Byron Writers Festival
Living Wild – from Goonengerry to New Zealand ‘My life is free, random and spontaneous. This in itself creates enormous energy and clarity in body and mind.’ – Miriam Lancewood Could you live in the wilderness with nothing but the clothes on your back? Two guests at Byron Writers Festival this year have each survived for years in the wilderness, although the paths that led them there are very different. Gregory P Smith’s father was a violent alcoholic and his mother hardly the maternal type. As children, Gregory and his four sisters were told they were going to visit ‘Aunty Muriel’. Instead they were taken to an orphanage in Armidale. While there, Gregory was the victim of physical, psychological and sexual abuse – like others in care, now known as Forgotten Australians. As an adult Gregory spent years wandering the east coast of Australia, fluctuating between employment, addiction and homelessness. He struggled to make human connection: his childhood had scarred him and made meaningful relationships a frightening prospect. His impulse was always to flee. Around 1990, Gregory was moved on from sleeping rough in Byron Bay one more time. He walked to Mullum-
Gregory P Smith spent years wandering the east coast of Australia before going on to earn a PhD in Sociology.
bimby and just kept walking, into what was then called Goonengerry State Forest. He lived there for ten years – on the fringes of society in the dense, green wilderness, foraging for food, always mindful of his impact on the environment. People in neighbouring towns knew of this mystery man, yet knew nothing about him. When he emerged from the forest a decade later, emaciated and close to death,
Gregory decided it was time to turn his life around. The boy who left school at the age of fourteen became a man who worked to get a university admission, and ultimately earned a PhD in Sociology and today teaches at Southern Cross University. Out of the Forest is his uplifting and touching memoir.
Happily homeless Miriam Lancewood is 35, university educated, unem-
Miriam Lancewood spent seven years in wilderness of the Southern Alps of New Zealand with her husband Peter learning to survive.
ployed and homeless. And that’s just the way she likes it. She grew up in the Netherlands, was a competitive polevaulter and studied Physical Education before travelling in Africa and India. It occurred to Lancewood that she lacked the skills necessary to survive an apocalypse. So when she met her New Zealand husband, they embarked on an experiment to see if they could live without technology, electricity or
society for a year. They ended up living for seven years in the wilderness of the Southern Alps of New Zealand. They lived simply in a tent or hut, and survived by hunting wild animals and foraging edible plants, relying on only minimal supplies. In her inspirational memoir Woman in the Wilderness Lancewood recounts how she shot and killed her first goat with her bow and ar-
row. Sitting next to the carcass, Miriam cried. She had been raised a vegetarian from birth. Miriam and her husband Peter are currently exploring the wilds of Eastern Europe but will be re-joining society briefly at Byron Writers Festival this year. Gregory P Smith and Miriam Lancewood will appear together in the Living Wild session at Byron Writers Festival on Friday 3 August.
A feast of fiction at the Byron Writers Festival If you love to devour books, whet your appetite with our selection of fiction from the Byron Writers Festival lineup. Moreno Giovannoni’s The Fireflies of Autumn and Elise Valmorbida’s The Madonna of the Mountains recall times of hope and poverty in the beautiful landscapes of Italy early last century. Australia’s master of the short-story genre Robert Drewe will launch his longawaited new collection of short stories The True Colour of the Sea on Festival Friday. Another Australian literary great Tom Keneally will feature in numerous Festival sessions as well as taking part in The Saturday Paper’s ‘Bedtime Stories’ feature event at Byron Theatre. Jane Harper’s best-selling novel The Dry is being made into a TV series featuring cast from The Handmaids Tale – she will be on hand to discuss all things crime including a session on Rural Crime and
Romance. Ned Kelly Award winner Candice Fox’s Redemption Point brings back Crimson Lake detective Ted Conkaffey to prove his innocence in a girl’s disappearance. Jesse Blackadder’s latest novel Sixty Seconds asks: how do you deal with the worst that can happen? Thespian and playwright Future D Fidel will share the semi-autobiographical story of a child-soldier-turnedboxer in his debut novel Prize
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Fighter, while in The Garden of the Fugitives Ceridwen Dovey’s complex characters spar in concise and cutting letters. Hannah Richell’s The Peacock Summer dissects family secrets holding a frail sense of self together. Ben Hobson’s To Become a Whale, a heartbreaking story of a tender boy whose mum has died leaving him with and a dad who won’t talk to him, takes us to the hard world of whaling in the 60s. Local author Jarrah Dundler’s
Vogel-shortlisted debut YA novel Hey Brother presents a furious, resilient and devastatingly funny teenage character whose family falls apart around him. Family is a fountain of inspiration and Ben Hobson and Melissa Lukashenko will be talking it up together at the festival. The Mullumbimby author’s latest novel Too Much Lip tells the story of the Salter family who live in the northern rivers of NSW. It is gritty and darkly
hilarious, offering redemption and forgiveness where none seems possible. Josephine Wilson’s Miles Franklin award-winning novel Extinctions proves that self-made misery doesn’t have to be permanent. She’ll be discussing literary excellence with fellow Miles Franklin award winners Michelle de Kretser and Steven Carroll. The City of Lights features prominently in The Paris Syndrome, a YA romantic comedy
by local author Lisa Walker. Her effervescent character Happy is obsessed with Paris but finds out she has ‘the syndrome’. You’d be gutted too, but life often doesn’t go to plan even when it looks like it should. Master of the ordinary becoming extraordinary, Big Little Lies author Liane Moriarty will be featured in conversation and at a special festival event in Lennox Head on the evening of Saturday 4 August.
The Byron Shire Echo June 20, 2018 19
Free, independent weekly newspaper from the Byron Shire in northern NSW, Australia.