Pictured: The Fictitious Woman readers at the Dig Cafe: Eleanor Marney, Zoe Dattner (behind, who chaired), Carmel Bird, Cate Kennedy, Tiggy Johnson, Janet Barker, Josephine Rowe and moi.

The inaugural Newstead Short Story Tattoo took place 15 to 17 May 2009.

We gathered, we listened, we absorbed, we read, we learnt, we escaped, we were frightened and delighted and turned-on and appalled and we grew fat on narratives and were in love with the range of voices and experiences in this world, city, town, paddock. We came away inspired.

My Facebook album carries a bit of commentary on the sessions, so do check that out.

Highlights and discoveries:

* Sean M Whelan reading his ‘Static’ piece, where a lion with the face of Harvey Keitel comes to eat his heart, at the Sleazy Stories event. I want to eat this story, it is so good.

* Meeting three people for the first time and having them tell me they read LM.

* Reading alongside Carmel Bird, Cate Kennedy, Josephine Rowe, Eleanor Marney, Tiggy Johnson and Janet Barker. Meeting Carmel Bird after and having her tell me my story, ‘Birds’, was ‘beautiful’.

* Being around people being lovely and smiling, all weekend.

* Getting given Paul Mitchell’s Dodging the Bull, and hearing him read twice. I will review it or feature him somehow here in the future – a writer who is exceptionally skilled at ‘voice’.

* The mythical Selkie story told by Ann E Stewart at the Fire Stories event. I was transported into a magical childhood imagination-space. Also, sipping vodka and toasting marshmallows.

* Getting to spend time with other people’s children.

* Hearing Fraser Mackay read. He blew me away.

* Hearing Paddy O’Reilly say c**t 17 times.

* The time outside the events where I realised more stories were being absorbed – in the car, in kitchens, in layers of clothing – about houses, animals, pastries, children, egg whites, the cultural social political impact of language of everything of constructing ourselves and opinions and shaping the narrative paths we choose to take. The telling and the talking over each other in excitement to share. Sitting back and listening. Remembering some of the little things people tell you more than the big ones…

Thanks ever so much to Neil Boyack for putting on this festival – the opinion was unanimous that this weekend was something pretty special. I’m looking forward to seeing NSST happen again in two years time!

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