Over the past few years, festival-goers have come to dread question time after the speakers have finished their part. Often questions are actually statements, designed to show the cleverness of the questioner, that go on and on for about five minutes until someone on the stage manages to bring him/her to a halt. Sometimes questions are actually about "no one will publish my manuscript and I think it's a conspiracy and what are you going to do about it". At a writers' festival which is all about published books? Nothing.
Maybe this is why, for the second year, MWF is running a full-day session on the nuts and bolts of getting published. This is something our students never attend because they learn all that in our course (if they're listening properly!).
It's easy to forget that there are still lots of people out there who write and hope to get published, but don't have much idea at all of how the industry works. Hence the question at a forum I attended - "I have an idea and some pictures I want to draw - how do I get published?" There was an audible intake of breath in the audience, and the authors on stage seemed so taken aback that they floundered and didn't really answer properly - how could you, when the full answer would take hours?
I've noticed in a couple of sessions at the MWF so far that the "boss" of the stage (facilitator, or whatever the current word is) has warned at the start of question time - please ask real questions. But many in the audience would rather contribute to the discussion in some way. The person in the Short Fiction session the other day who told us all about the story readings at the Wattle Cafe was doing us a favour. Where do you draw the line?
Maybe the line is between providing useful input, and self-aggrandising?