The annual Clunes Booktown Festival is back on 4th and 5th May with 18,000 people expected to join the most amazing whole town bookshop experience in Australia.
Along with author talks, panel discussions and literary luncheons, festival-goers can discover the largest collection of rare, out-of-print and collectable books in Australia, go inside heritage buildings, listen to live music, watch street performers, take a horse and cart ride or sample local food and wine.
But ultimately the day is about books and returning this year to take part in the program is Ballarat poet Nathan Curnow, who will be taking part in ‘Poetry Wine and Cheese: Readings and Discussion’ with fellow poets Peter Rose and Alicia Sometimes and Chaired by Nick Lanyon.
While published poetry may not be as lucrative as a published novel, Nathan says he feels compelled to compose it.
“I decided I wanted to write probably around 20 years ago and I had great plans to be a bestselling novelist – this was before J K Rowling – but that was kind of what I was aiming for – then I discovered poetry and that ruined my whole plan,” he explained.
“I have also written plays and short fiction but really there is no escaping from poetry and that is what I write.
“Australia has a small population and the market for poetry is very small – I often tell people I’m a superstar but only within a group of five people.”
When emerging authors ask for advice the main pearl of wisdom they are usually given is to make sure they write every day, whether they feel inspired or not and you just need to get into the practice of hard work.
“I find that I can sit down and do the hard work with no great ideas but I find inspiration from that aha moment, a beautiful moment or those painful moments that you really don’t have a choice but to write about,” Nathan said.
His books include The Ghost Poetry Project, RADAR, The Right Wrong Notes and his most recent collection, The Apocalypse Awards and can be purchased directly from the publisher, Australian Scholarly Publishing.
“You probably won’t find it in too many bookstores, big book chains don’t stock a lot of poetry these days, so it’s a fraught affair from beginning to end for poets,” Nathan said.
“Why do I do it? I guess it’s just the way I have to live and it’s a good life, it comes with a lot of privileges, just one of those is not monetary, which is what most people think of success.
I do it because I can’t seem to function without getting out these ideas.”
Joining Nathan at Booktown will be Ballarat author Jack Henseleit who says writing was his earliest career choice, alongside palaeontology.
“I always loved reading and I was writing stories when I was young, it’s the only job that really made sense,” Jack said.
“I loved making stuff up and putting things in sequence and by the time I got to university I thought I would roll the dice and pursue the dream and studied creative writing for five years at the University of Melbourne.”
Jack has had international success with his first couple of books translated into 13 languages.
“I write horror stories for middle grade readers – so that’s one that always make people take a step back when I tell them – I think horror is a wonderful genre for kids to hook them in and keep them reading from one page to the next,” he said.
“I love writing stories with dark fairy tales, with monsters and magic and screams in the middle of the night.”
Jack pays attention to detail and explains, “There is a scene in a book where the children will be running through a forest in the middle of the night and I couldn’t remember the last time I’d run through a forest in the middle of the night, so we actually drove to the top of Black Hill in Ballarat, literally at midnight, with a tiny torch and spent half an hour running through the forest and I was genuinely terrified. I got in the car and said right I’m ready to write this scene.”
Jack has written a series of novels called the Witching Hours, the most recent book is set in Australia.
“This will be my first time at Clunes Booktown and I’m really looking forward to it,” he said.
“I will be on two different panels; ‘Reading to Escape, or face Reality’ and ‘Writing for the Millenial Mind’.
Jack’s books are available at Ballarat Books, Collins Ballarat, and at the Clunes Booktown Festival.