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« April 2017 | Blog home | June 2017 »

May 2017

Words by Yasodara Puhule-Gamayalage

It was an honour and privilege to speak to the former Governor-General of Australia, Dame Quentin Bryce.

Dressed in ivory, with a bolero jacket draped over her shoulders and Dear Quentin in her hand, she walks into the conference room at the Pier One. Despite the early start from Brisbane, her commitments of the day in Sydney are still not over, at 6:30pm. Yet she eases into the conversation with great enthusiasm and warmth.

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Photograph: Dina Mura

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By Kristi Cheng

On the Saturday of the Sydney Writers’ Festival, I had the opportunity to talk to Annabel Crabb, host of the ABC’s Kitchen Cabinet, author of The Wife Drought, and avid fan of Helen Garner. As I made my way from our office to the Pier One hotel, I walked past Benjamin Law; it was one of the many author-sightings of this festival.

At a few minutes past one, she walked into the hotel, dressed casually, with her curly brown hair tied up, and greeted me with a friendly smile. We didn’t have a lot of time; she had be at another event by one-thirty, which meant we had only around twenty minutes. But when you’re Annabel Crabb, an author, columnist, political journalist, and a mother of three, there’s a lot you can fit into twenty minutes.

I mentally strike out parts of my list of questions, and we started promptly.

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Illustration and words by Yasodara Puhule-Gamayalage

It’s not everyday, that one gets the opportunity to ask a linguist about his or her inspirations. Hence of course, when one does, one must seize it.

After speaking to Professor Nick Enfield about his current projects, he was glad to let me know a bit about the beginning of his journey.

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Illustration and words by Yasodara Puhule-Gamayalage

As people start to leave the Richard Wherrett Studio after the panel discussion, I am hurried by the volunteer usher who shouts ‘run!’, kindly hoping that I won’t miss Professor Nick Enfield. I hurry against the crowd, with my lanyard pulling me back as it gets caught on the back of a chair along way. As the side door starts to close, I push back onto it with more force than I had intended and see him standing there with some of the panel members.

Phew!

Away from the hubbub, we walk across to Pier 8 and on the wooden steps of a building, begin the interview.

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Words by Yasodara Puhule-Gamayalage

Life is complicated; so we must stop trying to simplify it. This especially applies when we discuss food and water, two fundamentals of life, for they are more than things that we consume to keep ourselves alive. They are part of our culture and way of life.

At the Sydney Writers’ Festival, this year, five University of Sydney academics, Beth Yahp, Chin Jou, Tess Lea (facilitator), Astrida Neimanis and Elspeth Probyn joined together to discuss the fundamentals of life at stake

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Photograph: Kate Mayor

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By Kristi Cheng

I take in my scenic surroundings as I walk to the office we’ve called home for the past few days; I probably won’t be here in early in the morning for a while. There weren’t as many people today as there were yesterday – this I was surprised about – but there were so many more... small people. There were little people here, little people there. There were little people everywhere. Some were slightly larger little people, but let’s just say – and I don’t consider myself a tall person, in any way – I crashed headfirst (well, their head, my torso) into at least three small children during the day because they were out of my range of sight. You see, today was Family Day, and parents were here to get their children to put the fidget spinners down, and pick up a book.

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All the kids have come out to play. Some of the authors have gone home. The staff, volunteers and interns are looking tired and in need of rest. There’s a sense of closure as the 2017 Sydney Writers Festival is coming to an end.

It’s been a wonderful experience be given the opportunity to write for a Writers Festival. Write about writers. Write about events. Write about the daily happenings on the piers.

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By: Tahni Beattie

Despite having well and truly reached the threshold of ‘adulting’, my fondness for stories, particularly those by Roald Dahl, has only intensified. Which is why I jumped at the chance to sit in on a live recording of the ABC podcast Short & Curly at the Sydney Writer’s Festival, titled “How to deal with nasty, horrible, terrible people (with a little help from Roald Dahl).” Hosts Carl Smith and Dr Matt Beard graced the stage, one wearing a purple sequined coat and the other a grand top-hat, to discuss the question: How much can made-up stories teach us about bad people in real life? The answer, it seems, is a lot. Those familiar with the podcast will know that Carl and Matt aim to teach children all about ethics.

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By Eden Faithfull

When I walk into the Pier One bar, I immediately notice Clementine Ford sitting with her ten-month old boy in her lap. The bar is playing smooth jazz, and I’m pretty sure Yassmin Abdel-Magied just walked past me, and instantly I feel very much out of my depth. As I go over to introduce myself, Clementine’s pomegranate lipstick beams up at me as she seats her son, Frank, on the floor between us. “I will be listening to you even though I’m not looking at you,” she says, staring at Frank as he begins to toddle towards the glass windows, “I just have to keep an eye on him.” I sit down across from her and make myself comfortable, which is startlingly easy in her presence.

