WELL, the Bendigo Writers Festival has come to an end.
Author, refugee and world-leading surgeon Munjed Al Muderis has closed three days of events with an address on his extraordinary life story, his return to Iraq to help victims of trauma to regain mobility after losing their limbs.
We hope you had a fantastic time at the festival. Now go earn a well-earned night with a good read.
What does it take to moderate a session?
HOW DO you prepare to interview one of the most popular authors at the Bendigo Writers Festival?
Abe Watson spoke to Benjamin Law on the Ulumbarra stage on Saturday night.
"It was my first moderating or interviewing experience, ever," he said.
"But it went really well."
It was a bit tough preparing for the session, Mr Watson said, but he was lucky enough to get a proof copy of Mr Law's latest book Growing Up Queer in Australia before it hit book shelves last week.
"So I got a copy of the book that wasn't quite complete, so that was really handy," he said.
"As a young queer person growing up in regional Australia I guess, being aware of the topic was also very important - that it meant something to me.
"And Ben was great."
By a series of coincidences, the pair were meeting for the third time at a Bendigo Writers Festival.
"Last year I picked him up and drove him to Bendigo. The year before that I fit his microphone. So luckily I've known him for a while now and have that connection," Mr Watson said.
"It was like two friends talking for an hour. But the audience was there to see him and I was very aware of that."
Mr Law's new book has been one of the top sellers at the festival, Dymocks Bendigo owner Harry Hart said.
Clementine Ford's Boys will be Boys and Felice Jacka's Brain Changer have also seen strong sales, he said.
Mr Hart brought 4800 books this year - 2000 more than last year - for two pop-up stores.
Even so, he has sold out of a number of books by popular authors.
"I'm happy but disappointed at the same time because people miss out," Mr Hart said.
"The hardest part of this festival is knowing what will sell well, and what to bring."
Unlike at his usual shop, customers hear directly from authors before they choose what to buy.
"If the authors sell it well at their sessions the crowd will buy. People get to ask them questions and all of that. Whereas, if it's reviewed on the ABC it doesn't quite have the same punch because someone else is reviewing it," Mr Hart said.
Renate Ruemelin spent the weekend volunteering at the festival, including at Ulumbarra.
The festival's ushers were doing more than just showing people to their seats, she said.
"We are part of Bendigo. So it's putting a face on for Bendigo," Mrs Ruemelin said.
More than 150 volunteers have donated time over the weekend, City of Greater Bendigo business development manager David Stretch said.
Some, like Mrs Ruemelin, donate their time throughout the year with Bendigo's council. Another 80 have volunteered across the festival's three days.
"They are doing a whole range of roles from transporting authors around town to managing venues," Mr Stretch said.
"The comment that we continue to get from visiting authors and audiences is that the volunteers in Bendigo really make this a very special event indeed.
"We see in our volunteers, Renate included, a real civic pride."
Parenting - the art of growing up
We're back at the Bendigo Writers Festival for the final day of the 2019 program!
First up, we heard from author John Marsden on the subject of parenting.
Mr Marsden, an Australian writer and school principal, said his new book The Art of Growing Up was his way of sharing his wisdom onto the next generation.
"I am aware I am approaching the end of my time in education and I wanted to sum up what I have learnt," he told the Ulumbarra Theatre.
"I have some thoughts and reflections that I thought were worth sharing."
Too many children were being sheltered by their parents and schools, Mr Marsden said.
"Kids need to go out and do anything that gets their hands dirty - whether that be literally or metaphorically," he said.
"It's about engaging with the world and listening more closely. Too much conversation comprises around what they watch on TV.
"For children today, their lives are limited even geographically. I find there is something very bizarre, uncomfortable and unhelpful about that."
Mr Marsden said it was "hugely important" that children took risks so they could learn about themselves and the world around them.
"They don't need to be reckless but they should be adventurous," he said. "We need to set up situations where children's instincts take charge.
"I want there to be an opportunity for kids to have an adventurous spirit because often it's right there just under the surface.
"There are too many regulations in schools right now. It's impossible to take a risk in many areas.
"Rules are the antithesis of what childhood should be. We're going to end up with the unfortunate era when these children become adults."
