The Melbourne Writer’s Festival was held at Federation Square in the heart of the city of Melbourne. I had never been to the festival before, and I didn’t know exactly what I’d be doing, either. On my phone was a timetable of the seminar type sessions I’d be attending, and I checked and double-checked everything before I finally met the teachers who had organised the excursion; Sally Trotter, Naomi De-La-Warr, Kelsie Truscott and Pieter Schols.
As the first session started, one about slam poetry, I began to understand just what was going on. With pen to paper, I began rapidly taking notes. I listened to poetry live for the first time, and I fell in love with it. The second session was about fan fiction. I had a feeling it would become more educational for my mother than it was for me, but I sat down and began listening with my mind still buzzing from the previous session. On the stage, topics I had trouble speaking to my friends and family about were articulated in perfectly crafted sentences. I was in my element, and my mind was travelling at a hundred kilometres per hour. The air was electric around me – I was focusing so intently on listening that I had forgotten to take notes.
The fifteen minutes spent between the second and third session were at the festival’s bookshop, where I shamelessly splurged. Just outside the pop up store was a set of tables side by side and designated spots for queues in front. There were already some familiar faces signing books, and I quickly rushed into the steadily growing lines of equally as excited students. I had a few books signed before I moved onto the next session.
In the third session, the topic of short stories was presented. I quickly noticed this session was more question and answer based. I scribbled my notes down in a messy attempt to write down every bit of advice I heard. The session ended almost too quickly for my liking; I wanted to learn more, I wanted to nit-pick the brains of these published authors, but I trusted in my nonsense notes and reminded myself I could analyse it all later.
The final event was a poetry slam between a collection of five schools was held at the Deakin Edge. The Deakin Edge was a large, sunlit room layered with fold-up chairs facing a stage underneath a projector screen the size of my bedroom floor on the wall. I didn’t know this until the morning of the festival when I had searched it online, but a poetry slam was a competition of sorts. There was no music, no costumes. Just a poem and an artist (or a few) on the stage, reading their work out in a rhythmic mix of singing and speaking.
I hadn’t ever been to a poetry slam before, and I didn’t know what I expected, but I certainly didn’t expect the schools competing to be so skilled in their work. I felt goose bumps form on my skin at the emotional presentations.
When the winners were announced and applause was given, my mother and I said goodbye to my peers and teachers. Soon, the entire building became somewhat of a ghost town compared to the crowd of bustling book enthusiasts only an hour ago. Looking back on the day, I realised that I had benefitted so much from the different sessions. The first one inspired me, the second one excited me, the third one encouraged my innate need to absorb every piece of advice I could get my hands on, and the final poetry slam opened a whole new world of opportunities and methods of writing I hadn’t even thought about before, not to mention I felt endless pride and admiration for the other teenagers who stood up on the stage and presented their work, even if I had no idea who they were.
I walked into the festival with a sense of wonder and nervousness, and left with a mind overflowing with ideas and inspiration. Need-less to say, I will be going next year
Written by Elif Turac