The Sydney Writers Festival ("SWF") 2015 has come and gone, and I was lucky enough to be chosen as a volunteer at bookish events at Blacktown, Parramatta and at the main Walsh Bay Precinct. I had such an amazing time being apart of this wonderful festival dedicated to the writers of Australia and hosting many talented authors from all over the world. I want to share with you my experience and how doing things like this inspires me to get my novel finished!
Flash back to January this year when I realised I wanted to be apart of the writing culture here in Australia and I desired to make connections, as well as see what it was like to be a writer in this great country of mine. One night on a whim, I looked up on Google "Writers Festival Sydney" and one of the first things that popped up was SWF. I was intrigued and was jumping for joy that I didn't have to travel across Australia to go to it. I read all there was on their website and came across their volunteers page with a testimonial from one of their long time volunteers. It sounded like what I was looking for, but I was dishearten that I would have to wait a month before applications opened. I applied as soon as they opened, once I confirmed that it wouldn't conflict with my exams and luckily it didn't!
I was scared for a while because they sent everyone an email stating that they had a massive influx of volunteer applications and that they could only pick 200 of us, but that number decreased due to the fact that they give repeat volunteers precedence. I waited with bated breath until I finally received the email that said, congratulations you have been selected to be a volunteer and here is your roster. I was happy as I was given three shifts, the first of which was on a Wednesday night at Blacktown for the interview and book signing for Abdi Aden who released his first book, a memoir called Shining: The Story of a Lucky Man.
I had never heard of him before that night as his book was off the presses only two days before, however I will not forget his story. I was one of two volunteers that night and I was a greeter for the guests. I was in my bright red t-shirt which drew a lot of attention- at night- in Blacktown. Those who know Blacktown will understand my apprehension. It can be a bit dangerous, especially after dark. Nevertheless, it did not put me down as I was excited for my first shift. I waited by the door as people started filing in and talked with the lady who also volunteered about her book she was writing. I am not usually shy, but when it comes to talking about my book and passion for writing I find it hard with people in real life. When she asked me about why I volunteered I merely stated I was interested in writing and I thought it would be a good thing to be a part of, but I did not mention my book. Either way, I listened intently to what her book was about and I wish her good luck in getting it published.
You never could have guessed that he had been onstage each night for the last week doing the exact same thing. He looked fresh faced and ready to rock and role. He made sure to include every child and spent over an hour signing truck loads of books as well as pausing to take photos with them. I constantly heard him tell them that they should never let go of their dreams and if they want to write they should go ahead and do it. It touched me. After the last child left, Andy's publicist introduced us to him and he asked about what we were doing with our lives. I replied that I was studying law and he told me I was very sensible, but when I said I wanted to really be a writer he laughingly retracted his statement. I thought he was so charming and wonderful for making everyone feel special!
Next I snuck into Hugh Mackay's lecture on The Art of Belonging which had already started. The crowd was not as large as Andy's and were much more reserved. It was a great lecture and I agreed with him about many points about how society today was disintegrating the values of community, for instance he told us that less than 30% of people in Australia knew their neighbours. The questions which followed his talk were riveting in their opinionated political statements. I talked to him afterwards about how I viewed this state of disconnect in Australia and he agreed with me. I found the conversation really intellectual and he took me seriously, which felt good because I was the youngest there and he seemed to like that I had my views about the state of society.
There are so many other things that happened and met so many more cool people but if I told you all of that this post would go on forever. These are my highlights and I wont forget them! I am eager to sign up again next year and one day (I wish) to be a participant with my own book. A girl can dream can't she?