My first impression of the State Library of Queensland (SLQ), and the writer’s festival in general, was a slightly panicked one. I was running late. My first panel was due to start at 1:00pm – it was 12:50pm when I caught my first glimpse of it all… as my car sailed over the new “Go-Between” bridge and into the city!
I was pretty stressed at this point. My friend and critique partner extraordinnaire – the lovely Ali Smith from LoveMissAli – was already there and having a crisis of her own (she’d left her ticket at home and was in the ticket line to get it re-printed). So, I was on my way to Roma Street Station, when I should have been at SLQ, and Ali was friendless (because I was so late) and hoping she’d get her ticket re-printed before the session started. Not exactly a promising start to our festival plans.
Thankfully, that was about the worst that happened during our writer’s festival weekend. I managed to get the library on time (thanks to my lovely hubby cutting across some traffic where he perhaps shouldn’t but he got me there safe and sound so that’s the main thing), and Ali managed to get her ticket and we got into the session with a minute to spare and seats still available.
We needn’t have rushed, let me tell you. We went into the panel thinking we were going to get some juicy tips on how to craft the perfect short story, but what we actually sat through was a bunch of short stories from the author’s life – real-life stories – that rambled across time and back again, from friends of his to his son to some couple in an emergency room… I don’t know, I didn’t follow it all that well. It was literally a bunch of rambling stories, and at one point I think I asked Ali whether our speaker was drunk or not.
Highly disillusioned, I found solice in the QWC headquarters, where I chatted with a lovely lady behind the counter, picked up a copy of the latest AWM book, and bought a raffle ticket (I didn’t win, FYI). The few minutes I spent in the QWC office refreshed me: I was ready to go back out into the festival, and I was ready to put that rather unusual panel behind me (after about an hour of serious bitching between Ali and myself over coffee (on Ali’s part) and water (on my part) and countless cigarettes (on both our parts)).
If you’re feeling brave, you tackle the walk to West End in the daylight hours. I’d been warned before that West End wasn’t a place you go unless you really have no way of avoiding it, and I really wanted to go to Avid Reader, so there was really no way of avoiding it. The walk there wasn’t so bad – there was the usual riff-raff you’d expect in a not-so-safe district of a capital city, shoeless men slurring drunkenly at passers-by with open alcohol containers on the footpath – but it was the walk back to SLQ that opened my eyes just a little bit, and had me dashing across the pavement a little quicker than I usually would. A man staggered over to the ANZ across from us and started bashing on the glass doors, which were, of course, locked solid. He was cussing loudly (something about being ripped off?), was obviously very drunk, and I feared the glass might actually shatter at one point. Ah, West End, the memories.
What I remember most fondly about that first day at the festival is:
– Meeting the lovely Ali Smith for the first time in person
– The sheer size of the SLQ (to a small town gal, it is seriously monstrous and so beautiful!)
– Cigarettes on the steps overlooking the river
– The realisation that Avid Reader is perhaps the most perfect little bookstore of all time, and I want it to be mine (or to have a bookstore just like it)
The things I remember not so fondly? Waiting 30 minutes for a takeaway coffee at the SLQ’s cafe (though it wasn’t my coffee so I was perhaps less impatient than if it actually was mine I was waiting for), everything about that first panel I attended, and the addition of the bloody bridge that almost made me late for a panel that, in hindsight, I wouldn’t have minded missing in the least.
Stay tuned for part 2 (which I swear will be much more exciting than part 1).