SURVIVING THE BRISBANE WRITER’S FESTIVAL: A HOW-TO GUIDE

I’ve been to an impolite to say number of Brisbane Writers Festivals in my lifetime, and like most multi-day events, after a while you tend to pick up the little tips and rituals that make your days run that little bit smoother. If you’ve never been to a BWF before, here are some things you need to know, courtesy of last year’s guests, visitors, and staff.

Travel
The Cultural Precinct does have paid parking available, but on the big days of the festival, expect delays. Last year, festival goers reported traffic jams getting into the parking sites, so if you can get to and from the State Library using public transport, it can save a lot of stress.

If you’re running between venues, bypass the library atrium and walk around the library instead. Given the crowds throughout the day, it’ll almost always save you a few minutes of fighting your way through a sea of people. It’s also a good idea to avoid planning to meet people in the atrium, for the same reason.

Money
It’s pretty much standard that visitors say they’re not going to spend much, but there’s no shortage of spending opportunities. There’s parking to consider, and food and drinks. But mostly, there are the books. You are more than likely going to walk away from the festival lugging more books than you ever thought you’d buy and not entirely sure how it happened. It’s natural.

Bend from the knees.

And for the shameless stationery fiends out there, do yourself a favour and check out the library and gallery bookstores as well as the festival shop. There is always something new to fall in love with, and the library’s post-it notes are a thing of beauty.

Time
Everything is going to take longer than you think it will. Make your peace with it now, and save yourself the stress later on. There are always queues for the bathrooms, and for the cafés. Give yourself more time than you’ll think you need to get things done. Last year, I didn’t do this, even though I knew better. Because I was press, I ran around for 8 hours straight without food and water (and I mean ran). By the end of it, I was a quietly whimpering wreck in the bathroom texting friends for chocolate.

Learn from my mistakes.

If you’re planning to get books signed, get in quickly or prepare for a delay. Last year, Andy Griffiths spent hours signing books for students, even though he wasn’t meant to hang around anywhere near that long. At one point, the line went from inside the library, to a bus parked outside. If you’re running between events, ask one of the volunteers at the signing space whether the writer you’re wanting to see will be back later in the day, or later in the festival. More often than not, they can let you know.

The good news is that you can save time and bring your own food. Having said that, all large bags must go into the free cloak rooms, as they can’t be brought into the majority of venues. Food and drink aren’t allowed in most venues, either, aside from bottled water. Why am I talking about cloak rooms here? Because they close when the venues do. If you’re planning on staying for the nocturnal events at Maiwar Green, then you’ll need to grab your bags first.

Etiquette
Many of the authors are fine with you asking for a photo. But if you need someone else to take the photo for you, ask the person behind you before you get to the head of the line, and show them how to work your tech while you’re waiting. Many of the writers go from signings to their next events, so keeping things moving quickly means they can say hi to as many people as possible.

And to save time for any aspiring writers out there: no, the writers cannot read your manuscript. No, they cannot introduce you to their agent/publisher/celebrity friend or partner. If you’re looking for someone to read and give feedback on your writing, the Queensland Writers Centre (level 2 of the State Library) can help you. The writers can’t, no matter how big a fan you are of their work.

The usual rules also apply: phones on silent, and don’t answer calls in the venues. It’s a heckle-worthy offense depending on who is in the room with you. Check you’re allowed to before taking photos in sessions, and whether or not you’re allowed to use flash.
Have fun!

By Kylie Thompson

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