Friday, February 19, 2010

The City of Food, Culture and Writing

One of the pleasures of being in Melbourne for me is helping my daughter Kate and her family at the farmers' markets where they sell their beautiful organic produce. This picture of the Daylesford Organics stall was taken last Saturday morning at the Collingwood Children's Farm market.

This market is held on the second Saturday of every month. The fourth Saturday Bren and Kate take their produce to the Slow Food market at the nearby Abbotsford Convent.

Apart from the food and coffee there's plenty to love about the city. Last Saturday evening I went to the Gala Night of Storytelling that marked the opening of The Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas. In its own words the Centre is the centrepiece of Melbourne's UNESCO City of Literature initiative. I reckon it's going to be worth moving to Melbourne for.

The storytelling night was held at the Melbourne Town Hall and sold out weeks ago. Twelve writers talked about the power of stories, especially family stories. They were funny, profound, thought provoking, entertaining and moving. Paul Kelly ended the night with a story and a song about how many years ago his aunt's life had been changed by sleeping in. That made me tearful because my father has lately been talking about how a series of chance occurrences led him to meet my mother and how that made all the difference to his life.

Then on Monday night I went along to the first of the Wheeler Centre's Debut Mondays, where every second Monday Melbournians will get the chance to hear new writers read from their work. The four writers were fabulous children's author Andrew McDonald (pictured below); Bob Franklin, whose short stories were extremely well received; Sofie Laguna reading from her first adult novel; and Madeleine Hamilton whose book about pin up girls from the forties and fifties reminded me of seeing hordes of people on the beach to watch Miss Beachgirl contests when I was a kid. How quaint all that seems now.

Then last night I returned yet again to the Wheeler, this time for a party hosted by Scribe to announce the winner of their terrific new prize, the CAL Scribe Fiction Prize for writers over the age of 35. (Cheers for us oldies!) The shortlisted authors were Meg Mundell, Jane Sullivan and Maris Morton. The winner was Maris Morton who is in her seventies, with this being her first published work. She made a touching speech about how vindicated she felt as a writer. I'm sure everyone present wished her well and hoped she goes on to write plenty more.

Phew! What a week I've had. I'll be pleased to be back in quiet Mole Creek though, to get some actual writing done, including working on a talk I'll be giving at The Sandybeach Centre on Wednesday March 17th.

I'll also be reading an extract from my book at a Debut Monday at the Wheeler Centre on March 15th. My fellow debutants on the night will be poet Ezra Bix, and writers, Christine Darcas and Damon Young. Never heard of them? That's the point. Here's your opportunity. Debut Mondays are free and include a glass of wine. Come along down and say hi.


  1. Never heard of me? Harumph. I'll have you know my mother thinks I'm very important.

    Very important, I tell you.

  2. I love hanging out with you at market, especially the last one where we had no distractions. I'll miss you like anything this Saturday at Slow Food. XX

  3. Damon, I hope to remedy the not-knowing you on Monday 15th at the Wheeler. I'm really looking forward to hearing you read.

    And I'll bet your mother is right. Aren't mothers always right?