The Writing Life

Information, inspiration and insights into the writing life

a photo of Carly Findlay. She has a red face and dark, curly hair, and is wearing a floral blouse

Australians with disability are invited to submit their work to ‘Growing Up Disabled in Australia’, to be published by Black Inc. in April 2020.

When Lionel Shriver ignited public debate about cultural appropriation with her 2016 Brisbane Writers Festival opening address, ‘Fiction and Identity Politics’¹, followed by Yassmin Abdel-Magied’s swift rejoinder², I took it personally. Not in a white privilege, why-are-they-trying-to-stop-me-from-writing-whatever-I-want? kind of way, but in a way that made me pause and reflect on my own creative practice.

In recent times there have been numerous discussions on the complexities of writing non-white characters¹, but little attention has been given to the craft (and politics) of writing white characters, and representation of white characters in literature and on screen. To put this simply: most of us write white characters though it is difficult to find articles on the subject.

The idea for ‘The Bone Sparrow’ came to me years ago. We were watching the news and debating who would get up from the couch to fetch the chocolate from the kitchen. Our baby lay asleep in my arms. It was a warm night; I think it was summer. The windows were open and I complained about the mosquitos. I looked up at the television and saw a child, maybe a year older than my own, playing in the dirt and oblivious to the camera crew beyond the wire fence, the guards in the background, or the saddened, lost faces of the adults surrounding them. I remember thinking, imagine that.

It’s 3pm; scorching. I am in El Bruc, a village 50km outside of the Barcelona city centre and home to around 2000 Catalonians; an expanse of blue sky and a colony of self-possessed street cats. I photograph the ubiquitous independence ribbons and freshly spray-painted lettering on a rendered brick wall: Valtónyc. 3.5 anys de preso per cantar mort al borbo (3.5 years in prison for singing death to the Borbon monarchy).

Robert Watkins, Head of Literary at Hachette Australia, spoke to Emma Cayley about Own Voices, the current publishing climate and writing outside experience.

EC: Hachette Australia is one of the publishers leading the way in bringing Own Voices writing to a mainstream audience, certainly in Australia. How did this progressive shift happen?

English actor Daniel Day-Lewis once said: ‘A voice is such a deep, personal reflection of character.’¹ The only male actor in history to have won three Academy Awards for Best Actor, Day-Lewis is famous for his devotion to and research of his roles. While playing Christy Brown, the Irish painter who was born with cerebral palsy and was able to control only his left foot, the actor practically lived in a wheelchair on the set for weeks and crew members were required to spoon-feed him. He stayed so long in his wheelchair that he damaged two ribs.²

A portrait of AS Patric against a wall with graffiti on it

AS Patric answers five questions about the inherent power in the short story. 

Migrant Writing Growing Strong

Jonathan Green to present 2018 Deborah Cass Prize

 

The fourth annual Deborah Cass Prize for Writing, which goes to unpublished migrant writers, will be presented by literary editor and journalist Jonathan Green, on Wednesday 5 December.

The Prize received 91 entries from around Australia in 2018. The judges Christos Tsiolkas, Nyadol Nyuon and Tony Ayres will choose the winner from a shortlist of nine entries:

A photo of Sarah Madden lying on a squiggled hot pink couch on a mosaic floor. Sarah is wearing a black dress and has a bowler hat partial;ly covering her face

Ahead of the launch of her novella ‘Blue in the Red House’, Sarah Madden explores how genre labels can be hard to pin down – in life and in writing.

Genre is a funny old thing. You think you’re one thing, and then you’re another. I didn’t know what ‘Blue in the Red House’ was when I finished writing it; not really. I thought it was some odd fiction, a made-up string of weirdness straight from the depths of my imagination, and that was how it sat in my mind until I’d stepped away long enough to see what it really was.