Book and writer festivals now attract international tourist-bibliophiles from all countries to all continents. This is a report on one colorful annual event.
Among the longest running literary events is the Edinburgh International Book Festival; starting Saturday, it will run for seventeen days, from the 13th to the 29th of August. In September the committed will cross to Sweden for four days at the Goteborg Book Fair with its 2,000 speakers, including two Nobel Prize Laureates.
Some of the same speakers will have been down under at the Sydney Australia Writers' Festival in May where Booker and Pulitzer prize-winners spoke. After Sydney, some authors, prize-winners, publishers, and the literati dashed, airborne, to Wales for the Big One: The Hay Festival, where Hollywood stars, a handful of Nobel Laureates, Prime Ministers and Presidents rub shoulders. US President, Bill Clinton, dubbed the two-week Hay Festival: “A Woodstock of the mind.”
For three days, another Woodstock-of-the-mind, ran last week in Byron Bay Australia. Like The Big One the setting is out-of-doors, tents, and park-like. The Byron Bay Writers' Festival, in its fifteenth year – located about five kilometers from town – hosted up to 10,000 writers, authors, students, playwrights, politicians, editors, publishers and those simply wishing for a smorgasbord of vibrant ideas.
Others riding the to-and-from-town shuttle bus with me were attending for their third, fourth or fifth years. Most were Australians, others arrived from France, Germany, Ireland, the UK and the United States.
While not attending the Festival himself, the day prior, at a local, out-door pub, Rodney Morrison, formerly of the Australian Defense Forces, told me Byron Bay became known after Paul Hogan (of Crocodile Dundee fame) appeared in a comedy series and he once owned the pub where we enjoyed a few beers.
A fitting location for ideas, the first sun across the Pacific reaches Australia at Byron Bay.
Like a 1960s Woodstock, during the Writers' Festival, Byron Bay also hosted a “Make Love not Uranium” Mother Earth festival in the midst of bongo drums, tie-dyes, beads, tarot cards, palm and psychic readings, crystals, incense, Shiatsu, Reiki, Holographic, and Theta healing.
At the festival site itself, I guessed eight of ten participants were women whose time with hair dressers less important than engagement with thought. Relatively few participants were young men or women. An exception was the busy three-some of university students, Nic, Craig and Maggie. Anticipating careers in the world of words, they believed – with enthusiasm – three days of listening, asking questions, and seeing the examples of other word-smiths well worthy of time and cost.
From the smorgasbord of offerings and interests, I chose events featuring new authors, technologies and the self-published. Typical of events, on stage will be chairperson, with three authors.
My first session was with Andy McDermott (chairperson) and self-published authors Ange Takats, Peter Duke, and Stephanie Dale; each answered questions from the chair and from the audience; it was a session on the self-publishing explosion; taking words from Frank Sinatra, the session stressed 'we did it our way.'
The international scope of publishing and word-events across the world is illustrated by the third author Stephanie Dale, who will tour the USA in 2012. Perhaps it is too early to know which of these authors will also be at Hay, Edinburgh, Goteborg, and – say – Toronto, New York or Aspen.
When not in sessions listening to panelists – as in all such festivals – there is ample time to sample the foods and appreciate the arts.
Joining a growing sub-culture of literary nomads, I am connecting dots for 2012.