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Illustration and words by Yasodara Puhule-Gamayalage

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By Eden Faithfull

H.P. Lovecraft once wrote, “The process of delving into the black abyss is to me the keenest form of fascination.” Whilst the Sydney Writers’ Festival may not necessarily resemble Lovecraft’s notion of the black abyss, it certainly is a platform for those who wish to delve: into the minds of great authors, into their own preconceptions and partialities, into the cultural landscape that is Sydney’s literary scene. And a keen form of fascination it is, because never before has a cultural event so truly opened the possibilities that this Writers’ Festival has for me.

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Words by Kristi Cheng

On Friday, at around five past ten in the morning – late – I willed my legs to go just a little faster in its journey across Pier 2/3 on the way to the stage located at its very end. The irony that I was heading to a talk named The Pleasure of Leisure, the eponymous book of this talk, did not escape me while I tried to quietly make my way up the already-full room to a seat, beads of sweat running down my face. At the heart of Robert Dessaix’s book – and this talk – was the importance of honouring leisure, and how to do it. You see, in the crazily busy modern world, working, networking, and filling any empty time with something, was the way to go; there is no value in being idle.

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By Tina Huang

Consider three journalists: Caro Meldrum-Hanna, Madeline Gleeson, and Christine Kenneally.

One would be hard pressed to find three more notable writers of clarifying and politically galvanic content in Australia’s writing landscape.

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By Nathan Bernfield

Way out west of Sydney’s wonderful Writers Festival, past the Blue Mountains and south of Blackheath, are the Jenolan Caves. Classically known for attracting young Aussie families and foreign tourists to frolic amongst the ancient limestone and subterranean rivers, one of the largest popular sites is Devil’s Coach House. Self-guided tours are available every day in a number of different languages, and one of the options even includes Aboriginal cultural commentary. Night tours are also a popular way to explore Devil’s Coach House, including a tourist-favourite tour: ‘Legends, Mysteries and Ghosts’.

It all sounds pretty fun and entertaining, and if you were in Juanita Ruys’ lecture this morning at the Sydney Writers Festival, you would have heard some very compelling and competing stories for how Devil’s Coach House received its diabolical name. The real story, though, as Juanita reveals, is far more disturbing and discomforting than these ghostly and demonic stories could ever be.

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Words by Yasodara Puhule-Gamayalage

“Is an audience willing and still enough to be read to?” asks Charlotte Wood, writer and close friend of the late Georgia Blain.

The answer is easy: ‘Yes, as long as it is from the works of a brilliant writer’.

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By Jennifer Chen

The relationship between the journalist and the source can be one of symbiosis or of transaction, said Ben Doherty, Immigration Correspondent for The Guardian Australia.

The debates of democracy, moral and legal obligations, matters of livelihood and even death are just some of the many keystones that lie at the heart of Marian Wilkinson and Ben Doherty’s panel discussion with Kate McClymont.

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by Nathan Bernfield

Far away from the rocks under the Harbour Bridge, young and old, women and men, even a dog, Uber’d their way to a cold Camperdown to the University of Sydney Business School. There they sat down in the big blue auditorium, to listen to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and bestselling author, Susan Faludi. Her 1991 ‘Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women’ landed her on every feminist bookshelf and gender studies reader. Her new book, In the Darkroom (2016), was the focus of tonight’s discussion; hosted by our own Anna Hush, a philosophy honours student, young writer and anti-domestic violence activist.

Susan’s prolific works cover a wide range of thought: from feminism, to capitalism, neo-liberalism, terrorism, and finally Trump-ism. Susan describes feminism as means for people to find their own voice. Tonight’s discussion began with how her own feminism began: her father.

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Photos and words by Jennifer Chen

As a part of the Media Hub internship at the Sydney Writers’ Festival, I had the fantastic opportunity to interview Ross Gittins whose work had pulled me through my time studying economics in High School.

From the 30 minutes I had to chat with the beloved economics guru, I learnt much more on the philosophies of life than I had expected. A career of four decades amidst the booms and busts of the national economy, the comes and goes in government, and the ups and downs in societal aspirations has made a man who always looks forwards.

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By Tina Huang

Tina Huang chats to Hera Lindsey Bird about sentimentality, post-modern literature and “fakin’ it.” Please see below for some elect excerpts from the interview…

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By Tina Huang

Lyn Hejinian once wrote, “we long to join words to the world—to close the gap between ourselves and things-and we suffer from doubt and anxiety because of our inability to do so.” I came to this festival out of the faith that such doubt and anxiety has-or at least can sometimes find-form.

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By Tina Huang

When I think of China, I think of my parents. I think of my my siblings, my cousins, my aunts and uncles. I think of individuals.


Rob Schmitz, a reporter from NPR, is the same. “Despite the billions living there, when I think of China, I think of a single street on Shanghai and the residents of that street.”

On 26 May, Schmitz presented Street of Eternal Happiness; Big City Dreams Along a Shanghai Road - an hour long talk featuring discussion of China’s macroeconomic boom through a series of micro stories about individuals living in the French concession district of Shanghai.

