Day One – Bendigo Writers Festival

Today was Schools’ Day at BWF.

Fun things about today, in no particular order other than the way they popped into my head:

1. Gabrielle Wang, Sophie Masson and Lyn White in conversation with Sarah Mayor Cox and 300 school kids;

2. Meeting Nicole Hayes FOR REAL! She is my footy chick hero!;

3. Lovely dinner at GPO Bendigo with Nicole and Graham (a work colleague from another life) with an enormously far-reaching conversation about life, the universe and everything;

4. Afternoon snooze when I would have normally been at work;

5. Reading the third Ship Kings book before falling asleep;

6. Electric blankets!;

7. Home-made lunch of salami and char-grilled veggies on supermarket white;

8. Sleep and electric blanket;

9. Blanche D’Alpuget – a VERY interesting person;

10. Electric blanket;

11. Catching up with the gentleman writer, Andrew McGahan;

12. Buying books;

13. Electric blanket.

 

Sad things about today:

1. Sarah and Justine missing out on a lovely dinner at GPO;

2. Rude secondary students;

3. Missing Jackie French in conversation with Sarah Mayor Cox and 300 students because I was sleeping;

4. Using the wrong Twitter address AND hashtag for the first two conference sessions!

 

It’s been a big day, and the Ship Kings are calling to my salty soul.

You can catch my tweets from the morning session of today on this Storify.

 

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Day Zero – Bendigo Writers Festival – Pre-conference Dinner

Day Zero happens when you go to the pre-conference dinner (in Bendigo) straight from work (in Mentone) with a side trip to home (Mt Eliza) to pick up your laptop that you left behind in the morning!

After that inauspicious beginning, the only way was up, baby!

A quick freshen-up in the lovely room at Barclay on View, and then I headed off to the Platinum Room at The Foundry. Damn, it is LOVELY to be in a town where you know where everything is!

The evening was scheduled 6pm for 6:30pm, but the clock crept passed the half hour and continued on, with no sign of the speaker, our current Australian Children’s Laureate and “National Treasure”, Jackie French. The audience was polite, but starting to get a bit questioning – you could feel the curiosity in the room. Where was she? What was the hold up?

Finally, Georgie stepped on stage to welcome us and introduce Sarah Mayor Cox, who, in turn, introduced Jackie, a woman who needs no introduction, IMHO. Petite, smiley, chatty…she’s JACKIE FRENCH!

And then…and then.

Jackie decided to explain why she was late. She didn’t have to, but she did choose to. Whilst waiting to be collected to go to the dinner Jackie had heard a woman screaming, and some men laughing, and in her words she “completely over-reacted”. We heard that Jackie was thrown back to the night, the exact same date in fact, when her sister was murdered. Well, you could have heard a pin drop. This was an aspect of Jackie’s life that, I suspect, not many people know. It was a privilege to be trusted to hear that story, on that night, from her.

Jackie French
Jackie French

We heard about how, at age 7, Jackie discovered Socrates, and how he became her guide and friend during a traumatic childhood. About her journey through Europe with her then boyfriend and being involved in the war in Spain. About her travels through outback Australia, and her work with Yes, I Can, and back to her family, the importance of reading, reading, reading, and all around her writing.

And she was MAGNIFICENT!

I am in awe of Jackie French. Articulate, wise, compassionate, passionate, brave, wonderful. What an honour. What an amazing start to this conference!

PS. I was so blown away with Jackie on the night that I forgot that I met Sophie Masson (author) and Lyn White (editor). Squee!

Sophie Masson being very polite about my fangirl carry-on
Sophie Masson being very polite about my fangirl carry-on
The lovely Lyn White - editor and 'creator' of the "Through My Eyes" series
The lovely Lyn White – editor and ‘creator’ of the
“Through My Eyes” series