Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Asylum Seekers And Bum Jokes.

Yesterday I went to the Melbourne Writers Festival, accompanied by a colleague and twenty five students. I never got to the sessions I would have chosen, but to sessions the kids needed to attend.

Andy Griffiths was the hit of the day - kind of like a children's rockstar. All he has to do is talk about bums, vomit and heads exploding and the kids were eating out of the palm of his hand. The queue for his book signing was way longer than any other.

Morris Gleitzman was also popular. His approach to speaking to kids was quite different, but then so are his books. The kids really enjoyed him too.

I was thoroughly impressed by Deborah Ellis, the Canadian author who writes about children in war and other hotspots. She was in conversation with (I think) Sheelagh Purdon of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. I didn't catch her name, and the programs show two different people listed.

Deborah and Sheelagh's approach to this issue was sensitive, balanced and measured. Their advice and responses to students was thoughtful and encouraged students to take the initiative to seek the truth. And, I might say, the questions from auditorium full of students were intelligent and articulate.

It was great to see Margo Lanagan too. I was only able to say 'Hi' briefly, and I saw her signing books. I wish I'd been able to attend one of her sessions.

All in all a successful day for my students, all wannabe writers and avid readers. And if these festivals encourage reading and writing, then we all need to be supporting them.

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