Thursday, September 1, 2011

MWF 2011: Clara in Washington

From the MWF Program: In Penny Tangey's new book, Year 12 student Clara goes to America and finds the world of politics opening up for her in a way she never thought possible. Suddenly she might have a lot more impact on the future than she thought.

Penny Tangey and the back of Adele Walsh

Ok, so I probably don't need to tell you again how much I love Penny Tangey's writing, so I was very excited to attend this session. I was in the front row and got to have a quick chat to Adele before the session - and I must say a huge thank you to Adele for introducing me to Penny (seriously guys, I was trying so hard to keep my cool when on the inside I was massively fan-girling!). And now onto the session:
  • Did you know that Penny is also a stand-up comedian, and won the Triple J Raw Comedy Competition in 2006? She warned the audience that she wasn't going to be funny (but of course, she was hilarious!)
  • Clara in Washington is partially based on Penny's own time living in Washington DC - while her partner was there to work, Penny volunteered and had the time to visit most of the city's tourist attractions. Penny showed us some slides from some of her favourite attractions including Ford's Theatre (where Lincoln was shot), the National Museum of National History, Scottish Rite Masonic Temple (where she got a private tour, just like Clara), the National Archives and the National Postal Museum.
  • Penny talked about her time in Washington - where she wrote her first novel, Loving Richard Feynman and read us an excerpt from her DC journal. She also spoke about meeting politically minded people in DC, and her experiences with meeting anarchists as she volunteered with DC Books to Prisons: "the anarchists I met were a bit standoffish and they didn't want to be friends with me".
  • Penny then discussed perceptions of anarchism, what it actually is and some of the varieties of anarchists (aided by a handy slideshow presentation). Penny also shared an exchange from a DC Anarchists email list (which I also saw in the session yesterday). What was then really fun, was Penny started a game of 'Spot the Modern Anarchist' - this was the first session I went to that encouraged audience engagement (other than question time), which was fun. Adele also mentioned one of my favourite tumblrs, Amish or Hipster (seriously, check it out).
  • Did you know that Noam Chomsky, Germaine Greer & Alicia Keys identify themselves as anarchists (and the Queen and the Pope are not due to their authorative head gear).
  • Adele and Penny discussed the lack of politics in Australian young adult fiction, and Penny mentioned that when studying in the US, she found that American history is presented in a 'fun' and engaging way. She also spoke about the way that in DC, she was interacting with people who were very "politically aware".
  • What I thought was interesting is that Penny didn't keep a log/record of all the places she went in Washington!
  • It took Penny nine months to write Loving Richard Feynman (as she had a lot of free time), whilst Clara in Washington took about a year. Penny spoke about her experiences of trying to get published (she sent her manuscript to four publishers and was rejected by all four within a year. She then found an agent, who sent it out to publishers and she received an offer within six weeks).
  • The session finished with some fantastic advice from Penny for aspiring writers: being bored is a good thing - some great things can come from it!
And that was my last session at MWF 2011 - and what an awesome one to finish with. As I was leaving (surrounded by hordes of teenagers), it was great to hear them talking so positively about the festival and how much fun they were having (and they were saying it in a genuine, not-sarcastic way).

Fellow attendees, what sessions have you enjoyed this year at MWF?


Adele said...

You're very welcome. To be honest, I was blown away that the two of you hadn't met yet! Enjoying the MWF blogs, Steph.

Nomes said...

oh i am so envious of you melbourne crowd

thanks for sharing all this <3

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