The programs of two of Australia's literary festivals - Brisbane Writers Festival and Sydney Writers' Festival - have been launched. Both events are held in May. Brisbane's theme this year is 'where our stories live' (3-8 May); Sydney has gone with 'change my mind' (16-22 May).
The relationship between stories and place, and the topic of how storytelling influences our understanding of things, are broad enough to capture the work of most writers, but also well-directed to current concerns. I think about how our sense of place has been affected by the strange lives we've led over the past two years. While I imagine many of us want our stories to relate intimately to specific places, in a sense to capture and be captured by locations and settings, I also hope for my stories to travel beyond the borders of my life, and to interact with the wider world and its stories and places and people. To be with others.
Books and stories can do their own travelling, of course. They don't need their authors for that.
This week, I had my third period of 'isolation' when I became a 'close contact' over the weekend. I re-scheduled and postponed things for the week ahead, including teaching and an event I had planned at Avid Reader bookshop. I stayed indoors, did an online grocery shop, etc. only then to discover yesterday that the rules changed on Monday and that, as someone who's had Covid in the last 12 weeks, I didn't come under the definition of 'close contact' anymore. I could have been out and about all week.
Never mind. I gave my lectures online, all but one of the grocery items arrived (not the chocolate ice creams!), and the book kept doing its own thing, regardless of whether I was housebound, a close or distant or medium contact, an author locked away or one in the world. Three reviews appeared. Gemma Nisbet, for The West Australian, wrote: 'The Sorrow Stone is a taut and suspenseful narrative told in understated elegant prose. Disa may, per her own assessment, be remembered as “the worst woman who ever lived in Iceland”, but in this telling she emerges as an emotionally complex figure.' Ann Skea called the work 'a gripping and exciting novel' in the Newtown Review of Books, and Susan Francis, in her ArtsHub review, went so far as to say that 'there is no other book like this.'
I've called this series of posts, now up to Week 16, 'a year with The Sorrow Stone.' This week, with it seeming to go on ahead without me, it feels more accurate to call it 'chasing' The Sorrow Stone. But with the festivals announced, I can look forward to the novel and I having a good catch-up, in person and in place, and alongside other writers and critics, including, in my sessions, Hannah Kent, Emily Brugman, Susan Wyndham, and Krissy Kneen.