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  • New and improved Tasmanian Literary Awards announced

    Formerly known as the Premier's Literary Prizes, the biennial Tasmanian Literary Awards were recently announced as a fleet of awards that will better recognise excellence in the literary sector. The next Tasmanian Literary Awards will be held in 2022, with entries open later this year. The Tamar Valley Writers Festival is thrilled with the announcement, and wholeheartedly supports the investment in literature. Tasmania's unique and vibrant culture is one that has birthed many nationally recognised and award winning writers, including Miles Franklin Award winning Amanda Lohrey, Vogel Prize winning Kate Kruimink and Margaret Scott prize winning Robbie Arnott, to name a few. The Tasmanian Government has increased its biennial prize money investment from $25 000 to $100 000 to support awards in six new categories: a prize for fiction ($25 000) a prize for non-fiction ($25 000) a prize for young readers and children ($25 000) a prize for Indigenous writing ($10 000) a prize for poetry and short stories ($10 000) a young writers fellowship ($5 000) The University of Tasmania will also continue to support prizes as part of the new Tasmanian Literary Awards. To support and foster literary talent in Tasmania, the new Tasmanian Literary Awards will now only be open to writers living in Tasmania. More information and eligibility guidelines for each prize category will be announced soon.

  • Drawing back the veil of the Australian bushranger myth

    The Australian bushranger myth is the topic of the National Book Council Tasmania's October event. Jeanette M. Thompson, author of Bone and Beauty: The Ribbon Boys Rebellion (UQP: 2020) will illuminate the research that led to her writing the story of a forgotten convict rebellion. During her residency* at Patterdale, she discovered a familiar story of punishment and rebellion among the government servants. Using case studies of early Tasmanian and mainland bushrangers, Jeanette draws back the veil of the Australian Bushranger myth. Come along to the National Book Council event to hear Jeanette share on Wednesday October 20 at 1:15pm, at the Launceston Library. RSVP is essential due to Covid-19 regulations. Email Jeanette M. Thompson Jeanette graduated as Doctor of Creative Arts from the University of Technology, Sydney. Bone and Beauty grew out of Jeanette’s research into Australian colonial history and creative nonfiction writing. She has been a lecturer in Children’s Literature, Charles Sturt University, and a tutor for the Family History Unit, University of Tasmania. Her research and community writing have explored ways of making history accessible and engaging for a wide variety of audiences. Bone and Beauty: The Ribbon Boys Rebellion 1830. Rebelling from years of maltreatment and starvation, a band of Ribbon Boys liberate eighty convicts from Bathurst farms and lead them inland towards freedom. Governor Darling, fearing that others will also rise up, sends the 39th Regiment in pursuit. Three bloody battles follow, but to whom will justice be served? Rich with detail, Bone and Beauty fuses archival evidence and narrative technique to tell the gripping story of the Ribbon Boys and their reputed leader Ralph Entwistle. For the first time, the influence of Irish secret societies, the scale of oppression and corruption, and the complex web of criminal and family relationships behind these events are revealed. "The convict uprising at Bathurst in 1830 has been almost completely forgotten. Jeanette M. Thompson has brought the story back from obscurity in a most lively and readable way. She has combined serious research with imaginative fair."HENRY REYNOLDS

