I’ve told my friend, Simone Pregellio, that she needs to write a book or a blog, ’cause she’s as funny in print, as she is in person. Luckily, she’s too busy being a corporate high-flying communications executive to listen my silly ideas.

However, when she told me she was attending this year’s Sydney Writers’ Festival, I had a light bulb moment. GUEST POST flashed into my head like lightning. Thankfully, she said ‘yes’! So – here it is.

simone pregellioOn Finding One’s Tribe at the Sydney Writers’ Festival,

by Simone Pregellio

“I don’t think I’ll ever read Dickens.”

Probably not what you would expect one of Australia’s leading journalists to say on stage at a writer’s festival, but Leigh Sales opening dialogue ensured the sanctimonious ‘gaspers’ in the audience were reminded that loving a classic isn’t a pre-requisite to attend a literary event.

Or as it seems, to speak at one.

This is what I loved about Leigh Sales and Annabel Crabb’s ‘on the couch’ session at the Sydney Writer’s Festival – the sense of inclusiveness which they were able to build around a conversation that fundamentally detailed their downright intimidating reading histories.

For while Leigh lamented that she ‘hasn’t read enough Russian literature’, I could relate to her similar magical early reading memories of wanting to be Nancy Drew and desperately hoping that the tree in the backyard would morph into the Enchanted Forest.

And whilst I could have struggled to connect with Annabel who said she recently read 161 books in three months for ‘work’ as a judge of the Stella Prize, knowing that she had 35 books on her bedside table and starting reading Donna Tartt’s Goldfinch over a year ago, made me feel like that whilst I wasn’t in her league, I was with a kindred spirit.

By asking each other questions like ‘What book do you wish you had written?’ and ‘What book would you be disappointed if your kid didn’t like it?’, the session remained personal and focused on celebrating book experiences, rather than become a just discussion of literature loves between two word-smiths that few would dare challenge in scrabble.

For those of us who follow the professional lives of these two journalists, the personal insight was like asking two Michelin hat chefs what they like to cook at home.

Earlier in the week Hugh Mackay discussed the role of communities and how communities shape us as part of his talk on his latest book, The Art of Belonging.   The discussion focussed a lot on how communities have changed and how often today we don’t seem to know our neighbours, preferring to find community solace online rather in person.  Hugh’s message was that there is no doubt that how we communicate and form communities has changed, however what will never change is our innate sense of wanting to belong.

We may have left the house for the Writer’s festival not knowing our neighbours but we all choose to be together as strangers to celebrate what we had in common.

And whilst we may have instagrammed the view from the Wharf and followed Leigh and Annabel on twitter, I would I would say that our sense of community and inclusiveness was alive and well at this year’s Sydney Writer’s Festival.


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