THAT'S a wrap for Saturday's coverage.
What a day it's been! If only we could have gone to everything.
Here is a little taste of what else has been happening at the festival today:
The session ‘Growing up gay’ at the @bgowritersfest was very insightful. @mrbenjaminlaw was so eloquent, informative and fun. Can’t wait to read his anthology ‘Growing up Queer in Australia’. Also I highly recommend you to read his travel book ‘Gaysia’ #BendigoWritersFestival— ♛Alonso Navarro♛ (@alonsonm) August 10, 2019
We will be out and about again tomorrow at the festival.
Until then, get reading!
Shakespeare's Books - Who really penned Hamlet?
Did the Bard actually write his own plays and sonnets?
It depends on who you ask, author Stuart Kells says.
Questions about what, exactly, Shakespeare wrote still raises controversy, Kells has told an audience at the Bendigo Writers Festival.
The author of Shakespeare's Library: Unlocking the greatest mystery in literature has been critiqued by two groups.
On the one hand are the "Stradfordians", who believe one man wrote what came to be known as the greatest body of works in the English language.
On the other are the heretics who believe Shakespeare could not have written the plays and poems attributed to him.
People in both factions disagree with Kells' take.
"I feel happy in the middle", Kells says.
"Most of us have an idea of Shakespeare as a very literary person ... a bit of a 16th century Virginia Woolf, living a literary life and writing these things from scratch, relying on inspiration and some sort of internal wellspring of poetry to write these things in the same way a 19th century or early 20th century author might."
It is important to put Shakespeare into the context of his own times, Kells says.
The Bard likely collaborated with other writers and works were shortened, lengthened and changed over time depending on the needs of the actors on stage.
"He was stealing other people's content, they were stealing his content. He was engaging with other people and source material and the plays themselves," Professor Kells says.
"We now know a lot about where they came from and there's a lot of documentation and textual analysis that shows that."
Sometimes Shakespeare augmented and improved plays, Kells says.
"Hamlet is based on an earlier play, also called Hamlet. It was written by someone else but had the same plot, the same characters ... and that plot was in turn based on earlier material, including French and Scandinavian content."
Kells says his perspective is "very much my version of an entirely orthodox, up-to-date view of what Shakespeare actually is".
"For me, anyway, that is all completely true and completely benign," he says.
Money and Ethics - can we now trust banks?
A ROYAL commission has not solved fundamental problems with banking and financial services, veteran commentator Alan Kohler has told the Bendigo Writers Festival.
The Australian's business editor-at-large said his book It's Your Money came in part out of frustrations with the commission's shortcomings.
The commission should have recommended financial advisers be banned from working for companies that promote or provide financial services, Mr Kohler said.
"But he (commissioner Kenneth Hayne) specifically and explicitly said 'I'm not going to recommend that.' I think that was pathetic."
Mr Hayne's decision meant only one of the commission's jobs - "brilliantly and devastatingly" exposing the system's problems - was completed, Mr Kohler said.
His book was also a chance to explain why the system's problems formed and help people get some control of their money.
"I think it's clear to everyone that the financial services system isn't to be trusted - or at least not to be fully trusted in the way a lot of people trust it.
"In the financial services system, you have to have an adviser, you have to have a bank. You have to use the financial services system at the moment. You can't opt out of it.
"But I do think some knowledge of it, the way it works and what it does, will help everybody to deal with it."
Alan Kohler’s book, ”It’s Your Money, ” at the Bendigo Writers Festival. I was at his session to hear about money and ethics. Alan gave sound advice on how to employ a reputable financial planner. He has another session tomorrow. @bgowritersfest @AlanKohler pic.twitter.com/TSubwP8bHk— Jennifer Teh (@TehJennifer) August 10, 2019
Fellow panel member and La Trobe academic Stuart Kells said some of the systems' problems - including shortcomings with auditing and regulators - had been talked about for decades.
"We have this moment of transparency that has opened the curtains behind banks and what we've seen is pretty awful. So we can't rely on auditors to solve these problems themselves," Professor Kells said.
"It's really up to us, collectively, through government and these kinds of conversations."
