Blog post from one mildly-crazed ‘Murder She Wrote’
Festival Director in Tasmania’s Huon Valley
aka Dr L.J.M. Owen
It’s 4.33 am.
Not on another crime fiction novel, but on a crime fiction-themed literary festival.
“Why?’ I hear you ask.
The answer is, ‘Cause I a little crazy!
On reflection, in 2014 when I decided to write my first novel, Olmec Obituary, my thought processes were a tad questionable.
Had I known of the long and anti-social hours, gnawing self-doubt, need to have author photos taken, joining the world of social media, gritting my teeth against the occasional nonsensical review, and utter lack of financial reward that is lot of many a writer, I would have walked away.
Should have walked away.
Okay, no. Even if I had known, I wouldn’t have stopped. Once finger hit keyboard, I found a joy previously unknown. My first fan letter sealed the deal, bringing me greater happiness than I thought a mere email could carry.
Upon completion of the rollercoaster of first publication and launch, a rational person would have shaken their head and taken up a comparatively simple pastime instead. Shark baiting, perhaps.
Not I. When it comes to plucking notions from the, ‘Are you sure that’s a good idea?’ basket, I’m a blue-ribbon champion.
Time moved on. Books two and three were born. I was obsessed. Not only by the indescribable pleasure of living in a mind-space where I fabricated new lives and new stories, but with the knowledge that I was bringing enjoyment to the readers who continued to write to me each week.
For four years, I sat on my couch, writing; my readers sat on their couches reading. It felt balanced.
The joy of writing hasn’t diminished one bit. Sure, the hours are still long, the house still a mess and I rarely see my friends, and I run on caffeine, sleep deprivation and am dreadfully unfit due to months of physical inactivity … where was I?
Oh yes, full of great ideas.
In March 2018, on the completion of a book tour and after attending several writers’ festivals, I thought, ‘You know what would be great? Bringing a heap of writing and reading friends to the gorgeous Huon Valley and staging a little festival.’
Years after visiting southern Tasmania, Agatha Christie wrote of wanting to return here to live. The festival would be in her honour.
I’ll call it Terror Australis Readers and Writers Festival.
It will run from 31 Oct to 5 Nov 2019, or Halloween to Melbourne Cup. Who wants to bet on a horse race when they could be at a crime fiction festival?
The inaugural theme will be Murder She Wrote.
It will be fun, filled with joy, and slightly daggy.
How hard could it be?
I can hear you tsk. Yes, I dug deep into the basket of dubious notions that day.
Then I thought of the numerous local authors to celebrate, the cohort of talented local writers deprived of professional development opportunities, in a community with a functional literacy rate of just 50%…
I plunged my hand into the basket once more…We could offer something for everyone!
If I thought writing a novel was difficult, the challenges of bringing together 12 panellists for two days of sessions, 40 authors and publishers for a day-long open book room, seven beginner writing workshops, six masterclasses, a children’s program, three themed evening parties and a two day after-fest of food and wine to support the Huon Valley’s economic recovery from recent devastating bushfires…
Well, yes. A more than questionable decision this time. I don’t think there are words in the English language sufficient to describe my current exhaustion.
Despite the punishing hours, gruelling workload and more ‘peopling’ than any self-respecting introvert should ever attempt, though, it’s been worth it.
After 18 months of often 16-hour days, bringing together a phenomenal team of volunteer organisers and weeks’ worth of consultation with local writers, businesses and community organisations, the stage is set.
Our Murder She Wrote panellists, including Tara Moss, Marta Dusseldorp, Angela Savage, Lindy Cameron, Angela Meyer, David Owen, Meg Keneally, Jack Heath, Joanna Baker, Tansy Rayner Roberts, and our International Guest of Honour, Shamini Flint, are
Cross-overs from America with our On the Run colleagues Sulari Gentill, Jock Serong, Robert Gott and Emma Viskic are queued.
Our 40 brilliant Hall of Writers authors and publishers from the valley and across the country are ready to fly (or walk) in.
School visits by ten of our wonderful local children’s authors are locked in.
The Governor of Tasmania is coming to launch the festival. The Huon Valley mayor is coming to launch the Hall of Writers. Our phenomenal local librarians and literacy group 26 Ten will be there.
And later this week, we’re holding four days of crafting workshops at a local school to create the decor for our parties – false hieroglyphic-covered columns for our Curse of the Sphinx murder mystery party; sparkling backdrops for our 1920s Noir at the Bar speakeasy night; spooky lights for Halloween; and screen printed shirts for our volunteers.
All we need now is you!
If you’re reading this, you like crime fiction.
If you’d like to immerse yourself in a festival celebrating crime fiction in all its forms, along with literacy, community, dress-up parties and spectacular food and wine, grab some friends, book some rooms (we still have some fantastic budget accommodation options on enquiry) and plan your stay.
There’s a full free program and a full ticketed program to choose from – mix and match! And if you’d like a free panel session, just volunteer to help out for 12 hours and it’s yours.
There’s different ticketing and accommodation options to make it affordable for everyone.
Come join our panellists, authors, librarians, readers and one basket-case of a festival director in a glorious multi-day celebration of crime fiction, reading and writing.
We’d love to welcome you to the Huon Valley at the end of October.
Dr. L.J.M. Owen, Murder She Wrote Festival Director
P.S. Despite the insanity, will I do it again? Absolutely. In 2021.
‘I would kill to be at the Terror Australis Festival, but thankfully I was invited so I won’t need to.’—TARA MOSS