Sunday, April 29, 2007

Away with the Penguins

I have been away. At Phillip Island, which is about 2 hours south-east of Melbourne, and is famous for its Penguin Parade, where thousands of Japanese tourists (and lots of others too) go down to the beach and watch the penguins waddle in at dusk, heading for their burrows.
I was originally asked to run a writing workshop at the inaugural Ibis Writers' Festival, and then organised a school visit to Cowes Primary School. The whole weekend was given over to the writers' festival and people came from all over the area for workshops on writing for children (me), writing poetry (Kristin Henry), writing fiction (Bruce Pascoe) and writing plays (Ian Robinson). I first ran a writing workshop in Cowes about 16 years ago, and there were people at this weekend who attended that original workshop of mine. Amazing.
On Friday night, we went to a dinner featuring Dorothy Porter as the guest speaker. Her new book Eldorado has just been published, and it's another crime novel in verse. I've heard her read from it twice now, and it sounds fantastic.
Dorothy also talked about what poetry can do that fiction can't, and some of the other themes and subjects she has tackled. A great presentation.
On Saturday night, local performer Maggie Millar was to give a presentation of fairy tales for adults, but she bowed out due to illness so Kristin "dobbed in" herself and me to fill in. Now, fairy tales for adults is not our thing, so we decided to continue on with the theme of the afternoon forum - Identity and Family Storytelling. The forum ended up being more about stories as a way of perceiving and understanding national identity, so Kristin and I brought it back to the personal, reading our own poems about family and discussing where they came from and why and how we write them.
I read a few poems from my new book Sixth Grade Style Queen (Not!) and got an excellent response from the audience.
Did I do any writing while I was down there? No. I did nearly lose my voice, mainly through getting a bit carried away with the school kids on Friday with practicing our pirate Arrrrrrs. And I have a new idea for a series of poems, but haven't started yet. Still thinking.
And still reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. It is amazing. Some of the typographical images alone provoke much thought, let alone the characters and story.
I did get to mark a great pile of student assignments while sitting in a nice coffee shop down near the water. And hear a lot of rain falling on the roof on Friday night. Yaaayy!

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