Mr Kohler was encouraged by the emergence of community owned banks and the fintech sector.
As to whether that would disrupt the big four banks or even lead to them disappearing, Mr Kohler was not worried.
"At the moment they are too big to fail, so effectively they are arms of government. They have to be propped up ... so if they didn't exist and the banking market was much more even, I think that would be much healthier," he said.
"As to whether that will happen? No. These big four banks are very powerful organisations."
Rise and Resit - what makes someone decide to take on an issue?
For Indigenous writer Claire G Coleman, activism is something that has always been present in her life.
"I never made a choice to be an activist," she said. "I have just always been fighting against the amnesia of the mistreatment of Indigenous Australians."
Ms Coleman joined Jennifer Clement, president of PEN International, and Vogue Australia sustainability editor Clare Press at the Bendigo Writers Festival to discuss the rise of resistance movements.
Ms Coleman said for many people, activism often starts from a point of frustration.
"At some point, the consequences of acting are less terrifying than the consequences of not acting," she said. "You get to a point where you know if you don't act, you would hate yourself for the rest of your life."
Ms Press said the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh in 2013 - where more than 380 workers were killed - sparked her activism.
She said the rise of voices around issues like climate change, feminism, and gun violence showed more people were united than ever before.
"There is the wave of protests at the moment," Clare Press said. "But there is now this real focus on intersectionality.
"We have realised that all of these issues are deeply connected. More protest movements are linking together and there is power in that."
Ms Clement told the Capital Theatre that writers could play a powerful role in the resistance space.
"Literature can create change," she said. "Oliver Twist changed labour laws back in the 1800s. You wouldn't be able to recall many newspaper articles that had the same influence."
But while there was a push towards fear campaigning as a way drum up support around causes, Ms Press said it wasn't necessarily always the answer.
"We can't sustain fear," she said. "Fear of course is very real and visceral, but I strongly believe there can be power in the positive."
Breaking Bad - can we understand acts of evil?
What leads some people to commit crimes? And do even the most heinous crimes deserve to be described as evil?
These were the questions writers Dr Julia Shaw and Chloe Hooper delved into at the Bendigo Writers Festival.
"We always think about fairy tales where everything is certain," Dr Hooper told the audience at the Capital Theatre. "We know what evil is in a storybook, but in reality it becomes much hazier to understand."
Ms Hooper is the best selling author of The Arsonist, which takes readers on the search for the man who lit two fires in the La Trobe Valley on Black Saturday.
While Ms Hooper said people and acts could be described as evil, Dr Shaw - a criminal psychologist and writer - said it wasn't quite so simple.
"There is no such thing as evil," Dr Shaw said. "It only exists in the monsters we create in our minds. We use it to dehumanise somebody or an act.
"It ends up being the end of the conversation. We never ask why that person did what they did or why they are the way they are.
"Even the worst people spend most of their time not committing crime."
Dr Shaw said there should be more "evil empathy" and encouraged the audience to think critically about they see, read, and hear.
"I really worry that we don't examine what we are being told in the media," she said. "Would you like if you were judged on the one bad thing you have done?
"We would hate it but we still do it to other people every day. We regularly strip away the nuisance of the situation."
THE Bendigo Writers Festival is in full swing with writers from across the globe converging on the city.
There are more than 50 events for the public to go to, with prominent writers like US novelist Min Jin Lee, feminist writer Clementine Ford, and investigative journalist Louise Milligan in attendance.
The Bendigo Advertiser will keep you up to date with all that is happening at the festival.
In the meantime, have a read through some of our earlier coverage:
- Bendigo Writers Festival kicks off as writers flood in despite wild weather
- Loddon Campaspe Multicultural Services' Nokomi Achkar contributes to 'Arab Australian Other: Stories of Race and Identity'
- Bendigo short stories published ahead of writers festival
- Sludge to be launched at Bendigo Writers Festival
- Castlemaine author Lynne Kelly wants to help you train your brain
- 2019 Bendigo Writers Festival program launched at new venue Bendigo Bowls Club
- Wedderburn murders book author withdraws from Bendigo Writers Festival after family opposition
- 2019 Bendigo Writers Festival program released
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