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By Eden Faithfull

How much do you know about Kelp? Why should we feed sheep seaweed? And why did Dr. Karl Kruszelnicki just tell me to run for political office? In the Sydney Writers’ Festival’s panel Hell and High Water, mediated by Associate Professor Nick Rowley, we find out the answers to all these questions and more.

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Photos and words by Yasodara Puhule-Gamayalage

When someone asks ‘how’s your day been?’ The generic response is, ‘good; thank you’ or another positive variant of it. But rarely do we truly mean it.

Lucky for me, in the reviewing of my second day I will not have to exercise this self-forced façade of positivity; the Sydney Writers’ Festival is a Media Hub Intern’s paradise. It is a place where critical minds collide and unite universes of knowledge and imagination, facilitating a global awareness and restoring hope for the future. It is a privilege to be a part of.
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Photos and words by Jennifer Chen

Day two at the Sydney Writers’ Festival saw crowds gather along Walsh Bay. The end of each session marked influxes of people brushing shoulders as they made their way to the next event.

The University of Sydney Media Hub began the day with an interactivity session with High School students attending the Festival. Staff and interns split up into five teams and gave students a hands-on experience in ‘an hour in the life of a Media Hub intern’. I had the opportunity to interact with a team of five High School students in an Instagramming exercise. They may be young but they had sharp minds. What culminated were series of ‘instaworthy’ photos that captured the spirit of the Sydney Writers’ Festival.

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Photos and words by Jennifer Chen

“What we lack in Australia is a narrative. We lack a story of ourselves that is authentic and honest and captures what it is to be Australian.” --- Stan Grant

Stan Grant’s speech on racism and the Australian dream at the Ethics Centre challenged the problematic meaning of the Australian dream. The author, who had written a Quarterly Essay on The Australian Dream: Blood History and Becoming, said that Australians’ response to his speech had generated a discussion he had not anticipated.

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By Eden Faithfull

INT. OFFICE BUILDING – MORNING
An author meets with his agent.

AUTHOR: It’s pretty tough finding work in today’s literary landscape. I don’t even know where my next paycheck is coming.

AGENT: If there’s one thing we have to remember, it’s this: our goal is to make art and make money. If we can’t make money, then we’ll make art.

Pause

AGENT: And if we can’t make art, then we’ll make money.

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By Eden Faithfull

As Roanna Gonsalves takes the stage, she lifts her phone over her head, drops her shoulders and tilts her body, and then she tells the audience to smile as she snaps a photo. In many situations, this may have been a very unusual thing to do. However, in a discussion titled Literature as Selfie, this globally-renowned, chorographical movement was not only expected, but celebrated by the audience that was captured in the self-taken image that she created.

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Words by Kristi Cheng

On most other occasions, Professor Mark McKenna would probably be speaking about history; he is a leading historian, a professor of history, and recently published a book recounting some of Australia’s largely forgotten stories from the time of European settlement. Today, however, he was here to talk about music. After all, without music, writing would have been a very different experience for him.

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By Eden Faithfull

The Sydney Writers’ Festival brings together Australia and the world’s greatest literary minds: those who empower, those who fight, those who reflect, those who investigate and most importantly, those who write. And of course, everyone in between. Being a Media Hub Intern in the midst of this throng of brilliance is an almost overwhelmingly excellent experience, and at the close of Day One, I am already itching to jump headlong into tomorrow.

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Image credit: Eden Faithfull/

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By Tina Huang

At the start of Why You’re Wrong To Care About Grammar, moderator Nick Enfield asks, “why do people from different social groups choose different ways of speaking, and how can this lead to changes in the English language?”

Enfield is, of course, talking about race and class and (my fav) youth culture~

It is a question that is, while warranted, at once both an overstatement and a banality.

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By Eden Faithfull

When Queen Victoria was buried, she requested that a number of different articles be entombed along with her. Of these objects, she specified that three be laid in her right hand, and another three in her left. In her right hand was placed an image of her husband, Prince Albert, a lock of his hair and a plaster cast of his own right hand. In her left was an image of one of her servants, John Brown, a lock of his hair and his mother’s wedding ring. Simply by taking stock of her unusual choice of relics for the hereafter, you could assume that Queen Victoria was a complex woman. You wouldn’t be wrong.

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Photos and words by Jennifer Chen

Is artificial intelligence taking over the human novelist? Is the fantasy of a bot-writing machine far-fetched in the bot-spam era? Chris Rodley takes us on a journey through the history of novel-writing machines to take us back where we began.

Our obsession with bots taking over the world has existed long before the Twitter bots. Rodley traced this obsession back to 1953, from the coining of the term “software” to the works of artificial intelligence by Marvin Minsky. What was remarkable about the year was the birth of the first novel-writing machine ever built ---Christopher Strachey’s love letter generator.

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I recently travelled around America on a GrainGrowers tour, after having won the Australian Universities Crops Competition in Temora last year. My friend Brett, the competition’s runner-up, travelled with me.

By Nellie Evans, fourth year agricultural science student.

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