Visit to the Melbourne Writers Festival

Here Comes the Future

When I learnt we were going to the Melbourne Writers’ Festival, I was pleased as punch, pardon the expression. I’d always wanted to learn more about the process of writing and publishing books, and a festival which deals with issues such as these is a festival I always love to go to.

We met near Deakin Edge, in Federation Square, and, at 10:00, entered the ACMI “The Cube”, for “Here Comes The Future,” a Q & A session with Ambelin Kwaymullina about her debut novel, The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf.

Ambelin, daughter of Indigenous writer and artist Sally Morgan, spoke in depth about the creative process involved in her work. She explained that the original title of the book was proposed by her brother Blaze, and that her family as a whole played a major part in her writing, reviewing her drafts and proposing new ideas. For example, Sally, her mother, always enjoyed scenes with speaking animals, and would encourage her to add in more.
Ambelin admitted that some of her characters were based on herself, and that some were based on people she knew well. She described in detail how she based the ecological system of the book on the ecological system of Australia, to retain an environment that makes logical sense while still maintaining the uniqueness of an unknown future.

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf – Summary

“The Reckoning destroyed civilisation. Rising from the ashes, some people have developed unique abilities, and society is scared of them. Guided by the ancient spirits of the land, Ashala Wolf will do anything to keep them safe.
When Ashala is captured, she realises she has been betrayed by someone she trusted. When her interrogator starts digging in her memories for information, she doubts she can protect her people forever. Will the Tribe survive the interrogation of Ashala Wolf?” Goodreads

Hooked on Classics

Our next session was a discussion of retelling; The adaptation of a classical story into a modern one by a different author, featuring Alison Croggon, author of Black Spring, a retelling of Wuthering Heights  by Emily Bronte, alongside Cassandra Golds, author of Pureheart, a modern reimagining of the tale of King Arthur.

Alison and Cassandra discussed the ideas behind adaptations of classics: What defines a classic? What distinguishes adaptations from fan fiction?
They also discussed the creative process of their respective novels.

Alison wrote her story a few years after reading Wuthering Heights: the main ideas were still fresh in her mind, but apart from snippets of dialogue, she had no memory of the text. In contrast, Cassandra was inspired by a picture of the grail maiden, who tended to the Holy Grail, and wrote the book while actively reading and rereading texts of the original legend.


Pureheart – Summary

“Gal and Deirdre have forgotten something, something really, really important.
When her grandmother dies, Deirdre is left alone in a crumbling block of flats. Looking out the window one misty night, she sees a boy who seems familiar.  Together, he and Deirde must discover the secret of the old building, before it collapses and the secret is lost forever . . .”


Black Spring – Summary

“In a savage land sustained by wizardry and ruled by vendetta, Lina is the enchanting but wilful daughter of a village lord. She and her childhood companion, Damek, have grown up privileged and spoiled, and they’re devoted to each other to the point of obsession. But Lina’s violet eyes betray her for a witch, and witches are not tolerated in a brutally patriarchal society. Her rank protects her from persecution, but it cannot protect her from tragedy and heartbreak.|
An innocent visitor stands witness to the devastation that ensues as destructive longing unleashes Lina’s wrath, and with it her forbidden power. Whether drawn by the romantic, the magical, or the gothic, readers will be irresistibly compelled by the passion of this tragic tale.”

Stamp of a Vamp

The third session for the day was with Justine Larbalestier, author of Team Human, and Myke Bartlett, author of Fire in the Sea. These two authors held a captivating discussion about the natural and the supernatural, and one point drawing the comparison between a vampire in bed and a human sized ham sandwich, and coming to the conclusion that the legendary Minotaur is a rather sad creature.
Justine admitted that she was a fan of “The Vampire Diaries,” but refused to name her favourite male lead, claiming that they were “rather whiny and annoying.”|We all laughed along as the two authors explained their respective stories, with a lot of humour and good cheer.


Team Human – Summary

“Mel is horrified when Francis Duvarney, arrogant, gorgeous, and undead, starts at her high school. Mel’s best friend, Cathy, immediately falls for the vampire. Cathy is determined to be with him forever, even if having him turn her could inadvertently make her a zombie.
And Mel is equally determined to prove to her BFF that Francis is no good, braving the city’s vampire district and kissing a cute boy raised by vampires as she searches evidence in this touching and comic novel.”


Fire in the Sea – Summary

“Sadie is sixteen and bored with life in Perth. It’s summer, and lazing on the beach in the stifling heat with her cousins and Tom is a drag. Then something comes out of the sea.
Dark menacing forms attack an old man, leaving him dead and Sadie wracking her brains to understand what she saw. Then there’s a mysterious inheritance, a strange young man called Jake and a horned beast trampling the back yard.”
Sadie finds herself caught in the middle of an ancient conflict that is nearing its final battle, a showdown that threatens to engulf Perth and all those she loves in a furious tsunami.”

How to Make a Book

Our final session for the day, “How to Make a Book,” featured Melissa Keil, author of Life in Outer Space, and Tony Palmer, a cover artist who has collaborated with authors such as Morris Gleitzman and Sonya Hartnett. It was hosted by Lachlan Carter, creator of “100 Story Building,” a social enterprise for young aspiring authors.
Melissa Keil told us about her decision to write a story, and her eventual publication. She entertained us, detailing emotional breakdowns and long arguments with her editor, line by line analyses of the story, and the eventual decision to merge the six original starting chapters into the current four.

Tony Palmer spoke about his creative process: He showed us how he makes a cover, starting from a small sketch, which travels through the hands of most every person working with the book, until it ends up as a fully-fledged cover. Tony admitted that he had a habit of producing mass covers, with slight variations, and presented examples of his extensive portfolio.


Life in Outer Space – Summary

“Sam Kinnison is a geek, and he’s totally fine with that. He has his horror movies, his nerdy friends, World of Warcraft – and until Princess Leia turns up in his bedroom, he doesn’t have to worry about girls.
Then Sam meets Camilla. She’s beautiful, friendly and completely irrelevant to his life. Sam is determined to ignore her, except that Camilla has a life of her own – and she’s decided that he’s going to be part of it.
Sam believes that everything he needs to know he can learn from the movies … but now it looks like he’s been watching the wrong ones.”

Looking Back

Overall, I had a good time, and I believe everyone else did as well.
The authors were engaging and interesting, providing enlightening opinions about both weighty and trivial topics, cracking jokes and sharing their lives with us.

I believe several “thank you”s are in order:
Thank you Ambelin, thank you Alison, thank you Cassandra, thank you Justine, thank you Myke, thank you Melissa, thank you Tony, and thank you Lachlan. Thank you for coming to the Writers’ festival, sacrificing your free time to teach us more about books.

Thank you also to the library, especially Miss Buckland, for providing us with the opportunity to experience this veritable hothouse of learning.

And above all, thank you, dearest reader, for suffering through my obtuse words.

Ido Kleifeld, signing out.


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