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Friday, May 24, 2013

Sometimes the Journey of 10,000 Miles...

...Ends in Australia! Or, however many miles it is from Alabama to Sydney, Australia. I don't really know, and I'm too lazy to look it up right now. I'm sitting in a beautiful mansion in the suburbs of Sydney, listening to the gentle bubbling of a fountain and softly playing music, thinking about how amazing it is that my little fantasy series has landed me here. This week at the Sydney Writer's Festival has been a fun mishmash of literary events and sightseeing. On the literary end of things, I got to attend the opening address for the festival which featured a famous storyteller named Daniel Morden (see a video of him here), the after party (during which I spent a lot of time looking around and thinking, "This is SO outside my comfort zone!"), a morning coffee shop event where I got to talk about my books and do a little Q&A, an open bar event where I got to network with other people staying in the hotel (and, incidentally, also got to talk with Daniel Morden and take a photo with him - he's very down to earth and friendly), and I'm looking forward to my panel tomorrow morning at which I will be up on stage with a couple different authors discussing fantasy as a crossover genre. Despite all the swanky parties, gourmet food, literary celebrities, and Festival events I've taken part in this week, though, my favorite literary "event" I've gotten to participate in has been something not connected with the Festival at all. I got to visit a local private school and take over a literature class for a period. Once we got through the introductions and the natural skepticism that attends any classroom visitor/guest speaker (hey, I'm a school teacher too, I know how it goes!), I had a blast talking with the students about my books, my experiences as a writer, and the importance of writing meaningful literature. I introduced a couple devices for infusing meaning into your writing, using Harry Potter as the example (I can hear some of you intellectual snobs out there huffing and thumbing your nose at me, but you just need to get over it). The beauty of discussing Harry Potter is that it is a story that almost all the kids have read and loved, so it's really a common ground. One of the Seven Laws of the Teacher is to speak the language of the students, and that is one way in which to do it. Anyhow, being in a classroom full of students is about the best place I can be, and I feel so blessed to have been able to fly all the way over here to talk with them. Even if that was the only thing I did all week, it would have made the trip worth it. And apparently Australian teenagers are quite tickled by cursive handwriting...

On the sightseeing end of things, our hotel sits just beneath Harbor Bridge, and the Opera House is just up the bay behind it. I've familiarized myself with the historic road in this area called George Street and have enjoyed walking around, trying not to look too much like a tourist. I've seen just about every famous animal associated with Australia, although mostly in captivity (yes, mostly. There really are some enormous spiders here). I have resisted the urge to follow the seagulls around going "Mine. Mine. Mine. Mine.", but I could not resist the urge to giggle like a small child riding the 30-foot swells across the mouth of Sydney Harbor. I have hugged a koala bear, I have boxed a kangaroo, I have played in the tide pools and *tried* to find the Little Penguins on the beach (which I could hear, but not see). I have not, however, tried Vegemite, and I'm thinking I'm okay with that. I've climbed a lighthouse, eaten fish and chips on the beach (yes, not very exotic I realize, but I ate them on the beach looking at the cliffs on either side of the mouth of Sydney Harbor), eaten at the oldest pub in Sydney (the Fortune of War, est. in the 1800s), and watched sharks and stingrays swim over my head in an underground aquarium. Did you know stingrays could get up to, like, ten feet across? I had no idea.

Overall, I've had a blast, and the trip is not over yet. My talk is tomorrow, we have a wine tasting event tomorrow, and I have a few more souveniers to buy before we leave on Monday. I do miss my family, however, and I am looking forward to getting home and hugging my boys.

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