Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A day at the Mebourne Writers Festival

The weather was beautiful, the company enjoyable and the speakers stimulating. Where were we? At the Melbourne Writers Festival, of course. As Rosemary Cameron, festival Director said, the presence of the students on students days brings the "festival back into the Melbourne Writers Festival". Our Recreating the Writer class caught the train and made the hour long trek into the city, hopped on a tram, and then we were at the Malthouse. We went to see Nick Earls who talked about his new book Monica Bloom in a most engaging way and then the process of having a previous book made into a film that is to be released on fifty screens tomorrow. It's called 48 Shades and he showed the trailer to the collected audience. The students came out wanting to buy the books (as I overheard) and I came out wanting to see the film. We had lunch and a browse in the bookshop where I got the students to select a couple of books we could add to our school library and then we went in to hear Randa Abdul Fattah, lawyer and author of Does my head look big in this? a great title, don't you agree? She writes about the decision of Amal, a Muslim teenager in suburban Melbourne to wear her hijab to school where she is the only Muslim. I am reading this book at the moment and it has definitely captured the voice of an Australian teenager who lives a hyphenated existence "Australian-Muslim-Palestinian-Egyptian". Some of the novel is based on her own experiences growing up, and she spoke passionately about the way the media portrays Muslims in this climate of fear and the war on terrorism. She is a most engaging speaker, who in her effort to get her point across speaks fast and knowledgeably. It was easy to see her as a lawyer in a courtroom.
Before we even got to the venue in South Melbourne, as we were waiting for the tram, Jacquie (fellow colleague and friend) and I had a serendipitous moment. We got talking to a woman who was obviously waiting for the same tram as we were. It turned out that she was speaking at the festival about her own novels. She was Fleur Beale, author of over a dozen novels and fellow teacher. It was lovely to talk to her and later I bought two of the novels I am not Esther and A Respectable Girl. I loved every moment of the day although I am a bit of a stress bucket when taking large groups on public transport. The girls were well behaved and I think they enjoyed it as well. We'll probably get to read what they think on their blogs in the days to come.

1 comment:

  1. Jacqui Cusack10:30 am

    Yes, yesterday's activity was a very enjoyable day, complemented by fabulous weather, and girls, who began the day somewhat apprehensively ("I hope this isn't boooring!") and ended with them full of chatter about the issues discussed.

    Nick Earls was very entertaining, and was able to relate the students who gathered to listen to him, by opening with the line "Who here has ever had a crush on someone?"

    Randa Abdul Fattah was passionate about her experiences as a Muslim woman in a largely Christian society, which has been framed by a heightened sense of fear of the "unknown". I think it was great to have a moderate Islamic person speak to the students, and help them see that people with "cloths" on their head are the same as them.

    Being the massive geek that I am (as my students will attest), it was a great thrill to meet a real live author who was interested in us, and also interesting. I am really enjoying her book "A Respectable Girl", which I thoroughly reccommend.