  • Tamar Valley Storytellers: Karen Mace

    Karen Mace is an author, novelist, book coach, editor and proofreader. Karen has published two non-fiction books on grief, titled Healing Begins in the Heart (2014) and A Grief Revealed (2021). She has just completed her first novel, The Zumba Class. In another life, Karen was a psychotherapist, counsellor, nurse and educator — and all the skills from those roles have informed her writing. Karen was born in Melbourne, Australia, but considers herself a native of Tasmania where she has lived for most of her life, except for the years she and her family lived in Costa Rica and Ecuador, South America.  You can find out more about Karen on Instagram (@karenmacewriter), Facebook (@karenmacewriter) or on her website. 1. What are you working on? I’m working on a few things. The main one is a revision of a memoir I wrote in 2014. The book, Healing Begins in the Heart, wasn’t something I planned to publish. I wrote it because writing is how I process things and I needed to process the loss of two of our daughters. They died in 1993 and their deaths threw me into a spiritual wilderness that lasted for 13 years. It was after I turned back to God that I began to write about what happened. Once I started it became a journey into my own childhood as well. I did publish the book, but when I did, I hadn’t dealt with the grief associated with the loss of Ileana and Sarah. Last year in November, the month in which they died, I realised I had more grieving to do and out of that came a book of stories about grief, A Grief Revealed. Then earlier this year, as I was writing A Grief Revealed, I felt that I wanted to revise the memoir, to add to it a little of what I have learned about grief in the years since it was published. The revised book is called Looking Back Moving Forward. There’s also a companion workbook to go with it. I’m also working on a novel. It’s women’s fiction, and the working title is The Zumba Class, about a young woman who can’t face her grief when her best friend is killed in a car crash. She runs from where it happened, leaving her job as a nurse, back to her hometown where she teaches Zumba. She finds home is not the haven she hoped for. Devastating revelations about her family compound her grief and she must decide if she will finally face it, or if she will keep running. As well as writing I am a book coach, editor and proofreader, so I always have one or two things on the go in that area too. 2. How does the Tamar Valley influence your writing? The Tamar Valley has always drawn me. When we first came back from overseas, we used to come out to Grindelwald to stay with friends, and we often said how much we would love to live in this part of the valley. A few years later we bought our home and have been here now for nearly 20 years. We love it. While the valley itself doesn’t feature in my writing, there’s a special calming influence that you feel as you leave Riverside that wraps itself around the West Tamar. That’s what influences my writing. As I walk, the clear, open skies, the fresh, crisp air all contribute to my thinking about what comes next in whatever piece of work that’s uppermost in my mind. A novel I have yet to get back to does feature parts of the Tamar Valley, and other parts of Tasmania too, but for the most part, I don’t intentionally write the valley into my work. 3. What themes are you exploring? Themes that I find continuing to pop up in my work are: How does grief show up in people’s lives? What do they do with it when it does? How do people work with grief? Is it possible to journey with it, without fearing it? Forgiveness is another. Why is it so hard to forgive? What happens when we refuse to forgive? What do relationships look like when forgiveness is freely given and is mutual? Can there be restoration? Other themes that surprised me when they began to appear in my work are those of domestic violence and coercive control and how they interact with the themes mentioned above. Floating through my fiction I also see the theme of childhood trauma and the influences of this on adult relationships – again, these are bundled up in the themes of grief, loss and forgiveness. 4. Where do you write? I write in two places. When I need the internet, I write in a big room that also serves as the room for my work as a counsellor. There are large, floor to ceiling windows all along the wall. I look out onto tall, old, gum trees and black wattles that tower over smaller shrubs and vines and hide me from the many houses on a hill not far away. I feel cocooned and safe. It’s a great creative space. But even better is my writing shack, built for me by my husband. It’s a 2x2 metre lined and carpeted haven. I have a desk, a bookcase, a kettle and tea, and a bean bag. It’s where I write when I want to be completely focused and undisturbed. There’s no internet, and I leave my phone behind when I slip over to the shack. 5. Finish this sentence: "The thing I love most about being a storyteller is..." The thing I love most about being a storyteller is that story opens up possibilities and causes people to dream dreams they might never have thought possible. I’ve seen how story can change a person’s life and to have them tell me that I, as a storyteller, have done that is amazing. I love being a part of it all. 6. What's your favourite read so far this year? My favourite read so far this year is Left to Tell by Immaculee Ilibigiza. It’s an incredibly hard book to read because it is Immaculee’s story of surviving the Rwandan holocaust. However, despite her story being a reminder of how evil man can be, the book is at the same time hope-filled and powerful in its message of forgiveness as essential to healing. Another I really love is The Beekeeper of Aleppo. It’s a beautiful story of unspeakable pain and loss, of bravery and compassion and, like Left to Tell, it leaves you shaking your head at the amazing resilience of those who suffer unspeakable hardships.

