I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Burdekin Writers Festival, and I came away thrilled by the experience. It really is one of the nation’s most enjoyable festivals. The events are well organised, the topics interesting, and the crowds interested. Writers are made to feel welcome, and there is hospitality galore. It’s a privilege to be invited to one of the nation’s most productive and resilient regions, and I’d come again in a heartbeat. Also: the food! Oh my goodness, the food – the paella, the salami, the cheese, the olives, the handmade sweet treats – it’s all so good.

Regarding the larger festivals: it’s quite true that they have become hopelessly infected by politically correctness, meaning its one event after another about Donald Trump! There is only so much anyone can listen to, without wanting to scratch their own face. It’s become harder to go and have a good conversation. People are terribly worried about saying the wrong thing. And they are way too big! You don’t really get the chance to have proper conversations with people because it’s like a trade show. They invite so many guests and it all becomes a blur. The small ones are a chance to really connect with readers, and other writers, in new and inspiring settings. I think most writers now feel the big ones have lost their way.
Caroline Overington

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I am writing to express my unconditional support for the Ignite Your Mind readers and writers festival.
I have been privileged to have been invited to the previous festivals in Ayr, but the 2018 event, with its diverse program and its plethora of writers from a variety of genres, surpassed all expectations.
As a writer, I attend festivals across the country year after year, some with crowds in excess of 50,000 people.
But as far as I can see, there is nothing quite like the Burdekin festival on offer in Australia. This is an absolutely unique event. It is warm, welcoming and intimate.

This is a festival where there is genuine contact with readers. And there is a very real sense – expressed by all of the participants this year – that the crowds that attend the Burdekin festival are there because they truly want to be. They are there to properly engage with the writers and satisfy their interest in reading and writing.
This is a real readers and writers festival in every sense of the word.

For the first time this year, too, I was fortunate enough to meet and talk with people who had travelled great distances to enjoy the festival. This is tangible proof that word is getting out about the quality of the Burdekin festival, and it needs to be encouraged and supported.
I can tell you that all the invited writers were thrilled by the experience. When I tell other writers about Ignite Your Mind they invariably admit they’d love to be invited.
I would encourage the state government, local council and any other interested parties to get behind this extraordinary event.
It has built a first-class reputation. It would be a tragedy – for both readers and writers – for that to be lost.
Matthew Condon

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The regional literary festivals have long been a personal favourite, with the Burdekin Readers and Writers Festival at the top of the list.
I am grateful for council investment in intellectual and creative nourishment, which in my view is every bit as sustaining as bricks and mortar.
My sense is the Burdekin Festival has a healthy future, building on the energy and commitment of Mickey McKellar and the other good citizens who have laboured to make it work so well.
The word is getting out. Writers such as myself appreciate the experience of a more intimate connection with the reader. The big city festival patrons can in a sense be overfed and just a touch disengaged.
Townsville, Ayr, Magnetic Island and the like are attractive locations for the creative mind. The best ideas are often born at rest under a palm tree.
I wish the festival a great future and extend my thanks to all who created something special.
Chris Masters

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Our Minds are Ignited!
As part of the Burdekin Readers’ and Writers’ Ignite Your Mind Festival East Ayr State School was proud to offer students a chance to engage with two successful published speakers and writers, Michael Gerard Bauer and Jacqueline Harvey. The sessions were organised to entertain, stimulate and inspire a love of reading and writing in our students.
This was Michael Gerard Bauer’s second trip to East Ayr to share anecdotes about the writing of several of his bestsellers including Just a Dog and his ‘laugh out loud’ comedy Don’t Call me Ishmael. Mr Bauer gave students an insight into his childhood and quest to become an author. His presentation shared details of his inspiration for content and how his stories and characters are shaped by his memories. Michael finished his presentation by opening up to questions from our students who wanted guidance so they can be successful on their current written assessment.
After this session Jacqueline Harvey, writer of the bestselling Alice-Miranda and Clementine Rose series, worked with students to polish their creative writing skills through a writer’s workshop. Students were able to work on their writing using valuable feedback to develop their skills as authors. The room was humming with excited and motivated writers as they crafted their own pieces of writing with the advice of Ms Harvey.
Here’s what some of our enthusiastic writers had to say about Jacqueline Harvey’s workshop:

Ashlee: I like listening to how Jacqueline Harvey plans her writing.

Tiana: The workshop was amazing. We learnt so much about using real life to tell stories.

Aria: It was humorous. She talked about underwear!

Sally: Very very good.

Charlie: Brilliant! Magnificent!

Shae & Zennah: I learnt that I could write about my life. We got information about how to be a better writer.

