Fireflies flit along the shoreline as I hitch my floor-length dress up around my thighs. Stepping into the warm Indian Ocean I wobble along the watery path lit only by fire torches towards the tiny Taprobane Island off Sri Lanka’s south coast. Waves crash as I grip the sand bank beneath my toes and friendly hands reach out to guide me to cocktails with Candace Bushnell, the author of a little well-known story called Sex and the City.
This is just one of countless unforgettable events the Galle Literary Festival is known for. And after attending the Perth Writers Festival (23rd – 26th February) I overheard an elderly lady in the Dymocks tent exclaim, “Well, would you look at some of the young ones buying books!” She had a point as I looked around and noticed that even me, 40 years of age, felt young – not that I would ever complain about such a predicament. This is not so with its Sri Lankan counterpart, where some of the attendants are barely out of school and just as enthralled with a talk by The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas author John Boyne as they are in the after-parties. Perhaps it’s a cultural thing or maybe it’s because the Galle Literary Festival is so intimate and social. And quite possibly the exotic location of Sri Lanka is surely an added incentive to pretty young things, who quite frankly are the writers of future books.
However, yesterday the festivals merged in Perth when Niromi de Soyza gave an emotional talk about her book The Tamil Tigress. It’s a true account of a 17 year-old Niromi running away from home to join the Tamil Tigers with only a bag of books to keep her entertained during the journey. Her foolhardy adventure ended months later when tragedy struck and her mum rescued her and promptly sent her to boarding school in India where she became a prom queen. Niromi’s mum was in the audience and after a brief speech about her own ordeal the floodgates opened. This powerful event left me even further enthralled with Sri Lanka, and once again beckoning me further.
Perhaps there need to be more compelling stories set in Perth to entice a wider audience to our own shores? Being a writer from Perth, I wonder if I have what it takes to tear myself off figurative exotic shores and focus closer to home, only to eventually partake on my own journey with a bag of books?
Join me on my own Sri Lankan adventures in my book Fluffy Towel Travels