  • Tamar Valley Storytellers: Georgie Todman

    Georgie is our creative director, here at the TVWF, but you might not be aware that she is a writer in her own right. Georgie completed a Bachelor of Contemporary Arts with a major in theatre and creative writing at UTAS and has had a long-standing relationship with creative arts. During a stint in Victoria, she worked with StoryShare in script development consultancy and presented workshops and papers with Drama Victoria/Australia. Other theatrical high points include directing Something Natural but very Childish (Centrstage), Dusty - the Original Pop Diva (Launceston Musical Society), assistant directing We Will Rock You (Encore) and her production of Killer Joe for Three River, received the Best Production Award (Community) at the Tasmanian Theatre Awards in 2018. Georgie is a Drama teacher at Brooks High, is on the Three River Theatre and Friends of Theatre North committees, recently started a lively bookclub and initiated a writing retreat for fellow writers. She loves to read and write poetry in her spare time. 1. What are you working on? I recently directed Branden Jacobs-Jenkins' play Gloria for Three River Theatre and currently in my role as Creative Director of the Tamar Valley Writers Festival, we are busily getting ready for our exciting Word of Mouth festival in September. I am also in rehearsal with IO Performance for Mr Burns, A Post Electric Play for Junction Arts. I am excited to be treading the boards again but in this case the 'boards' will be hidden in the Elizabeth Street Car Park! Amongst that glorious chaos I am always writing: writing poetry in the wee hours, writing scripts for my students...writing school reports for my delightful Brooks High students. 2. How does the Tamar Valley influence your writing? I was born in Beaconsfield, and the Tamar Valley has always been home. Whether that was fishing on the jetty at Beauty Point at the mouth of kanamaluka/River Tamar, or standing on the banks at Deviot to get married. More broadly the Tasmanian people and landscape has always influenced my writing. A musical I co-wrote and toured Tassie with, Happy Me, centred around four distinctly Tasmanian voices, with my character inspired by the late pioneering Tasmanian politician Sue Napier, my dear neighbour growing up in the West Tamar. I have also co-written a youth theatre play called One, Two, Three, Home with the title born out of the joy of playing outdoor games with my siblings. 3. What themes are you exploring? Themes and ideas I find myself scribbling around are: What does it mean to be Tasmanian? A female? What does it feel like to grow up, to be in love, to raise a young person? My writing is generally centred in reality, which baffles me, as my favourite genre is fantasy. Recently I performed one of my own poems at a female focused 'Grand Poetry Evening' with Theatre North. I had written a piece about the experience of a women in post war England called Atomic Lady Bomb, inspired by a story my mother tells of gatling guns hitting the cobblestone of Brighton (where my family is from) and barely missing my uncle's pram. 4. Describe for us where you write. I write in bed at 2am when I'm not asleep. Or I write sitting in the library, awkwardly, so as to give myself a glorious neck ache. I don't like desks. I like my body parts to fall asleep with the effort. 5. Finish this sentence, "The thing I love the most about being a storyteller is..." Hopefully growing empathy in my audience. Showing them a slice of reality they may not have considered. 6. What's your favourite read so far this year? I was very impressed by Adam Thompson's Born into This with 'Kite' and 'Morpork' and 'Honey' my favourites of his short stories. I had the pleasure of recently reading Kate Gordon's delightful fantasy Ballad of Melodie Rose. In the past few months I have also smashed some classics in George RR Martin's Fevre Dream and Possession by A.S Byatt and currently I'm reading Magician by Feist. I started a bookclub a few years back and the theme this year was 'Books released the year you were born' and it's been a pleasure going back over some epic titles. But my absolute favourite read of 2021 and possibly all time has been The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by VE Schwab.

  • You're invited to a musical about Tasmania's Superstar Housewife

    Marjorie Unravelled - Tasmania's Fantabulous Edna is a new musical, written by Stella Kent and directed by Matt Taylor, telling the colourful life and times of Marjorie Bligh — Tasmanian icon, domestic goddess, pioneer recycler, author and housewife superstar. Marjorie is sometimes referred to as the inspiration behind Edna Everage! We have joined with the Launceston Players to bring a special event marking this world premiere performance. Join us on Thursday September 9th at 5:45pm for a special pre-show Gala Cocktail Party to toast the world premiere performance of this musical that celebrates the extraordinary life story of Marjorie Bligh, Tasmania’s domestic goddess from Campbell Town. Come, meet and chat with Marjorie Unravelled playwright Stella Kent and composer Karlin Love; director Matt Taylor; and author Danielle Wood, who penned Superstar Housewife, the biography of Bligh, published in 2011. Tickets are on sale now, so be sure to book your place before they sell out. CLICK HERE TO BOOK NOW Are you a TVWF Member? Check your inbox! We've sent you a special member discount code. Then, simply visit the Theatre North website, select the September 9th 5:45pm show, type in your TVWF member code and click on the red tick icon. Wait for the page to refresh and your member discount will be applied. Follow the prompts to finalise your purchase. Kickstarting our pop-up festival: Word of Mouth The Gala Cocktail Party pre-show event and world premiere of Marjorie Unravelled will herald the start of our exciting Word of Mouth festival, running September 9-11. We will be in contact again soon with the full program of events, so keep an eye on your inbox and be sure to mark the dates in your diary.

