Hey cHEwY gum gums!
Last week, I’ve traveled from one cold place to another, as I flew to Coffs Harbour with Anna Feinberg, ready to enter Bellingen for their Readers and Writers Festival. We were there for three days of school visits all across the Bellingen shire and around Coffs Harbour. I was just happy to explore new places, eat new burgers and see what all the fuss was about in Bellingen. Turns out, all the hype around Bellingen is spot on, it’s a lively small town with plenty of festivals to make it an arts hub.
What I didn’t expect was to be living with other writers. Before the festival, the organisers told me that I’d be staying with one of the volunteers, which is fine, but I did get a little anxious. While I do love company, I also need my own space. Other writers get it. I like my own room to play my Nintendo Switch, chill, write while I eat lollies and listen to gaming YouTube channels. I like to go out for runs after school, to get lost in my own thoughts before I return to civilization in the evening. On days where I’m touring on my own, I have nights where I don’t talk to anyone at all.
So imagine my surprise when I turned up to a massive house, one of those things you’d see on AirBnB. Then I found out I’ll be staying with Anna and YA author Shivaun Plozza. It was like staying in a writers Big Brother house. I hope they didn’t have any cameras haha. I was a little lucky to have my own room downstairs in the basement (I only picked it because it had an en-suite bathroom hehe). The room was covered in sandstone walls, which made it was a freezer. Luckily, one of the volunteers bought in donnas, hot-water bottles and heaters.
Winter wasn’t only coming, it was coming with a vengeance. All of these warm things came in handy on my first night. I slept like a piggy.
And I woke up to this view 🙂
Festivals like these make me happy to be a writer, because it is rare to be staying with other writers. We can unwind after a long day at schools and debrief. We can ask each other for advice and trade touring stories. I had so much fun, chatting and laughing over dinner, wine, and tea with Mint Slices, talking about writer life. It was like being on a panel, except you didn’t have to be ‘on.’ You could be frank, raw and wear your PJs too.
But we also respect each other’s quiet times. We know when to give each other space, because talking to kids at school is tiring but small talk with adults can be even more exhausting. Our voices need to rest. The house was big enough so you could make yourself a cuppa and just sit in the corner somewhere. On Thursday night, we had our ‘intruder’ playwright Lachlan Pillpott and he fitted right in 🙂 I never met him before but now I can say we’re writing pals!
We had a night where other kid authors came to visit our place. Lynn Phillips, one of the organisers had cooked this lovely roast dinner, and I got to catch up with Katrina McKevley and Aleesah Darlison. On another night, we went out into Bellingen for some pubgrub. The small town comes alive in pockets of buzz, food and beer. And yes, I did get to have a delicious burger too, shout out Bello Burgers!
So I got to have the best of both worlds. I had my chill and gaming time, mixed in a bit of work and hung out with other writers (I’ll never tell what we talked about hahaha). Being a writer means being alone most of the time, and I love that solitude. A little too much at times. So it’s refreshing to have a few days at a festival/retreat, it only makes Bellingen much more memorable in my mind, because it’s not just the places you see, but the company you keep as well (and maybe a bit of the wine too hehe)
Can’t wait for the next festival!