Adelaide Writers’ Week

2010 Writers’ Week, Pioneer Women’s Memorial Gardens, Adelaide

Over recent weeks our capital city Adelaide has been abuzz with its annual Fringe Festival, followed by the now annual Festival of Arts; it used to be every two years. Somehow we manage to make this month into “Mad March”. In addition to these two major festivals organisers also manage to cram in the Clipsal 500 car race and this weekend we have the Adelaide Cup, a horse  race.

One of the features of the Festival of Arts I always look forward to is Writers’ Week. This is always held over about 6 days in the beautiful Women’s Memorial Gardens, part of our lovely parklands. Sitting in the shade of the trees on an early autumn day listening to writers talking about their books and their writing craft is a very pleasant way to spend a few – or many – hours.

Unfortunately life conspired against me this year and I didn’t make it to a single session. [Sigh]

You can read my impressions of the last Adelaide Writers’ Week here.

Adelaide Writers’ Week 2010, Pioneer Women’s Memorial Gardens

In love with your writing

Adelaide Writers’  Week 2010

On a number of posts over the last few weeks I have written about the writers who were speakers at this year’s Adelaide Writers’ Week (click here to read more).  I have also written about some of the things Australian writer Tom Keneally had to say. Here is another quote:

“I am still in a marriage with one book when I fall in love with another story.” Tom Keneally, 2010 Adelaide Writers’ Week

I know that feeling well.

I start off all enthusiastically on my work in progress. I marry myself to The Story. I do everything possible to please her, pamper her and see her grow in beauty. I am head over heels in love with her demands, spending long hours wooing her, meeting her every need and seeing that nothing gets in the way of our delightful nuptial bliss.

Then unexpectedly, with no warning sirens blaring, another Story comes mincing seductively along the path, knocks provocatively on the door of my heart and whoosh…. I am carried off in flights of imagination, falling madly in love with this New Story. Something has triggered my heart into believing that this New Story is the Love of My Life.

Practical help

In this situation I know I have to remain faithful to the original story. I need to keep focussed on what I am doing to the exclusion of all else. A very practical way of dealing with this new distraction is to spend a few minutes jotting down the salient points of the new story. File it away – in such a way that it is easy to locate  again in the future. Then forget all about it. She will sulk, she might whine and carry on for a few hours but eventually she will settle down and bide her time until she can take her rightful place in your life.

Good writing.

Some thoughts about writing from Tom Keneally

Adelaide Writer’s Week 2010

I had the privilege of hearing Australian writer Tom Keneally speak several times during this year’s Adelaide Writers’ Week. On each occasion he was in fine form and proved to be not only a brilliant speaker, but also funny and instructive – often at the same time.

I didn’t take many notes during the week but preferred to just sit, listen and soak up the wonderful atmosphere while listening to such a fine parade of great writers. I did take a few notes for one of Tom’s talks.

“I am the one who needs my books – the world goes on perfectly well without them. I am no longer under the delusion that the world needs my books.” Tom Keneally, Adelaide Writers’ Week 2010

This is a sober reminder about the world and about books. He is perfectly right, of course. The world will continue functioning as it does without that novel or short story or poem you are slaving over. It will make no difference at all if that piece of writing is never published.

Tom is also wrong

At the same time, I believe that Tom is also wrong. The world may not need that novel, non-fiction book, sonnet or article, but there is surely someone out there – perhaps only one person, or a handful of people – whose lives can be changed, influenced or even enhanced by what you write. This is why we must, as writers entrusted with divine words, always strive to write the very best we possibly can.

Our writing can – and should – make a difference.

Good writing.

Tom Keneally opening Adelaide Writers' Week 2010

Tom Keneally opening Adelaide Writers' Week 2010

Inspiration and writing

Adelaide Writers' Week 2010, Pioneer Women's Memorial Gardens

Adelaide Writers' Week 2010, Pioneer Women's Memorial Gardens

From where for you draw your inspiration as a writer?

I guess there are as many answers to that question as there are writers! It always intrigues me when writers say that they don’t know what to write about. I rarely have that problem. I can see ideas for writing all around: in the every day events of life, in the experiences of life, in the environment, in the fascinating people we come into contact with daily, in the newspapers, in things we read, in films, television programmes and so on and so on.  So writers just need to open their eyes to the whole world of ideas for writing out there just waiting for a poem, a story, an article or an essay to be written.

In recent weeks I have written about my impressions of attending this year’s Adelaide Writers’ Week held as a part of the current Festival of Arts. During one of the sessions I couldn’t find a seat in the big marquee, so I sat in the shade of one of the beautiful trees which are a feature of the Women’s Pioneer Memorial Gardens where the sessions were held. It was a lovely day: bright sunshine, not too hot, gentle breeze and wonderful speakers to enlighten and entertain us.

I looked up into the trees above.


I just had to take several photos to share with you here. I will use these photos, and the wonderful setting, as inspiration for some writing. The only problem now is to decide whether I write an article, a short story, a poem – perhaps a beautiful sonnet – or a blog post about those lovely trees, the sunshine filtering softly through the leaves, the birds singing overhead in the branches or some other response.

Be inspired – and use that for good writing.

Adelaide Writers' Week 2010, Pioneer Women's Memorial Gardens

Adelaide Writers' Week 2010, Pioneer Women's Memorial Gardens

Adelaide Writers' Week 2010, Pioneer Women's Memorial Gardens

Adelaide Writers' Week 2010, Pioneer Women's Memorial Gardens

Writers and the inner critic

One of the international speakers at the recent Adelaide Writers Week was crime and historical fiction writer Sarah Dunant.  I managed to catch her talks several times. I didn’t take too many notes but I did record one significant statement she made.

Writers: tell the inner critic on your shoulder: “Leave the room, close the door and I’ll invite you back in when I’ve written and we’ll analyse it together.” Sarah Dunant 2010

The inner critic plagues many writers. Sometimes it is like a demon sitting there so belligerently that the writer is frozen by inaction.  Feelings of not being able to write creep in, along with their cousins telling the writer that he or she will never be a good writer. ‘You’re only deluding yourself,’ they cry. Try something sensible, like bomb disposal or rocket science. Go become something easier like a brain surgeon.

Self doubt and  self criticism is common. Writers need to shrug them off and just write. Get down the story, let it take on a momentum of its own and just get it written – no matter how rough it seems.

Then when the first draft is finished, invite the critic back into the process and go through your writing  meticulously, mercilessly and ruthlessly until the writing is so polished that it sparkles  like a well-cut diamond.

Good writing.

Sarah Dunant at Adelaide Writers Week 2010

Sarah Dunant at Adelaide Writers Week 2010