A sun-drenched and possibly superficial series of blog posts
Around 9pm on Wednesday night I rolled into Gold Coast airport. My talented friend Omar Musa was on the same bus into Byron and we decided we should go out and wreak some havoc. Havoc was kebabs and a quiet pub where a young blonde man by the name of Matt Buggy played pub ‘classics’. Omar and I kept forgetting his name and ended up with variations of Billy Buggy Ballbag, and we admired the way he, winkishly, asked ‘how ’bout this one?’ to the drunk, uncoordinated punters.
When we’d had enough of Ballbag Billy-Bob we found ourselves in a strange little club full of twelve-year-olds, tequila, and a very severe gothic bartender (she was pretty hot). First we just chair-danced but as soon as Billy Jean came on the seats were abandoned and Omar and I cut a rug.
On Thursday morning I had my workshop (I was fine – a slight hangover actually helps the nerves). The workshop was in a recording studio within Byron’s impressive SAE complex. Twenty-four people (a sell-out) filed in through the thick, sound-proof doors. Three hours went incredibly fast. Participants had their curiosity sated, and many walked out buzzing with ideas. I really enjoyed meeting and hearing about them all. Afterwards, it was nachos and a radio interview on ABC (regional NSW), after which I began shaking unexplainably. I’m pretty sure it was after-shocks of adrenaline. Bodies are fascinating, aren’t they? A beer next door with Omar and a chat on the phone to my boy cured all.
Thursday night was the opening party. Lots of champagne and not quite enough finger food to soak it up made the rounds. I caught up with various lovely faces and met some new ones. It was wonderful to see my friend Amy Barker (author of Omega Park), though we didn’t get to have a proper chat until later in the festival.
At some point I looked over and saw the PanMacmillan ladies (publicists Tracey and Kate) with a boyish Bret Easton Ellis. I wondered what it would have been like for him, in this room full of strangers, in a country he’s never been to, knowing he was one of the festival drawcards (at his first ever writers’ festival, anywhere). Later on stage he wondered aloud why he had chose Byron Bay Writers Festival as his first – a kind of absurd choice as the punters aren’t even really his demographic. He wondered whether he was escaping something in California, whether something was wrong. But he’d always wanted to come to Australia, because a friend said ‘people are hot and they drink a lot’.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Besides hot people drinking a lot in the room, there was Terry Denton’s stick with little rubber animals on it (wtf?) and a mass exodus to the verandah when the speeches started. I was standing with the lovely Krissy Kneen, and she said ‘why do people keep looking out here? Are we talking too loud?’ But then we realised their looks were those of envy, at the space away from Di Morrissey’s speech. I can’t actually judge as I didn’t hear it. I hear Robert Drewe rescued the crowd afterwards. (I know, I was very rude talking outside while the speeches were on.)
Pictured: party bat
Omar tells me later he was walking by a group of people when one of them said ‘Oh, I missed the speeches’ or something along those lines, and Omar said ‘Oh – lucky you! Jesus. They were fucking boring.’ One of the voices said ‘I gave one of the speeches’, and smiled, bemusedly.
I was introduced to Bret Easton Ellis sometime in the night, and he was a very friendly dude. Told me he was enjoying the Aussie sparkling wine. And I told him Kathy Charles and I were interviewing him in Melbourne next week, which he thought should be fun. I introduced him to Jack Heath, an Aussie boy wonder, with four novels under his belt at the age of younger-than-me. I honestly don’t remember much else of the conversation. Later we were at another bar, a group of us, and you could see the stars, and there was a discussion about fear of flying. BEE thought it was all about the fear of not having control, which I’d agree with. I still get it, and I fly quite a lot. When I think about the conversations, at one point I was shouting across the table to Kate how my WIP was going, and I was aware that BEE (in-between) was listening. I wonder how I embellished it. Do you think it’s possible to be genuine and still construct an image of yourself to suit different presences, different conversations? I’m fascinated by this. Obviously, as I have 3 1/2 years of a public, written, constructed self (that I feel is nonethless pretty genuine). And then, of course, there’s the ‘truths’ that come out only in fiction…
To be continued…