I've just returned from the Scribble Children's Writing Festival in Canberra, and by the time I arrived back in Melbourne late Saturday evening, the cool change had arrived and it was down to 29 degrees. Not that I really noticed. Canberra had been 40 both days, and I felt so parched and sweaty (yes, at the same time) that I thought I'd never be cool again. Today I went for a walk in a mild 24 degrees and saw how many gardens and trees in the neighbourhood were scorched by the sheer air heat yesterday - 46.4 degrees, Melbourne's hottest ever.
Although it's mild today, all over our state bushfires continue to burn. There is a huge one that has destroyed over 57,000 hectares so far, and is still going. If you have never seen what a bushfire can do, or how fast it can move (much faster than you can run or even drive when it has gale force wind behind it), then Google Victorian bushfires and find some footage. It is truly terrifying, and the CFA volunteer firefighters are amazing. Already we have 14 people who have died, which is almost unbelievable, and many firefighters injured.
The festival, although hot in temperature, was full of keen writers who came to listen to a variety of speakers talk about a variety of topics. Mark McLeod, formerly a publisher at Random House and Hodder, did manuscript consultations all day Friday and spoke on Saturday. Jackie French was there, as was Randa Abdel-Fattah (her talk was fantastic), Anthony Hill, Jack Heath and Mark Carthew. We discussed picture books, educational publishing, our own books, and our writing and publishing experiences. In the last session of the day, I taught a workshop on how to get started on your children's novel.
The participants must have felt they were in an endurance race! Two jam-packed hours of information (I even made them write something) under a madly spinning ceiling fan and with copious amounts of cold water. But it was two days of good value for all, I think, and everyone seemed to go away feeling like braving the heat had been worth it.
Here in Melbourne, lots of things were cancelled, especially outside sporting events. Most people stayed inside where it was cool - that would've been me, too! But it was great to get out and meet so many interested writers and just plain talk about writing.