Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Adelaide Writers' Week 2016

Being a keen book reader, I've always been curious about Writers' Week. 
Unfortunately, work and other commitments have usually prevented me from 
attending. This year my schedule was clear and I was able to go to six 
sessions. This post provides a brief overview, with some notes and 
observations of the sessions I attended last week.

1. Overview

Writers' Week 2016 spanned six days, with fourteen hour-long sessions 
per day. It was held in the Pioneer Women's Memorial Garden, between 
Government House and Victoria Drive. All sessions were free and open to 
the public. Most of the sessions covered one or two books, with the 
authors on stage answering questions from an interviewer/facilitator. 
Authors gave a brief reading from their book. Some sessions were more 
general in nature, covering various aspects and styles of writing. 
Towards the end of each session, audience members were invited to ask 
questions. After the session, authors were available to sign books 
brought by attendees or purchased on site.

Attendance was high for most of the sessions. Despite its name, the vast 
majority of attendees were not writers at all. Personally, I think 
"Adelaide Book Week" better reflects the nature of the event.

Overall, I found all the sessions interesting and worthwhile. Lots of 
topics were covered, and all the panelists did a good job. I picked up 
suggestions for at least three books to read, and I reevaluated my 
opinion of a book I read last year.

2. Sessions Attended

Here are some observations and notes from the six sessions I attended. I 
didn't take any formal notes, so I'm relying on my memory when 
attributing the notes to the sessions.

"New Worlds"
The panel featured two overseas authors whose latest books were about 
20th Century migrants.
* Stories are often based on actual events, with one or more elements 
embellished/tweaked and taken from there.
* Extensive research can lead to comprehensive backstories, most of 
which never makes it to the finished novel (in one author's case, he 
ritualistically destroyed those original drafts).
* For marketing purposes, publishers want to start promoting a book long 
before it is finished; experienced writers learn how to manage info flow 
to hide lack of progress or prevent being locked into specifics too 

"Fairy Tale"
The panel featured two overseas authors whose latest books incorporate 
some elements of fairy tales.
* Authors don't always start out with a specific theme in mind, and nor 
do they always set out to preach.
* Novels can incorporate genre elements to connect characters and to 
help with storytelling.
* Can't rely on inspiration alone; in fact, most stories grow 

"The Making of a Writer"
The panel covered the general topic of how one becomes a writer.
* The panelists re-emphasised the point that writers are readers first, 
and should continue reading as widely as possible to get new 
perspectives and refine their own writing.
* Writers can be very superstitious, which is reflected in their work.
* Even successful authors fill in time by working "day jobs", such as 
editing or teaching creative writing.

"Undermajordomo Minor"
A Canadian author was interviewed about his third and latest book.
* A book can have multiple editors, in different regions or for 
different publishers.
* Editors of the featured book asked for ending to be rewritten, and the 
author agreed.
* The author finished writing, but didn't have a title; one of the 
editors ended up suggesting the title.
* Writing is often a very isolating endeavour.
* One audience question was about a controversial scene in the book, 
which the author knew could be divisive but he ultimately decided to 
leave it in.

"Telling Tales"
The panel featured two female Aussie authors discussing their recent 
collections of short stories.
* Authors can tire of their own characters; some characters can sustain 
author's interest for a short story, but not an entire novel.
* Some promising stories hit the wall, while others may start appear 
unpromising, but can grow steadily to novel-length.
* Reiterated that stories are not usually meticulously pre-planned in 
* Some creative writing courses, particularly in the US, churn out 
writers having the same unoriginal and formulaic styles.

"Under Cover"
A veteran editor provides some behind-the-scenes anecdotes about 
writers' festivals, authors and publishing.
* Publishers can be sloppy, with the interviewee describing how a whole 
chapter was left out of a novel by a popular author (Peter Carey) and 
nobody noticed until months after the book was published.
* Patience is required, as it can take many years to get a book written 
and published.
* Even experienced editors need to have their books and chapters