I found my underpants on the front lawn this morning. The puppy feigned innocence, a single striped sock lolling from his puppy chops.  Clearly, it was time to get my act together and unpack after my first ever youth literature festival.

I’ve been back four days from Voices on the Coast, run by Immanuel College at the University of the Sunshine Coast. My suitcase is still trailing t-shirts, jeans, tights and a lone striped sock onto the bedroom floor.

Most of the underpants have made their way to the laundry basket, after being rescued from puppy chops and his burgeoning stash under our dining room table.

If the organised fairy had come to my christening, my bag would be unpacked and repacked, ready for Thursday’s launch of Dust in Biloela (6pm Qld Heritage Park, formerly the Silo, for those in the vicinity).

My blog would already be posted, my child’s clothes neatly labelled for Sunday’s Canberra trip, the fridge stacked for my next absence, my letters posted opposing the removal of copyright protections on Australian books, three months worth of bookkeeping completed, and the BAS ready for lodgement on the 28th.

Instead, I’m unpacking my thoughts on youth literature festivals, knee-deep in chaos, luxuriating in the guilty pleasures of skiving off when there’s real work to be done.

So, in no particular order, five unforgettable moments from my first youth literature festival:

1. The little girls in the front row who had as much fun as I did at my primary school sessions; the two big boys who read out their work in my high school workshop.

2. Festival organiser Kelly Dunham’s amazing organisational skills (bet she doesn’t take four days to unpack a single suitcase) and her wonderful army of high school minders and trouble shooters that kept us all going.

3. David Stavanger aka Ghostboy’s electric opening night performance that exploded any preconceptions about poetry and poets.

4. The engagement and enthusiasm of the kids, their librarians and teachers, ratcheting up my own pleasure in talking books and writing, making me wonder who was learning more, me or them.

5. Michael Pryor asking me to to sign a copy of Dust for him. The man has published twenty books, has more than a million words in print and a purple velvet jacket to die for. He didn’t need to buy my book, but I’m still thrilled that he did.

Regrets? I have a few. I wish that I’d had time to sit in on the sessions run by the other presenters, including Shaun Tan, Maurice Gleitzman and cartoonist Brian Doyle. Brian can teach anyone to draw; next time it’s going to be me.

Next time, I’m schmoozing the organised fairy, getting her onside, sitting in on her sessions, winkling out her secrets. Next time, I’m not missing a thing.

  1. Lynn Priestley says:


    I am so jealous. Sounds like you had a fabulous time. Personally, I think the Organisation Fairy is overrated. I bet she’s not ear deep in fabulous memories this morning of her past week. And I guarantee she’s never had her washing up gloves signed by Michael Pryor, either. As for naughty puppies and front lawns strewn with undies – what great memories that brings back for me. Glad you had a great time. Maybe I will see you at the next one? XOX

  2. Lynne Green says:

    Michael Pryor has good taste. 🙂 I was blown away by Ghost Boy too. I ca’t seem to stop turning everyday life into poetry. (HA-HA!)

    As for the organised fairy…you only get one fairy, and your fairy sprinkled you with writing talent.

  3. Penny says:

    Hey Chris – you are living the dream! So don’t sweat the smalls. Good luck at Bilo. PHx

  4. Wish I could have been there, Chris! Sounded incredible. Your organisation fairy sounds more on track than mine … I still haven’t unpacked or blogged about the Mackay festival! I’m telling myself I’ll finally catch-up today…

  5. chrisbongers says:

    Kath, it was seeing you looking gorgeous in the photos of Mackay that gave me a spur on. Looking forward to hearing how it went. 🙂

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