The Heroines Festival was held in the Thirroul Community Centre in September. A great little venue attached to the library and within stone's throw of shops and cafes.
Thirroul (near Wollongong) is a lovely little town, almost sleepy and definitely more laid back than everywhere north of the Wollongong stretch of coastline (Sydney). The coast from Sydney down is amazing and becomes magnificent from the Royal National Park onward. Sheer cliffs interrupted by golden sand beaches... I love this region! A great program of authors were curated to about finding and writing women’s stories. Historically, women’s voices have been silenced or usurped. their voices have spoken “from the margins” of known works written by men. when they were included in storytelling it was as (and often still is) a foil to men. Their characters were/are defined by the male characters, furthered the journey of the male characters rather than undertake any journey of their own or even have true depth as a character. In Joseph Campbell’s, Hero Journey, method of storytelling, the feminine is the domestic support, the reward of the successful quest. A slow-moving trend, and I say slow-moving because it’s been oncoming for some years now and is finally gaining some ground, is to make the female character the heart of the story; for the women to be defined by their own needs, wants, and travails. And for the reward at the end of their journey not be pure domestic bliss, but something fundamentally more personal, whether it be success, or love, or understanding of self, or fame, riches and fortune. Women want more than to be the foil, the long-suffering support while the men in their lives go off to have adventure. they want adventure too! Some of the authors we heard from (and their were two sessions running concurrently so I didn’t get to everything) were Kate Forsyth who always has a good story to share, Tea Cooper who talked about her research methods, Chloe Higgins, Jesse Blackadder, Karen Brooks, Robyn Cadwallader,and Julie Keyes. There were many more and I’m hardly doing justice to the depth of the festival program by only mentioning these few. Listening to writers speak, real writers who live and breathe their work, is always an inspiration and something of a personal paradox for me. I scribble notes, ideas, and random thoughts. I write articles and stories. I’ve published three novels and I consider myself a writer. Yet, at heart, I don’t feel that I’m at the level where I could speak about my work the way these women do. My scrawled note goes something like this, “I am wholly uneducated and quite possibly lacking in anything that could be described as talent.” I’m sharing this with you as an example of the monkey-voices that can hold a writer back, the lack of confidence that is highlighted when comparing one’s own self with the perceived achievements (and education) of others. I’m also sharing this as it is part of the learning process that includes attending writing festivals and conferences; listening and talking to other writers. I free-write a lot and the above statement came out of that, and from a little dark bubble that I try hard to ignore. Note, that I’ve just attended a weekend Master Class and that particular fear monkey did not raise its voice once. This is the good thing about attending festivals such as this one, listening to writers talk about their journeys and processes allows me to realise that we’re not too dissimilar. In some ways, quite similar indeed. The inspiration sparks. the desire to tell a story from some corner or turn of history: to give voice to people and cultures who have been silenced or dismissed. Will I succeed as a writer, in a way that is meaningful to me? I don’t know, but I’m giving it a darn good try! Persistence and stubbornness are key. I took many good things away from the Heroine’s Festival; growing sense of self-awareness, connection to a new writing community plus a whole pile of books! I’m looking forward to attending the next one already!