JAIPUR LITERARY FESTIVAL 2018
Billed as 'the greatest literary show on Earth', Jaipur in 2018 didn't disappoint. Covering the five-day event for ABC Radio's 'Book Hub', I caught up with a wide range of authors (more than 200 in attendance this year) including Michael Ondaatje, whose photograph I took for US Publishers Weekly at the Adelaide Festival Writers Week years ago. I had the pleasure of interviewing several Indian authors including UK-based Preti Taneja, whose striking debut novel We That Are Young - a retelling of Shakespeare's King Lear set in modern India - was named one of The Sunday Times 2017 Fiction Books of the Year.
Another wonderful encounter was with Los Angeles-based novelist Charmaine Craig, author of the compelling Miss Burma - based on the turbulent history of her mother's family in Burma and the struggles of the Karen minority. (I recorded a lengthy interview to coincide with the novel's Australian release later this year.) Longlisted for the 2017 US National Book Awards, Miss Burma has drawn strong reviews. 'In reimagining the extraordinary lives of her mother and grandparents,' Emma Larkin wrote in The New York Times, 'Craig produces some passages of exquisitely precise description.' It's a terrific read and highly recommended.
Jaipur was visually a riot of colour (it's known as the 'Pink City') but I went monochrome to capture some of the thousands of faces in the crowd. I was struck by the preponderance of young people everywhere - around 60% of those attending the festival were under 25, which bodes well for literature (in India at least!). I've posted some of my Jaipur images on the Photography page.
You can listen to my ABC Radio National report on the 2018 Jaipur Literary Festival here.
ABC STORYTELLING WORKSHOPS 2017
Working with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Deborah Fleming AO, the former Executive Producer of ABC TV's Australian Story, I co-hosted video storytelling workshops in October/November 2017 for news producers around Australia. (Confession: I enjoyed this immensely - exploring and dissecting what makes a great story is one of my core pleasures. Yes, story tragic.)
For two decades, the award-winning Australian Story has been one of Australia's top-rating programs. Back in 1995 - an eternity ago - I helped devise the program along with Deb Fleming and a talented team, and Deb went on to helm the show for 19 years through season after successful season. It’s won countless prizes and nominations and is still going strong.
These one-day workshops drew draw on our long experience and highlight the essential ingredients of a well-told video story, employing techniques from classic cinema, drama and literature along with examples from contemporary media. (Everything from Scorsese to Kundera to French TV ads...) The enthusiasm and creativity of the young journalists attending was palpable, and impressive.
Storytelling transcends technology, going back to the beginnings of human communication, but I'm fascinated by how we can use the power of many platforms and outlets - TV, radio, social media - to reach new audiences in new ways. In that sense, I see storytelling not as displaced or diminished but confirming its absolute role in whatever cultures we live and work in. Our lives are stories - we live and breathe our stories - and, without stories, who are we?