It’s held annually less than three hours’ drive from my doorstep, but for some reason I hadn’t made a pilgrimage to the Byron Bay Writers Festival. Until this year, when I bit the bullet and signed on for a three-day pass. Admittedly the carrots of Fatima ‘I don’t believe in birthright politics. I don’t think, nor have I ever thought, that my name qualifies me for anything’ Bhutto, whose writing, familial, and political connections intrigue me, and Bret Easton Ellis, he of Less Than Zero, Glamorama, and American Psycho fame had a lot to do with it. But, just one day into the fest, I’m so incredibly glad that I finally made it down and so incredibly mad at myself for not making it before.
Writers’ festivals both soothe and inspire me. I feel at home surrounded by like-minded people and love that I have an excuse to discuss nothing but books, reading, and writing for hours or days on end. Sometimes, though, I can find the crowd sizes, crush, and sheer logistics of getting from tent to tent overwhelming.
But like Goldilocks trying on writers’ festivals for size, I think I’ve found the one for me. With four main tents and a smattering of food venues within a contained area and distance that enables you to duck between them as you try to catch sessions running concurrently, I think the Byron Bay Writers Festival size is just right. The location and set-up is quaint and intimate, the crowds not too large, and the food, which includes spinach and ricotta ‘snake’ pastries and eggplant and feta balls with parsley mayonnaise, is heavenly.
There’s also writing-related artwork in the form of a kind of tower of books and a chair made from letters, both of which I officially want for my house. And even though I’ve come down by myself with little planning and no broadcasting of the fact, I’ve run into and caught up with lots of people I know. Couple that with some random conversations struck up with strangers over a shared interest in an author or session and plans to get to the lighthouse and the beach tomorrow and I’m wondering what’s to date kept me away.
Of course, topping the list of perks is that I’ve caught one of my favourite ever authors (Bret Easton Ellis) and discovered two whom I think might quickly become one (Susan Maushart and one whose name I didn’t catch but who replaced the last-minute drop-out Bhutto)—both of which I’ll be blogging about in coming days. If you’re in Byron, near Byron, or can get to Byron at short notice, there are two days left of the festival. I wholly recommend coming on down and trying it on for size.