I am very excited to be spending most of this weekend at the Canberra Writers Festival. I've never been able to do that before. I went to a couple of sessions from the Canberra Readers and Writers Festival (a slightly different beast) a couple of years back, but I haven't been able to make it since, what with me studying on Sundays and Chris Rolfing on Saturdays and small people needing mummy milk at bedtime and what not.
I'm still missing out on lots. For instance there's the session tomorrow night called 'We need to talk about motherhood: Spotlight on Camilla Noli'. If you know anything about my masters project* you would get why I would want to go to a session with that title (even though I haven't read Noli's book). But it's from 6:45-7:45, and after being at the festival all day, I really need to be home with my kids at that time of night.
Tonight I went to a short session which promised to have three writers talking about "their writing, its priority in their lives and how it fits into the rest of their schedule". It was interesting, as these things always are, but as none of the writers appeared to be a mother of young children, it wasn't directly relevant to my own struggles to prioritise - and figure out the priority of - writing. The writers were: one very, very successful Australian romance writer, who's been making money from writing since she was seven (and as far as I know doesn't have any children); one retired diplomat who may or may not have children (but I doubt he'd have young ones), but doesn't have to worry about making a living, since he's retired with - I presume - some decent superannuation, after 30 years in the public service; and one ministerial speech writer, who works from 7:30am till 10:00pm most days, and fits in poetry writing here and there, mostly in her holidays.
They were all interesting. It is always interesting to hear what brings other people to write. But in truth my fantasy panel for this talk would consist of people like my (RL and blog) friends, Sarah Tiffen (author of two recent books of poetry, and mother to three children the youngest of whom is a year older than Liam, and someone who definitely prioritises her writing, but not without a lot of effort), Sue Hines (Canberra writer, mother of two now moreorless grown-up children, and author of YA novels Out of the Shadows, The Plunkets and the forthcoming Water Boy's Story), Dawn Friedman (writer and blogger extraordinarie, who for years managed to fit in (some of) the writing she wanted to do around homeschooling her two children, and now fits it in around her full-time job writing for her company Smart Cookie Communications). People whose struggle and experience is more similar to mine, in other words, but way ahead of me in the actually writing and actually getting published stakes.
Nonetheless, I am very excited to spend the whole weekend (minus the evenings) at the festival. In less than two weeks I will be back at my public service job (or some public service job - I'm not sure exactly what it will be yet, but probably something to do with writing and editing and websites), leaving my masters project and my two dedicated writing/reading/studying days each week to become a distant memory. So this is like a last gasp of fantasy life where my writing is not for a government website (however interesting that may be). I'm hoping it will help motivate me to keep the faith and keep fitting in some of the writing I want to do, as well as the stuff they pay me to do, over the next eight months, without uni.
*Oddly I'm not actually sure how much I have ever said specifically about my project, but according to the abstract, it comprises a work of fiction and an essay, both of which "critique some of the master narratives that appear to exist in relation to motherhood, and in particular journeys to and away from motherhood, in Western society and culture.... [focusing on] mothers, non-mothers, infertility and pregnancy loss."