Saturday, 16 July 2011

The "Writers' Week"

at our biennial Festival of Arts used to be held in a variety of locations in the CBD, mostly in and around our State Library. Many of the events were held in "the lecture theatre", a small room with tiered seats.
I first attended some of those events when I was sixteen. I would not have known about those events or dared to attend them except that the late Judith Wright somehow arranged for the headmaster of my boarding school to release me into her care. There were people she wanted me to meet. Her view (and mine) was that these things were more important than the school sports' day in which I was naturally not participating. Yes, perhaps I should have been at school and "barracking" for my house but I was, quite frankly, not in the least interested.
I do not think the other students were in the least bit envious of my good fortune. They were not interested in reading. They read what they were required to read and that was it. The school library was a tiny room. It held mostly out of date reference material. The teachers, apart from my English teacher, taught only from the textbooks.
So I sat in the lecture theatre and listened to authors. I sat on the steps of the lecture theatre and talked to authors. As a sixteen year old I did not understand all that I heard but, looking back, I know I did learn many things. I was extremely fortunate to meet so many authors, many of whom encouraged me.
Writers' Weeks are not the same now. They are held in two large tents above the parade grounds. The visiting authors are kept apart from the audience. They are brought in, displayed and then perform. They answer questions for a limited period. They sign books. They leave - usually for a round of school visits. Writers' Week is now about publishers, book launches and readers. The old camaraderie has gone and been replaced by something else. Perhaps it is more accessible to readers and that may be a very good thing but the authors say something is missing.
Perhaps we should call the week Readers' Week rather than Writers' Week.


JO said...

I so agree with you. Book festivals are marketing opportunities now - writers go because they have a book to sell. It's possible to 'see' some great people, but rarely to rub shoulders with them.

Anonymous said...

In a way it is Writers' Week though Cat - because it is an opportunity for writers to present themselves to the reading public. All the same I agree overall that it is more about reading and marketing than actual writing.
Bob C-S