  • Tamar Valley Storytellers: Fiona Stocker

    Fiona Stocker was raised on the Lancashire coast and in Holland. After studying at Warwick University, she worked in the arts in London for ten years, before taking a trip to Australia, and staying. She now lives on a property in the West Tamar Valley with her family and, until recently, ran a farm and food business with her husband. Her rural memoir, Apple Island Wife – Slow Living in Tasmania, was published by UK publisher Unbound in 2018. She writes regularly for Forty South Tasmania magazine, about food, people and landscapes, and her work has appeared in national and international publications including Graziher and BBC Travel. In 2015, she published a history of farming women in Tasmania, A Place in the Stockyard, commissioned by Tasmanian Women in Agriculture. Fiona is currently enrolled in the Master of Arts in Writing and Literature at Deakin University. She writes nonfiction and fiction with a particular interest in landscape and nature writing, and the unwritten stories of women’s lives. Read more about Fiona on her website or Instagram and Facebook @fionastockerwriter 1. Finish this sentence: "If I had all the time in the world, I would..." I would fly by private jet to Sissinghurst Castle Gardens in the UK. I’ve just written a short story set there for my Masters in Creative Writing, and now would like to visit! This would require all the money, as well as all the time in the world. 2. How does the Tamar Valley influence your writing? My first book, Apple Island Wife, is a rural memoir about moving here, a deliberately uplifting book, and a wry, humorous look at life. Even there, I wanted to capture the magic of the landscape. Increasingly, landscape and our place in it is what I think about. 3. Describe for us where you write. I can write anywhere! I have an office in my house, but I also write in bed, I’m writing this at the dining room table, I write standing up in the kitchen, although crumbs are a hazard on a keyboard. I write in cafes, and usually tag them on my Instagram account. I’m very good at tuning out teenagers and husbands. 4. What themes are you exploring? I love reading and writing with a strong sense of place, whether it’s wilderness, or the Sissinghurst gardens, or Virginia Woolf’s writing room. And I always like discovering the untold stories about women’s lives. 5. What are you working on? Saddleback Wife – Gourmet Farming in Tasmania, the story of our farm and food business. Edge of the World, a collection of writing about Tasmania’s wild places. Sissinghurst Day, a collection of short stories inspired by great women writers and where they wrote. Food Stories of Tasmania. And down the track, some ‘How To’ books on writing. 6. What's your favourite read so far this year? Helen Garner’s collected essays, Everywhere I Look. Moving, hilarious, poignant.

  • Tamar Valley Storytellers: Don Defenderfer

    Don Defenderfer has been infatuated with Tasmania’s natural environment since first visiting the island in 1982. He has lived in Launceston for over 30 years. Don was State Coordinator for Landcare Tasmania for many years. This job allowed him to be inspired not only by the beauty of the Tasmanian landscape but also by the many people that are working to repair and renew it. Don is a regular contributor to Tasmania’s premier magazine, Tasmania 40°South. He has published three volumes of poetry, co-authored a book on a wilderness area in Alaska, and has had his work published in periodicals such as The Weekend Australian and The New York Times. Read more about Don here. 1. What are you working on? I am juggling a a few projects at the moment. I have nearly finished my second book, a companion to my 2019 book TASMANIA an island dream. The book will be a collection of stories, poems and photographs that celebrate Tasmania’s unique natural environment. The book includes fiction as well. The first book has nearly sold out so it is time for the next one. I am also working on a new poetry book, a collection of poems that cover just about everything, ranging from interpreting nature to travel to love to cancer and songs. 2. How does the Tamar Valley influence your writing? I have lived in the Tamar Valley for over 30 years so its influence is deeply embedded inside my writing genes. The sense of place here allows me to write from a centred place where I can patiently gain insights about Tasmania’s amazing environment as well as its wonderful people. I believe the essence of the Tamar Valley enters my writing – its beauty, moods, wildness and history. I love gazing at the sky and clouds while writing (and putting off writing) as I always find the colours and patterns amazing and inspirational. 3. What themes are you exploring? The beauty of nature and our relationship to it. The complexity of relating to the natural environment in the present while also understanding the very long history and relationship that Aboriginal Tasmanians have had with it. The uniqueness of Tasmania, the threats to it and what Tasmania means for the rest of the world. Love, loss, grief, gain and questioning why are we here and what is life all about. All that stuff! 4. Describe for us where you write. Where I write – a lot of it starts in my head and drifts around till I stop procrastinating and begin making notes in my daily journal. The journal is often the source place for ideas or poems that just come out of nowhere when my muse is alive and well. Eventually the jottings are developed on the iMac in a bedroom with views of the garden and sky to distract or motivate me. 5. Finish this sentence, "I want my writing to..." I want my writing to flow naturally so as to be able to easily share my insights about life and the natural environment. I want my writing to inspire others about the precious and precarious world we live in. As with all good writing, I hope my writing contributes to help changing the world, to making it a better place for all living things. 6. What's your favourite read so far this year? Truganini by Cassandra Pybus stands out as a landmark book this year. The book is exceptionally well written. We all have heard about Truganini but until you read this book you realise just how little we have really known about her story and the tragic times she lived in. I look forward to reading this book again.

