Connect Four

National Young Writers Festival 2010

I caught a bus this morning after barely three hours of sleep. Sitting here now I hate that its over and that I had to leave before it technically was. I would have liked to stay and squeeze out every last drop. Although, I suppose, we did a rather good job of that yesterday.

I arrived far too early to the zine fair. It hadn’t occurred to me that, despite the fact that setup began at 10am it was extremely unlikely to take me an hour to arrange my small collection of boxes. So there was a lot of sitting at first, a lot of being nervous and hoping my zines weren’t a total failure. Slowly but surely the people began to dribble in, a trickle filling to a solid stream.

Business was pretty steady. I had a lot of conversations about the merits of rail travel thanks to a zine I made called “Ode to Countrylink.” I talked to one guy who collects public transport zines and who asked, rather excitedly, if I had any more. I wasn’t aware that the genre existed. It also made the clarinet guy (who played wonderfully at both the penis thing and the ball) laugh. Which I was inexplicably pleased about. Apparently he empathised, especially “about the cannelloni.”

At 12:30 I had to hand my stall into the capable hands of Erin (again thanks a million Erin!) I had my last panel- Writers Who Make Other People Look Good. I’ve discovered the hard way that striding purposefully uses very specific muscles. By the time I reached Staple Manor the front of my calves were killing me.

To begin with panellists outnumbered audience members in a rather high percentage, but the place gradually acquired people wandering off the streets. For all those of you who were somewhere else- you missed an amazing session. Of the three events I participated in, it was the most fun. It was awesome.That’s all I’m telling you. Serves you right.

After striding purposefully in the other direction I spent the remainder of the afternoon at my stall, getting my nails painted by “the least professional nail technician in Newcastle” who also happened to be sharing my table. I’ve been smiling at my nails ever since. The one thing I sold out of was a short story titled “1000 TINY PENGUINS.” I’d made a concertina book in a little yellow lidded box. I’ll admit I loved it too.

After pack up and a shower, I wandered to the Farrago house. I’d been hanging out with that lot since Thursday yet the only contact information I had for them was their address. It was significantly easier to gain access than the day before. At least I knew there was a buzzer this time and didn’t need to resort to throwing rocks at the window.

The Spelling Bee was immensely fun. Anyone who didn’t attend missed the once in a life time spectacle of Ronnie wearing Bhakthi’s leopard print tights. Take a moment to remember/imagine that. For me the Spelling Bee is a lot like watching professional skippers. I’ve never been able to skip. Although, unlike spelling, I could probably skip to save my life. I am therefore in awe of the confidence with which these people rattle off letters. Geoff Lemon, I think everyone would agree, is a machine. Despite flying in from Argentina to defend his title, he was knocked out quite spectacularly with beryllium (which he shall never again forget has two ls). The winner’s name was Garth and I applaud him.

The reading “Is it time to go home yet?” was a rather apt (and overwhelmingly hilarious) way to finish the evening. Although I think most of us would have been happy to never leave. I suppose that’s why we ended up back at the Farrago house, secretly willing the rain to stay so we could continue using it as an excuse to not walk home.

I witnessed at 1am this morning, an unbelievably intense game of Connect Four. It came down to the very last pieces. You could have played some dramatic music over the top and edited it into a movie to create tension. Playing a Connect Four tournament in the early hours of the morning is the kind of thing I live for. It seamlessly combines the painfully ordinary with the mind bogglingly surreal. I suppose it kind of sums up the festival in lots of ways. “It’s dead ordinary and truly, truly amazing.” Its all the best bits of life in a few short days. I say we pool our resources, buy an island and live NYWF all year round.

I had a truly amazing time. Thanks to everyone who made it that way. To those I had conversations with at all hours of the day and night. To the panels which inspired, educated and amused. Hell if you were there I’d like to thank you, even if we didn’t meet. I’m sure we were in a room together at some point. But to the organisers. You guys are mind blowingly, planet smashingly amazing. Ten out of ten. Hope to see you all next year.
Over and out.

Further reading

December – home

I spent the first minutes of 2018 on the beach. I’ve never actually spent New Year