On Sunday 27 June, Fremantle Press and the City of Joondalup Libraries hosted the Great Big Book Club featuring writers Mel Hall, Natasha Lester, Brigid Lowry, Susan Midalia, Georgia Richter, Josephine Taylor and Emma Young for a Sunday morning among book-loving friends.
While the Perth winter weather was dull, the faces inside Joondalup library were bright in response to the engaging panel discussions and delicious spread of tapas at the Great Big Book Club. I was fortunate enough to be able to sit in on the first panel of the day, ‘Writing for the New Age and the Art of Mindfulness’, featuring authors Brigid Lowry and Mel Hall, in conversation with Georgia Richter. Both authors spoke about faith, humour and pain in their new books.
Brigid Lowry’s essay collection A Year of Loving Kindness to Myself delves into the messy, wonderful, challenging thing we call life. Brigid draws on Buddhist philosophy and her own life experiences to share the secrets of having a tender and compassionate approach to our wellbeing.
Mel Hall’s debut novel, The Little Boat on Trusting Lane, is set on an old houseboat that operates as an alternative healing centre. It centres on the lives of some of the people who have washed up there. This is an irreverent novel with a big heart and some beautiful, quirky characters. The book is about each character’s search for meaning through faith, and conventional and alternative methods of healing set against the backdrop of chronic and invisible illness.
How important is creativity to your health?
Both authors began with emphasising how crucial writing has been to their health. Brigid noted how you ‘discover things about yourself as you create, whether that be writing, gardening or whatever you deem creative’. Mel explained how she began writing about mindfulness without realising it, but she believes we use creativity to ‘try to find a way to give sensory qualities to pain so we can understand it better’.
Humour and community
The panel explored the purpose of community in relation to solitude, with a focus on friendships and their role in each of the author’s works. Mel said she believes you can’t choose your family but you can’t always choose your friends either. ‘Sometimes they’re just there and you have to go through things together.’ Brigid provided some wise insights about the ebb and flow of friendship, which developed into a discussion on the importance of humour. She told the audience of her quirky life mantras including ‘life with a capital F’ and the crowd favourite, ‘oh well, oh f***’, for when times get tough. Mel also stressed that we should not take ourselves too seriously. As Georgia elegantly put it: ‘humour is kind – it creates a sense of community in times of need’.
During question time, Brigid’s advice to ‘find your three-minute pause of mindfulness’ led to one attendee discovering that her daily routine of speaking to the birds may be her three-minute pause. As the panel concluded to thunderous applause, I could not help but wonder what my own three minutes of mindfulness were, and who among the audience spoke to the birds too.