Posted by: Lisa Hill | September 3, 2022

2022 Port Fairy Literary Weekend

Greetings from beautiful Port Fairy!

We are here for the Port Fairy Literary Weekend, and so far it’s been excellent.  We had a wonderful dinner last night at the Merrijig Kitchen, just a short distance from our accommodation at the Victoria Apartments, conveniently across the road from Blarney’s Books where the festival mostly takes place.

The first session was called Writing Place, and capably chaired by Hilary Harper it featured Lucy Treloar (Salt Creek, 2016; Wolfe Island, 2019); Christine Balint (Water Music, 2021); and Jennifer Down (Bodies of Light, 2021).  

These authors all had very different settings.  Balint said that she was drawn to write her story (which is set in Venice) because she had heard music written for orphaned Venetian girls in that historical era, but the Derelitti Convent, the actual building where her story is set was a case of that being a building she could get access to.  Down had multiple settings , partly because of the plot, and partly because she grew up in outer suburban Melbourne, so it was familiar.  Lucy Treloar was inspired to write Wolfe Island by seeing a photo of a house on an island, precariously protected from the rising waters by ramparts formed by a bulldozer.  It was fascinating to learn that the remaining inhabitants are still in denial, despite the evidence of climate change all around them.  One of these optimists is even advertising a swamp as desirable real estate…

Detail is always important when realising place in fiction, and Christine Balint explained that in Venice, historical records aren’t necessarily neatly indexed and digitised.  She was lucky to come across records kept by the nuns who ran the orphanage, not carefully organised but full of useful information since the nuns were recording their efforts to stay within a budget.

For Down, researching a time closer to our own, her mother was a valuable resource.  They drove around Dandenong together, her mother sharing her memories of what it had been like during the Kennett era.

Lucy Treloar talked about how there are layers and textures to place,  and that she walks herself into a place. I think that is why her fiction seems so real: there are the scents and smells, the bird song, the whip and the whistle of the wind.

It’s always such a pleasure to hear favourite writers talk about how their books came into being!

My next session featured short story writers: Chris Flynn, Chloe Wilson and Melissa Manning, in conversation with Michael Winkler. (Links go to previous posts in which these authors feature.) Flynn almost stole the show when he listed all the perspectives that feature in his new collection: there’s a grizzly bear, an airline seat, and a hotel room, plus a sabre tooth tiger cloned back to life, and more. Chloe Wilson’s stories apparently reflect her view that there’s always chaos and violence beneath the smooth surface of suburban settings, referencing Shirley Jackson’s short story The Lottery as an example. Melissa Manning’s stories OTOH, are — appropriately for stories about connection, place and environment — linked so that they can be read like a mosaic novel.

My next session is called Dangerous Visions, and it features SF writers Andrew Nette, Mykaela Saunders and Jack Latimore with Matt Neal in the chair.  Then there’s the ‘Merrijig Program which involves a grazing table and a complimentary drink, with hints of some frivolity, and after that there’s the launch of Jock Serong’s latest book, The Settlement.

More about that later, depending on my energy levels after dinner at Blake’s Restaurant.

PS Yes, I did buy some books: a secondhand copy of A Corpse in Calcutta by the late Allan Scarfe; two by Natalia Ginzberg (The Dry Heart and The Road to the City) because everyone is raving about her; Robert Hillman’s The Book of the Broken Hearted, Ann Marie-Priest’s bio of Gwen Harwood, My Tongue is My Own; Gulliver’s Wife by Lauren Chater (because it has an irresistible cover) Murray Bail’s He (which is not an autobiography of memoir, he sez); Dark as Last Night , short stories by Tony Birch, and of course, The Settlement by Jock Serong.


Update, after a fine dinner at Blakes, which included an after-dinner cognac so this will be brief: Jock Serong’s new book sounds terrific.  It’s the third in the trilogy, and Angela Savage (author of Mother of Pearl) did the honours for the launch with great aplomb and made me want to drop what I’m reading and read The Settlement instead!


Responses

  1. Fascinating to hear about the inspiration behind those books.

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    • Yes, it makes me think of all those times I had an idea about something … and failed to turn it into a novel!

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      • I have loads of ideas too but have never progressed further than some short stories

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  2. It all sounds wonderful Lisa. I have Chris Flynn’s collection. I’ve read two of his novels – animals seem to always appear – so I’m looking forward to this collection. I would love to have heard Balint, Treloar and Down.

    (Today, I had been to my delayed 50-year school reunion. It was so lovely. And tomorrow I’m lunching with my closest high school friend, and her husband and lovely father who was so welcoming.) Not much reading is being done ….)

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    • Gosh, what fun! I’ve only ever once been to a reunion, which was rather dull, but it was too soon. Reunions after a long absence are the best, I suspect!

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      • This is only our second … so we don’t rush into these things, ha ha! The last was in 1990. It was really nice to see people again.

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  3. Oh lovely – hope the rest is as enjoyable as this!

    Liked by 1 person


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