Celia Waldron

The road to Clunes Booktown Festival via Creswick  was quiet early on Saturday morning – mostly coming away from Clunes. That was a puzzle.  Then around that last bend and over the awkward bridge into Clunes, all revealed itself.  Cars nose to tail both sides of the road, up and down side roads. The early and passionate  patrons had arrived, stretching on foot to the Clunes Town Hall, the Court House and main street. Outside a welcoming coffee van and cheerful bunting flying in the breeze happily announcing welcome.

Oh where to park, and there it was the last parking spot, and right outside. And with time to get that good coffee, drink it and get to the Panel Discussion hosted by the Victorian Writers.

Writing Place is a comforting title, one with questions and promise.  It seems an unlikely topic but intriguing.  This, according to the Program Book, is peculiar to Writers.  Intriguing, relating to where a writer writes.  Unlike writing in the corporate world, a personalised desk, in maybe a large open space.  But writers it seems, have other preferences,  a desk and space in a warm and interesting house, quiet, and contemplative, or a table in a favourite coffee shop, and a co-operative owner who doesn’t mind how long you stay, so long as you have the odd coffee, and a smallish table. This presentation embraces writings about Place.  Writings about the relationships with place – memories, history and literature shape our engagement with landscapes and cities.  This is about that form of place.

Then came Don Watson, acclaimed writer of many books, the latest,  Watsonia.  He was Don the racontuer and Watson the writer.  Today Don  is in conversation with Sean O’Beirne This was another Full House, starting politely and gently to gather pace and Sean drew Don, after a lively and stirring conversation, to admit he had one more book, pulled from his past, to be completed.  One that was put aside but he is now engaged to finish.  It will be engaging, whether that be his more mellow self or stirring and thought provoking.

Sean skilfully drew out his wry humour, straight wisdom, Australian humour and stirring insights – all that was promised in the program notes. This comfortable and engaging conversation only lacked a log fire, a purring cat on the hearth and large dog stretched out on the rug – and decanter of port and crystal  glasses  twinkling on the side.

And so the program rolled on over the weekend.  Movement of traffic and people on foot went smoothly, sessions started on time and finished on time.  Participants were generous with their time, stopping outside to engage with bold members who stopped them to blurt a burning question or to sign a book.

There were panels on Crime “tall tales and true, with a homily. Crime in a story always pays.”

Another full house panel  was Living and Growing  – a positive action for us all.  Three strong and funny women, talking with knowledge and humour about a serious subject.  Well recognised ABC presenter and author Millie Ross, Thrifty Gardener Fiona Scott Norman (The chicken Life), and Jill Teschendorff (Grow Wild).  Each knowing each other and their speciality.   All were speaking from experience with the theme and all knowing this region but applying that further afield as well. With the strong message “do not be afraid to experiment and above all make mistakes and live with them or not”.

What a great take home message.

Do come, or come again, next year and more. The standard is high, the cost manageable, the vibes warm and atmosphere lively.