A Journey inside the Willy Lit Fest….

The chilled air hits my face and I am suddenly aware that it’s over.

The 16th Willy Lit Fest has ended with a round of applause, worthy of the man who closed it – Mr Kerry O’Brien.

As I embrace my friends to say goodbye, I am suddenly overcome with a wave of emotion. After 11 months of ideas and emails, meetings and copywriting, editing and stressing – the festival I helped piece together is done.

I really can’t believe it….

When I was asked to join the committee of the festival I have come to love so much, I was truly honoured. I could never have said no – why would I? What I lacked in experience, I made up for with sheer enthusiasm – at least that was my hope.

Right out of the gate, I made a real contribution, suggesting this year’s theme – Choose Your Own Adventure – an homage to the books that helped to shape my love of reading as a child. The rest of the committee embraced the theme whole-heartedly and the festival began to take shape.

Our Program Director – Stella Kinsella – also new to the committee, started assembling the program. I will never fully understand what it takes to be a program director, but I am picturing a work-load of gargantuan proportions, followed closely by an ability to solve any and all unforeseeable issues, as they arise! The festival’s success is a testament to her efforts and I am grateful for what she was able to achieve.

My official title was program coordinator, but I prefer to think of myself as Putty – just filling in the gaps, wherever I was needed. I did what I could, but never really found my feet.


Festival Weekend!

There is no greater feeling than meeting people who share your passions. People who understand exactly where you are coming from.

Community-minded, literary-loving dreamers.

People who believe in the magic of thoughts and ideas. Of conversation and debate. Of gathering together in 100-year-old buildings and laughing and crying their way through shared experience.

People who know the magic of soup consumption on a wintry day.

Our opening night event on the Friday – a Soiree held at Sebastian Beach Grill & Bar – championed our theme of adventure and exploration. Exploration of thought and of our beautiful Williamstown.

Spreading the festival across multiple locations meant our patrons could quite literally choose their own adventure – where would their choice take them?

The Williamstown Town Hall, the Library, the Pirates Tavern or the Williamstown Croquet Club – each venue providing a very different feel. I was lucky enough to experience them all….

I ran from room to room, checking in on sessions. I ran from one end of the Town Hall to the other, trying to find post-it notes for Andy Griffiths. I ran and ran and ran some more – determined to be all things to all people. I definitely got my steps up.

I transported authors to the Pirates Tavern and back again. I was blessed to witness some truly special moments in the few sessions I got to see from beginning to end – a rare treat. Jenny Ackland put together a truly special Bad Diary Salon. Tjanara Goreng Goreng providing an awe-inspiring entry, that filled the room with pure, undiluted emotion.

Jock Serong, Meg Keneally and Clare Wright took us through Australian history, offering perspectives not previously considered. Clementine Ford and Sonia Orchard explored the complex nature of female friendship.

Everywhere I looked, there were people I admired; my position affording me face time with so many authors. Having emailed them all in the lead up to the festival, I felt as though I already knew them. David Astle – never wasting a word. Helen Pitt – so warm and enthusiastic. Carmel Bird – fabulousness personified. Ahmed Yussef, making my day with a gift of Tim Tams – it’s like he knew! Each author bringing something unique to our program – so generous and engaging.

As I dashed in and out of the green room, I was riding high on positive interactions. Volunteers, patrons, councillors, the Town Hall team, the tech support – each human, contributing to the overall vibe. I tried to remember as many names as possible, conscious of how each of these individuals combined, to make this weekend the success story it has always been. How blessed to be in the mix.

Stereo Stories was everything I had come to expect and more. This was my third viewing and possibly the best one yet! Vin Maskell continues to blend music and memoir – taking the audience on a journey that can only be described as extraordinary. The room collectively laughed, cried and applauded. Each story, a highlight.

And I was able to get my annual photo with Mr Brian Nankervis – the man is a legend.

As the tears trickle down my face and my friends laugh at my unexpected reaction to home time, I am in awe of what we have achieved. I am exhausted beyond measure, but so filled with pride. How brilliant to contribute to something that means so much to so many.

High praise to my fellow committee members – Angela, John, Hugh, Chris, Lis, Anna and Stella. What an adventure we had!

Melissa Longo


  1. Cr Sandra Wilson

    Beautiful overview of your involvement and contribution, brimming with the love of positive.

    I bet Angela will be rapturous when she reads this.

    I spotted me in your photo – the only person not paying attention, whoops.

    Catch up soon?


    Cr Sandra Wilson Cherry Lake Ward, Hobsons Bay City Council 0419 287 117

    Liked by 1 person

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