15 March 2023

I am not making this up: Coledale festival celebrates and elevates non-fiction writing

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Kate Holden is the keynote speaker at Coledale’s non-fiction writing festival. Photo: Kate Holden.

At a time when truth is under threat in so much of what we read, ‘I’m Not Making This Up’ celebrates the power of fact in storytelling, bringing together some of the brightest talents and most distinctive voices writing non-fiction today.

The festival opens on Saturday 26 November at Coledale Community Hall with a keynote speech from the multi-award-winning author, Kate Holden.

The event has been pulled together by a team of local lovers of good literature including Dr Sarah Nicholson and the South Coast Writers’ Centre and “unofficial patron” Caroline Baum, now a coast local.

Baum says that creative non fiction is often overlooked, particularly when the market is flooded with books about politics and analysis in the same category.

“We’ve looked at science, at memoir, at nature – a very broad church for the subject matter. It’s less divisive and more immersive” she said.

“We’d all noticed there’s been a loss of faith in journalism,” said Genevieve Swart from the Illawarra Flame, also a festival partner. “We were keen to revive interest in non-fiction and in particular good journalism, work that’s well written and well researched.

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“With Caroline’s help we’ve been able to pull in a number of very well known authors who have given the festival much wider appeal.”

Many of the authors have local connections, including Kate Holden, who lives nearby in Austinmer with her partner Tim Flannery and teaches creative non-fiction at the South Coast Writers’ Centre in addition to her regular column with The Saturday Paper.

She’ll discuss The Winter Road, which won a Walkley, the NSW Premier’s Award for Non-Fiction and the Davitt Prize for its portrayal of the complex factors surrounding the murder of an environmental compliance officer in Northern NSW.

Bestselling memoirist Patti Miller appears in conversation with Caroline Baum to discuss difficult relationships in True Friends and will also run a non-fiction writing workshop.

After cider and storytelling direct from the farm with Jo-Anne Fahey from Darkes Glenbernie Orchard, there’s a dinner at Earthwalker with foraging expert Diego Bonetto discussing why we should eat weeds.

The Weedy One – his Instagram handle and the name of a short documentary about Diego’s journey – grew up on a dairy farm in northern Italy, where he learnt the ancient craft of gathering resources from the fields and woods.

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After he moved to Australia in the mid-90s and worked at garden centres and orchards, Diego soon realised that his foraging knowledge was rare in his adopted country, where Indigenous knowledge had been largely ignored and there was mistrust of wild produce.

On Sunday, Dr Jodi Edwards will introduce festival-goers to the local Dharawal language, Phillipa McGuinness goes beneath the surface to examine our largest organ in Skin Deep, and Anne Howell speaks about her experience with severe amnesia as captured in her memoir All That I Forgot.

Former detective Gary Jubelin, renowned for his tenacity with some of the most puzzling murders in NSW history, investigates criminal Badness. Professor Rob Brander, aka ‘Dr Rip’, appears in conversation with Walkley Award-winning journalist, author and surfer Malcolm Knox.

Stella Prize-winning Tasmanian novelist Heather Rose will unveil her memoir Nothing Bad Ever Happens Here, and the day ends with the sounds of Lovers Dreamers Fighters, as singer Lo Carmen talks about memory and her sources of inspiration with acclaimed biographer and journalist Mark Mordue.

I Am Not Making This Up, a True Storytelling Festival is at the Coledale Community Hall, 26-27 November. Tickets from southcoastwriters.org

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