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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Melbourne Writers Festival 2015 - First Session!

I didn't go last year, alas! There was simply nothing I wanted to see at the tines I could go. I used to go to ten sessions, because you could get them cheaper than individually. I think this may have come back, but for quite some tine, you couldn't. I was willing to try out something new, different on the ten ticket thing, but when I couldn't I got picky.

But I missed my festival. I loved going to sessions in which I could hear my favourite writers talk about children's, YA, crime and spec fic books at a time when I wasn't at work. So this year, after spending most of the day with my mother, as I do on Saturdays - and especialły on a fine Saturday when I could drag her down to the beach - I simply got in the tram and rode into the city to see what I could find.  If there was nothing I wanted to attend today, I could pick up a program and find something for tomorrow.  (Actually, there are a couple of sessions I would like to attend tomorrow. One on true crime, the other on historical fantasy. Never heard of the authors, but I love the genre)

I arrived just too late for any of the 4.00 pm sessions and the later ones were away from the main festival venue, so I thought I'd trundle up to Trades Hall for the Ned Kellies, which are awards for crime fiction/non-fic. That started at 6.30 and was free and the people there are all big names in local crime fiction, some from Sisters In Crime. It was likely to be great fun. 

Then I discovered, quite by chance, that in the next few minutes there was going to be a session at the Edge theatre in which the GoHs were Shaun Tan and Kitty Crowther(despite her Anglo-sounding name the lady is French/Swedish). The moderator/interviewer was Bernard Caleo, a local comic book artist. 

Sorry, Ned Kelly Awards, no contest! 

It was very enjoyable listening to these two wonderful illustrators talk about their work. Both of them are winners of the Astrid Lindgren Award.  

Of course, we'd all heard of him, not so many of us had heard of her, so it was good to learn something new. Both of them talked about how they thought when they were drawing. He says that he doesn't start with a message, he starts with a drawing and the message comes later. For example, there was something that started as a funny drawing of a crocodile floor in a high rise building, with a special button in the lift. It's there because crocodiles need the sun. The message - which came later - was that the city in the story was built on a swamp, so we owe the crocodiles something for having taken away their habitat.

She spoke of a baby book called Alors! which was written/drawn for a Paris charity which publishes and prints books so a thousand children can have a book for Christmas. It was shown in slides and she and Bernard read it together. It was a charming book in which a bunch of toys are waiting anxiously for "him". In the last couple of pictures, "he" arrives, a smiling baby, and they rejoice and go to snuggle up in bed with him.

After swearing I wouldn't buy any print books at the festival, I bought Shaun's new one, a collection of Grimm fairytales with his clay art illustrating them. I lined up to get it signed. Behind me were a mother and child, a sweet little boy just turned seven who declared "Shaun Tan is my favourite author!" They had several well-loved books in their bag.

In front of me were a mother and teen daughter who were showing Mr Tan several of the girl's drawings, some of them of him, and very fine they were too. I suggested that they might consider checking out Ford Street Publishing, which had published two wonderful teenage artists in the last few years. 

I chatted a bit with Shaun, who vaguely recalled meeting me, though not my name. (It was on a post it note on the book, as requested by the festival volunteer, but he hadn't seen that). We agreed that Ford Street is an excellent publisher which treats you well. I got my autograph and left. Unusually for a Saturday night I've decided to go out for dinner. Wine and eggplant Parma. A nice way to end the day!

A bit blurry, but here they are.

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