Hunter: If I don’t become a dentist I’d like to become an author. Or write in my spare time. I was impressed by Jacqueline Harvey stories and about how authors can make stories from everyday things and just changing it up to make it more interesting.

Sophia & Kelsey: I liked how Jacqueline Harvey made us want to explain and describe one picture. From one picture I could write a whole paragraph. I love that.

We look forward to seeing what our young authors can produce in the future.

East Ayr State School – 2018

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I can tick off another region on my Australia map, thanks to the Burdekin Readers and Writers Festival. I caught a plane with Warren Mundine from Sydney, where it was 14 degrees and flew up to Townsville where it was more than double the temperature haha. Oh, the humidity!
Then we got picked up in a car and headed down the highway for an hour to Ayr, a small regional town that is punching above its weight when it comes to having things. I’m not talking about the fact that they have a McDonalds, KFC, Red Rooster and Dominos Pizza in town (though I won’t lie, that is important to me haha). They also have a cinema, one performance space (where they were performing Dreamworks’ Madagascar) and a proper theatre too.
The Burkedin Theatre was the hub for the adults’ program held on the weekend, which I didn’t attend, which is a tiny shame because they had an awesome lineup. Michael Robotham, Fiona McCallum, and Matthew Condon, just to name a few. I was only there for the schools day on Friday, where I did three sessions in different schools around the area, Home Hill, St Francis, and Ayr State School. I love visiting regional areas as you hard-core cHEwY gum gums may know, so this was a breeze (not literally because it was still stinking hot haha). Though we did get snow. Kind of. Burdekin snow, the ash that falls when there’s a massive sugar cane burning off in the distance.
What I love about these regional festivals are the locals who will drive you, greet you, or just strike up a random conversation with you. A few used to be teachers themselves, and they had some stories to tell. Some of them even wanted to touch my hair (they’re not the first haha). They treat you like you’re one of the extended family. Some guests had an actual connection with Ayr though. Both Melina Marchetta and Allison Tait had family up here, so they treated it as a mini-reunion too.
It was also nice to catch up with Melina, Allison, Jacqueline Harvey, and Michael Gerard Bauer. Over lunch and dinner, we gave each other updates on what we’re doing, as well as some industry goss haha. Unlike other small towns I’ve been to, I wasn’t just confined to my motel room this time around, there were events and meals with fine company.
Now usually the kids’ program and adults section never mix, but a few of us managed to stick around on Friday night, for the opening party. A blessing in disguise because it gave me a chance to see a few of the adult authors. Funny historian, David Hunt said he liked my work, now that was a blushing moment haha. This opening party was held outside the theatre, under the stars…I mean ominous storm clouds. Yes, this region is in drought, but funnily enough, God provided quite a light show, with lightning in the background as Jay Laga’aia entertained us with a few songs. We all became weather forecasters, making bets on when the storm would hit, counting the seconds between lightning and thunder, or whether the birds were making any noise or not. But before the clouds gave way, we were treated to a Spanish dance group, as well as some nice quick talks from David and Caroline Overtington who admitted something so random that I feel it’s best to say you HAD to be there haha.

Then one of the founding committee members gave us a history of how this festival came about. She told us about how a bunch of keen readers thought they should have a crack at organising a writers festival. I wonder if this how many of the regional festivals started? Then the writers’ brain inside me clicked as my ‘country kid in a small town’ creation, What About Thao came to the forefront. What if…mmmm. I jotted some mental notes and filed it away. All of these observations will come in handy

So I got a tiny taster of the adult program, mingling with these other authors and also hearing some of them speak. Dare I say, I even danced with them on stage haha. But I have to give the Burdekin Readers and Writers Festival props for acknowledging us on the opening night. Not only we were given an introduction and spiel, but there was also a video filmed by some high school students, of us doing our stuff at the various schools. I reckon for some of the audience there, it was probably the first time they saw authors in action at schools. They probably thought…wow, they do have a large captive audience, and oh why does that spiky hair guy have so many toys on stage haha.
This blurring of the kids and adults program was cool, even if it was unofficial, but we were being recognised and that was more than what other festivals would have done. As Michael Robotham said to me, children authors like me were creating their future readers. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Oliver Phommanvanh – Contributing Author 2018

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“My experience of the Burdekin Readers and Writers Festival was a moving one.
People at panels were open and intimately involved with the ideas behind books, with the writers who wrote them. Remote or rural Australians often miss out on experiences common to city dwellers, and everyone who attended the festival who I personally spoke to enjoyed the festival, and felt inspired or moved by it in some way. Fran Whiting in particular was clearly loved by her audience- it was very moving to see.”
Susan Johnson – Contributing Author 2016

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