Just when you thought it was safe to return to my blog, I’m at it again, talking about this year’s Canberra Writers Festival. However, if you are like me you are intrigued about what other readers and festival goers like, so I thought I’d share what the Canberra Writers Festival sent us subscribers.
But, I’ll start with my 7 posts, and their popularity (by number of hits):
- In our backyard (Nigel Featherstone, Kathryn Hind, Patrick Mullins, and Karen Viggers, with Emma Alberici)
- Capital culture (Irma Gold with seven writers on Canberra, including Marion Halligan and Paul Daley)
- Tara June Winch (with Yvette Henry Holt)
- PM’s Pick (Brian Castro with Genevieve Jacobs)
- Simon Winchester (with Richard Fidler) and Bruce Beresford and Ladies in Black (with Margaret Pomeranz)
- Defining Moments – True Crime (Rachel Franks, Felicity Packard and Hedley Thomas, with Paul Barclay)
Interesting. The two which specifically featured local authors and/or local subject matter were the most popular, despite my international readership. Maybe some local authors shared the link and a lot of hits were local? Anyhow, these were followed by the two most literary sessions I attended – Tara June Winch and Brian Castro. This doesn’t surprise me, given my “brand” here. And then the last three, which had about two-thirds the hits of the top post, are a mixed bag of, generally, more popular subjects.
Before moving to the Canberra Writers Festival’s report, I’d like to point you to a post written by one of this year’s New Territory bloggers, Shelley Burr. She wrote on the Wonder Women panel (which featured Australian historical fiction novelists.) You’ll have to read her post to find out who they were!
Now, were my most popular posts reflected in the most popular sessions attended? Sort of. The Canberra Writers Festival wrote that the “Top Ten” sessions “include”:
- Simon Winchester in conversation with Richard Fidler
- Capital Culture
- Never Never
- Defining Moments – True Crime Panel
- For Whom the Pell Tolls
- You Daughters of Freedom
- Best of the Best: Book Club Favourites
- Women, Men and the Whole Damn Thing
- Is Hate Our New Normal?
- David & Margaret
I’m not sure how to interpret this, because they say “the top ten include“, but there are ten here, so I’m presuming these are the top ten? Let’s presume they are, and that they are in order (though I’m surprised that the session featuring Behrouz Boochani from Manus Island is not in the list.)
Anyhow, certainly Simon Winchester was in a 300-seat theatre and was sold out. Capital Culture was sold out too, but in a smaller space. I’m intrigued that three of the sessions I chose were in the top four of the Top Ten, though what that says, I’ll leave to you. It’s interesting, though, that the most popular session, by this list, was not my most popular post. A couple of other sessions listed here – such as Never Never, about “the role that the bush plays in our collective imagination” – were ones I had to miss because of clashes. I didn’t mind missing You daughters of freedom because I had heard Clare Wright speak about her book last year.
It’s clear that the Festival’s “political” slant works well for the organising committee, with sessions on George Pell (including David Marr), Gender (including Gillian Triggs), and Hate (also including Gillian Triggs) all being popular.
The Canberra Writers Festival email also told us the best-selling books at the festival:
- Capital culture (ed. by Suzanne Kiraly) (I bought this)
- On disruption (Katharine Murphy) (I have given this as a gift)
- Cardinal: The rise and fall of George Pell (Louise Milligan)
- On patriotism (Paul Daley)
- Brain changer (Felice Jacka)
- Unbreakable threads (Emma Adams)
- Just add love (Irris Makler)
- On indignation (Don Watson)
- Plots and prayers (Niki Savva)
- Leading lines (Lucinda Holdforth)
- You daughters of freedom (Clare Wright) (I have reviewed)
Hmmm … I haven’t heard of some of these, but it’s interesting, given the signing line I saw, that Exactly isn’t listed here. Given there were different booksellers at different sites – including, the NLA bookshop, Harry Hartog and Dymocks – it’s possible that this list does not concatenate across all the booksellers? Anyhow, it’s also interesting that the little “On…” books published by Melbourne University Press are doing well. I recently posted on Stan Grant’s On identity, from the same series.
As for my purchases, I am way out of step. Besides Capital culture, I bought Brian Castro’s Blindness and rage and Simon Winchester’s Exactly (for Mr Gums). I also bought Brian Castro’s After China during the Festival, but at Muse. And, I already had some of the books I heard discussed, including Nigel Featherstone’s Bodies of men, Karen Viggers’ The orchardist’s daughter, and Tara June Winch’s The yield.
All this is fascinating, but the best thing is that the Festival, now in its fourth year, appears to have done well with good pre-sales and, they say, “significant impromptu attendance”. This augurs well for its continuation. And that, of course, is what we want.