The weather wasn’t the only thing superb about the Byron Writers Festival last week. As usual, I learnt a bucket load. In my first session, we were reminded that the word “author” stems from the word “authority”. Stories written with authority stand out.
Weak apologetic writing leaves readers unconvinced.
Peter Carey concurred. “Don’t be afraid,” he said, quoting his mother’s advice when he’d failed University. She simply told him; “worse things happen at sea”. But Peter did warn that writers shouldn’t be published until they are fully cooked. This should instil hope into those waiting for their turn on top of the slush pile. Keep writing. Your prose is like a good lamb shank. Time cooking will make it perfect.
Other wonderful tips came from Children’s and YA writers Libby Gleeson, Leigh Hobbs and Melina Marchetta. Libby said “Don’t ever ask kids for advice on your story. Rather, develop the idea in your head yourself”. Leigh Hobbs confirmed this, adding that you most definitely shouldn’t ask kids how to end your story. Melina said that getting the voice and the tone of a story right is harder than the actual story itself and all three agree that you should write what you want to write, not just what’s popular, or by trying to plan for a wider cultural context. Write what you’re interested in. These authors also said they never stopped editing. Even when their books are on the shelves, they can always see improvements.
Humble words from some of Australia’s greats.
And finally, a new author whose biography inspires, Fiona Johnson said, “when you get stuck, just remember the reason you’re writing. Keep the story close to you.”
I’m already looking forward to next year. Breakfast at the Byron Bay Beach Café, whales breaching just offshore, a host of talented writers to aspire to. Not to mention the beautiful weather.