Nerd that I am, the biennial NT Writers Festival is something I always look forward to. It’s a mixed bag of wordy delights, with both literary heavyweights from Down South (where they gots culture) and cross-eyed, local self publishers (yours truly). The heavies are always shocked by the tropical heat and the absence of high quality espresso, but they gamely press on before going home to write something indignant, hand wringing or misty eyed about their time on the frontier. I, on the other hand, choose to stay here and do the same thing (see: this entire blog).
Ah, blessed are the writers…
Anyway, this year I decided to sign up for a non-fiction writing workshop. Mr Tea declined to join me. Wordstorm what? Christos who? Why would he do that when there was perfectly good boat maintenance to do?
So on the Sunday, I turn up solo at Brown’s Mart for the class. It’s a genial group of scribblers, including a self-published traditional owner, a few journos, a technical writer and a poet called Fred. Between us, we hail from Darwin, Sydney, Tennant Creek, Germany and Alice Springs.
The teacher, Claire, is a softly spoken English woman who has written a travel memoir about Tibet.
She has hefty hand outs and talks us through the process of writing and publishing non-fiction.
“The most important thing is just to write it all down. Put yourself in the story,” Claire says. “You can’t worry about what other people think.”
Fred interjects at this point.
“You know, that’s it. That’s the truth. For years as a poet, I’ve sent my poems to my parents. And nothing. For them, it’s just words on a page. They never got it. Never understood who I was or what I was doing.
But when I read them aloud, suddenly they loved it. Even the time they came up to Darwin and I was onstage reading my poem about fucking a dog. So why have I been worrying all this time about what they think of my work?”
Claire gently cuts in at this point.
“Mmmm. Yes. Well. We might leave it there for now…Does anyone have anything else to add?”
She turns hopefully to one of the other students.
“Barbara, what do you think?”
Barbara pushes her glasses back up her nose and giggles. “Well, I’d quite like to hear Fred’s poem”.
Fred holds up his hand and wiggles it, as if he is one of Beyonce’s back up dancers.
“Now, now. I didn’t say I fucked a dog,” he says.
“I just wrote a poem about it.”