to be fundamentally different from each other. The resounding answer of the panelists; Jane McCredie, Rob Brooks and Cordelia Fine was clear – no, we are not.

Any such science that suggests that all males and all females are and must perform and behave in a particular way is at best mistaken, and at worst fraudulent.

McCredie, Brooks and Fine are, without doubt, committed to their work in this in field, each having published works seeking to dispel the many myths surrounding what it is to be a man or a woman. Interestingly, McCredie is even more inclusive in her study, investigating what it is to be “outside the binary” of gender, considering situations of ambiguity in gender allocation and idenfication.

Reassuringly, Fine assured us that although women have on average, a smaller, lighter brain than men this doesn’t in fact act as a determinant of success or intelligence in any field: “Claims about gender differences are based on incorrect, and at times fabricated data,” states Fine. Brooks argued well to dismiss the outdated notion that we are slaves to either our nature or our nuture, assuring that many options remain open to us all. And McCredie was decided: “Science should apply to us all, and not just to those that fit neatly within the accepted stereotypes…stereotypes seem not to apply to many people.” Further, she asked the question, how do any of us come to understand who we are, and what it is to be male or female. Science, in all it’s certainties and averages has not yet been able to explain many of the complexities that create differences between us all, let alone between males and females.

I left this session feeling encouraged…my little brain was not necessarily less powerful, and any stereotypical strengths and weaknesses would seem to be more likely about self-fulfilling prophesy or stereotype threat than about an overarching biological or neurological predisposition.

In this mood, I took my seat in the BMW Edge to listen to Sophie Cunningham. I had heard very good things, and was excited about being at this session. The crowd seemed to be feeling the same way, and I got the sense that the audience was eagerly awaiting inspiration, and perhaps a bit of illumination.

Many things were made much clearer to me by Sophie’s presentation A Long, Long Way to Go: Why We Still Need Feminism, not the least of which was the scale of the issue of women’s invisibility. Sophie provided a set of most incredible and infuriating statistics relating to women’s place in literature, business, fine arts and law. Example after example illustrated the extent to which women have disappeared, and the degree to which we’ve simply gotten used to it. Frightening stuff.

Cunningham laid blame for this in both the political and cultural sphere, and made several suggestions as to how this imbalance might be addressed. One of these solutions was featured in The Age today, namely the Stella prize, a women’s only literary prize. I will be watching this with great interest. Her conviction was strong, and she disputed the belief that women need simply to be more assertive: “You can be as assertive as you like, you’re still starting from a lower base,” citing examples of starting wages of male and female graduate lawyers and the distinct difference therein. It would seem that equality will take more than a loud voice and a forthright personality.

I was personally quite moved by her views of women’s self perception, our habitual self-loathing, which damages our chances and holds us back by diminishing our self-confidence in contexts such as work, earning and education. In Sophie’s opinion: “This self-doubt is political, it’s like tinnitus and we have to learn to ignore it, we must learn to block it out.”

I was moved by the presentation, and buoyed by the rousing reception that Sophie received. I trust that this is a sign that, should it be needed, the forth wave which Cunningham referred to would be fervently supported by a new generation of woman.

Did you attend any Sunday sessions? What were the highlights for you?

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It just keeps getting better at the MWF

I liked Friday’s sessions a lot, but I liked Saturday even more. If my enjoyment of the festival keeps increasing at this rate, my head might well explode by this time next week…

I arrived at Federation Square at dusk, ready for a few of the later sessions on the program. The Square looks really amazing at this time of day, and the feeling you get when you look around is quite special. In one sense it feels as if the space is winding down for the day, with families wandering wearily home after a full day of activity, and in another sense there’s a feeling of anticipation for the night to come, with groups of friends meeting, ready to descend on the restaurants, pubs and clubs of the city centre.

After having a little chat with the lovely Mel Hobbs, I made my way to ACMI Studio 1 for Tasmania’s Call, a panel session featuring Natasha Cica, Sarah Kanowski and Michael Vetch. This session held particular significance for me, having grown up in Tasmania. I have often wondered what path my life might have taken had a stayed there, particularly in regards to my education and my writing. The panelists had some really insightful things to say on how Tasmania sees itself, and the dynamics that are working within this unique State.

The panelists shared their thoughts on the uniqueness of Tasmania, and they all seemed to agree that Tasmania is indeed very different to many other parts of Australia, environmentally and culturally. Michael ventured that it might be “something about being on the absolute edge of the known world.” As such, it produces literature unique to place, it’s environmental rawness and distinct isolation cannot help but influence the thoughts and deeds of those living and creating in this special place.

Not all the panelists agreed that Tasmania is any more unique than anywhere else, with Sarah suggesting that “Tassie needs to find something beyond it uniqueness…” and to identify with more than just being very different.  Despite this, they did all agree that the geography of the State, the effect of being on the very edge of the world created a sense of wildness perhaps not felt in towns like Melbourne or Sydney. Michael believes that “Tasmania prides itself on its isolation” and Natasha recalled how difficult it used to be to leave: “It cost a huge amount to travel to Melbourne, and it was very difficult to get to the mainland.” As a result, many Tasmanian’s choose never to leave, creating a kind of happy introspection.

I’m looking forward to getting hold of a copy of Natasha Cica’s Pedder Dreaming on its release, and I was greatly encouraged to hear that she thought real change in attitude in and about Tasmania was evident. I’ll also have a look into Michael’s new book The Forgotten Islands (2011), a travel memoir about the isolated islands of Bass Strait when it’s released.

I was so pleased to hear from Sarah Kanowski, editor of Islanda literary quarterly that publishes the very best contemporary writing – fiction, essays, memoir and poetry. I picked up a copy of their Winter Edition, and I plan to feature it in a blog post in the near future.

After this session, which made me feel a little bit homesick for Tassie, I attended the John Button Oration – The Fire Within. It was quite a privilege to hear from the most accomplished Honourable Michael Kirby. His progressive and eloquent discussion on a range of issues such as public education, the introduction of a bill of rights, and the current debate regarding same-sex marriage was enlightening and inspiring.

He has an incredible way of teasing out the threads of an issue, making the facts and feelings obvious from each other so as to be able to better understand the true nature of the argument at hand. What an amazing man, and amazing speaker.

The oration was well attended, and very well received. I’m so glad I was able to go. I am now looking forward to reading his forthcoming publication, A Private Life, a collection of essays which he describes as a picture of “his inner life.”

Today I’m looking forward to a little feminist discourse (what better for a Sunday afternoon hey?) as I’m going to see Dissecting Gender and Big Ideas: A Long Long Way to Go – Why we Still Need Feminism.

I’ll report back tomorrow, so stay tuned.

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