BWF: An Overview of the Brisbane Writer’s Festival

The 2011 Brisbane Writer’s Festival was the first real writing event that I’d ever attended, and I really had no idea what to expect. I’d booked my tickets, highlighted a copy of the program, and studied the venue map, but none of that really prepares you for the atmosphere of a writing festival. Authors, publishers, writers, readers, agents, organisers, volunteers, venue staff, and confused people who’d stumbled in off the street mingled in the lobby and foyer of the Brisbane State Library and the Gallery of Modern Art. The makeshift bookshop was packed with people browsing, buying, and lining up to have their new books signed by their favourite authors.

I’d like to say the atmosphere was electric, but that doesn’t quite encapsulate the feeling of:

  • Standing in line for 40 minutes (with at least 30 other people) for a cup of coffee, and then being told that you’re not allowed to take coffee into the venue.
  • Initiating a conversation with a random person in line at the cafe, chatting for 15 minutes about your writing, and then discovering that she’s a publisher.
  • Coming face to face with one of your favourite authors, and then… not… knowing… what… to… say…
  • Exchanging contact information with all sorts of random people you’ve just met, so that you can “definitely keep in touch” after the shared excitement of having a writing epiphany.
  • Listening to authors read excerpts of their books, and being so amazed that they can keep it together and sound so calm in front of an audience of hundreds of people… and then wondering if other people will think the same about you one day.
  • Being amidst a whole sea of writers who understand and get it and really believe  and think it’s not only okay, but good to spend time dreaming, and writing, and believing in the art of storytelling.

The organisation of the festival was fantastic, especially considering the number of different rooms and venues being used for sessions, and the staff and volunteers were amazing. (Especially considering they were put through their paces on Saturday evening when the fire alarm went off. But more about that in another post.)

The one statement that really stays with me from the whole festival is something that Meg Vann, Manager of the Australian Writer’s Marketplace, said:

Writing is like a long, winding bus trip. No matter what else you do, the most important thing is to stay on the bus.

This was the first writing event I’ve attended, but it certainly won’t be the last. Bring on BWF 2012!

(Read more about my BWF adventures here.)

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “BWF: An Overview of the Brisbane Writer’s Festival

  1. I’m new round these parts, but I had to stop by. I went to my first convention last April… the RT Booklovers Convention in California. And I went as a debut author. I felt the same as you and became instantly addicted to the convention life. I enjoyed the workshops they had and actually meeting people I’d only known on facebook. Best of luck on your journey as a writer! 🙂

    • Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting! I can’t imagine being a debut author at my first event. I think I would have been too terrified to open my mouth. I’m looking forward to a long future of festivals and conferences, as either an attendee or (fingers crossed!) a visiting author.

      Thanks so much for your well wishes. I just checked out your blogs, and will be spending some more time there, I’m sure.

      • When I saw you writing about Brisbane, my brain perked up. lol I have friends over by you and frequent their blogs. I love to get a worldly view of things and I really enjoyed your take on the festival. I look forward to coming back here and reading more. 🙂

  2. Randomly running into a publisher… that’s pretty golden! At least… as long as you made a good impression!

  3. It’s funny when two people meet at a conference, exchange introductions, then one person de-couples after assessing that the other person is a nobody. 🙂 Happens to me all the time! I guess I look, at first glance, like I might be somebody. I blame the glasses.

  4. You have whetted my appetite for our upcoming Portland literary festival, Wordstock. Two weeks and counting… yay!

  5. A Writer’s Festival! How wonderful! They’re generally called Conferences here in the States, but a Festival sounds so much more, well, festive. I’m so glad you got to go. I’ve been to a few local and regional conferences, but the RWA National Conference in New York in June was my first big one–two thousand attendees, plus another hundred and fifty or so agents and editors and such. It was great, and now I’m hoping for an excuse (to spend the money needed) to go to the next one in California next July. There’s nothing quite like being with two thousand other (almost all) women who understand.

    • “There’s nothing quite like being with two thousand other (almost all) women who understand.”
      That’s so true. The atmosphere is just as… useful as the information in many ways. You get a great sense of “I’m not crazy! I’m not a freak!”

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