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Reading tips from authors at the Sydney Writers

Readersvoice.com aims to give people a few good reading tips.You might want to check the article list for more interviews and reading suggestions.For this issue, in late May I visited the 2005 Sydney Writers' Festival.Most of the sessions were free, with many excellent writers, editors, and publishers; it was an opportunity too good to pass up.So for many reading suggestions, including books that suggest even more books, read on.

In one of the venues at the Sydney Writers’ Festival, at Pier 4/5, Walsh Bay, if the session was too full you could sit outside on the pier and listen to the speaker system.
While you listened to the authors you could watch the seagulls flying around, and the sailboats and ferries heading past on Sydney Harbour; or you could gaze up at the groups of climbers ascending the arches of the Sydney Harbour Bridge; or look across the harbour to the spinning rides at Luna Park.
There were worse ways to spend a sunny Autumn afternoon.
Walsh Bay is an old warehouse district on Sydney Harbour, and on Pier 4/5 the warehouses have been converted to rehearsal rooms for the Sydney Dance Company, as well as theatres and a cafe; the writers spoke and answered questions in these mirrored dance studios and theatres for the Sydney Writers’ Festival (SWF).
There was a real buzz and energy to the SWF, and I saw as many events as I could, and asked as many writers as possible about some of their favorite books.
Also I interviewed some visiting publishers and agents from the U.K., Holland, and Korea. They were guests of the Australian government, and the Australia Council for the Arts, brought to the SWF to look for books they could buy the rights to for publication in places like the U.K., U.S.A., Canada, and Korea. I’ll be featuring interviews with some members of the Visiting International Publishers programme in the July edition of readersvoice.com. For this issue, I’ll list some of the favorite books of various authors at the SWF. Most were from the same side of politics, but that aside, it was a good event.
Newfoundland writer Michael Winter was a very entertaining speaker and raconteur- picture actor Hugh Grant if he was a Canadian writer. He spoke about his novel The Big Why which has been described as a reinvention of the historical novel, and is a faux memoir of socialist Rockwell Kent, the illustrator of Moby Dick. The novel concerns Kent and his family living in Brigus, which was a sealing town in Newfoundland, on the eve of the First World War. Mr Winter was asked at one session about how he found his “individuality”. Mr Winter said that if by individuality the questioner had meant finding his own voice, he said that he had achieved it through the quantity of his writing.
He said that the more you wrote, the more confidence you had that your own quirky way of seeing the world was ok.
Other people might not see things the way you did but they would accept your view of the world and use it as a comparison with their own slant on things.

He also mentioned one technique he had learned in writing: presenting a scene that looked like one thing was happening, and then revealing that it was actually something quite different.
He used this in The Big Why, where he has a seal boat returning to the wharf to be greeted by the families of the crew, as the boats usually were. But as the boat pulls up you see that it’s not the usual situation where the bodies of seals are on the deck but, instead, the deck is lined with the frozen bodies of sailors that the crew had retrieved.
These bodies are then unloaded onto the wharf. Also, he made a point of never writing a boring scene; this was something I heard a couple of writers stress.
He said he carried a note book around with him everywhere, in which he wrote down observations and uncensored thoughts.
Mr Winter said he was fond of books of aphorisms, like The Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, and Blaise Pascal’s book Pensees (which means “Thoughts”).
Also he liked the memoirs of Tobias Wolff, in particular In Pharoah’s Army: memories of a lost war; a novel by Susan Minot called Evening; Canadian short story writer Norman Levine’s book Thin Ice; and fellow Newfoundland writer Lisa Moore’s book of short stories, Open.

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