The 2014 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in Bali was a real thrill for a new author like me, so thrilling I found it difficult to sleep. For once I could have slept in, so naturally my mind (and the roosters) kept me awake. Here is an excerpt from a letter home I wrote early one morning:
It’s 5.45 in the morning and around me the mist is thick and the sky is pink, there are roosters crowing on all sides and faraway gongs ring from a temple. At the edges of the garden thatched lanterns glow and there are birds in the palm trees beginning to wake. There is one rooster just behind this villa who sounds as though he is the grandpa rooster with a very sore throat, but he still tries his best to crow with the rest of them.
Yesterday were my two panels – “Wide Awake Language” and “The Perfect Mother”. My first one I had to chair and I was up late the night before preparing. But the authors Eimar McBride and Sjon were wonderful, and the poet Bunyamin Fasya even stood up and did a spontaneous performance which gave me goosebumps. The second panel was in the afternoon chaired by Tory Loudon from the Australia Council and with the authors Sarah Darmody and Jill Dawson I talked about motherhood and writing. We all had such varying perspectives, and we discussed how we’d love to hear more fathers asked how they juggle fatherhood and writing. Afterwards I learned that the copies of What Was Left that I brought for the bookstore had sold, which means that I have room in my suitcase to bring some presents back.
Now from below in the valley I hear not just the temple gongs but the deep voice of a man chanting a prayer – we are in the middle of a big religious festival celebrating the Hindu goddess Saraswati in Ubud so I have been lucky enough to see all sorts of processions while here and hear these wonderful sounds. And now the dogs have started waking up and barking too.
Now the sky is lighter again and I hear the buzz of motorbikes out on the road, and far off the silhouettes of the distant volcanoes are starting to appear on the horizon. A yellow lizard just ran under my chair where I am sitting, and there is another noise, which is the gardener sweeping the path free of leaves which fell in the night.