  • Tamar Valley Storytellers: Anne Layton-Bennett

    Anne Layton-Bennett was born in England, and moved to Australia in 1977. While she has always been an inveterate letter writer, she only got serious about writing professionally in 1994, after the sale of the florist business she and her partner owned. Her work has since appeared in a number of newspapers and magazines both in Australia and overseas, including The West Australian, The Weekend Australian, Famous Reporter, Island, Tasmanian Boating and Fishing, Australian Fishing World, The New Writer, Hospital & Aged Care, The Veterinarian, Tasmanian Times and Facility Management. Anne co-edited An Inspired Pursuit: 40 years of writing by women in northern Tasmania (Karuda Press, 2002), and has several essays included in An Inspired Pursuit: Volume 2, (Tatlers, 2012). Her work is also included in Breaking the boundaries: Australian activists tell their stories (Wakefield Press, 2016), and The Fabric of Launceston (Launceston Historical Society, 2016). Challenged several years ago to try her hand at writing poetry, Anne now has a growing portfolio of poems  – some of which have been published. She still writes letters. You can learn more about Anne on her website: 1. What are you working on? In addition to constantly seeking out and following up potential story leads for The Veterinarian, I’m also working on a book about the pulp mill campaign, and the stories of some of those in the community who campaigned so hard and for so long to ensure it never went ahead. The book is from the perspective of myself and some of the people I met during those years, many of whom are now good friends, and who agreed to be interviewed for the book. 2. How does the Tamar Valley influence your writing? Unsurprisingly, so far as the book project is concerned, it’s a significant influence! The pulp mill campaign really showed the extent of the deep love and commitment so many Tasmanians have for their valley home, and who were determined it would not be destroyed by an inappropriate industrial development that threatened its natural beauty and serenity. That so many people from all walks of life spontaneously came together in order to protect our amazing valley from the deadly and polluting impacts of the mill is something I think about—and am grateful for—every day. Those campaign years were undeniably difficult and emotionally tough, but I think our community has emerged stronger, more united, and richer for the experience. 3. What themes are you exploring? How the prospect of the pulp mill exposed both community divisions and strengths, and shone an unflattering light on both state and federal governments. The campaign broke down long held social barriers and forced the Launceston and Tamar Valley community—as well as Tasmania more broadly—to open its eyes and value the environmental treasures we are blessed to have all around us. The campaign also highlighted the diversity and depth of skills and talents within the valley’s community. There was an extraordinary feeling of relief when the campaign was finally over. When the heavy, ominous mill threat lifted it was replaced by a vibrancy, and an awakening confidence and energy that allowed people to finally feel able to make plans and pursue different, and more creative, economic opportunities for our future. 4. Describe for us where you write? I’m lucky to have my own office space in the house we moved to after winding up the flower growing business. Same road, same suburb, and closer to the river, but a smaller property. The large window adjacent to one of my two work stations allows me to look out beyond the garden to catch occasional river glimpses in between the trees. The room is far from tidy, however, despite generous desktop space to plonk books, files, notebooks and papers. The two bookshelves along one wall are chockers—one with mostly reference-type books. The two filing cabinets are full, while the built-in wardrobe that was converted to a stationery and storage cupboard by the previous owners, is crammed with 12 years’ worth of media clippings and assorted pulp mill memorabilia, among other items. Some of these files and memorabilia have recently taken over floor space to make accessing research bits and pieces easier. Also on the floor at the moment are files recently received from a friend who has been decluttering, and has offloaded her pulp mill memorabilia onto me. I’ve still to sort through them. 5. Finish this sentence, "The thing I love the most about being a storyteller is . . ." The thing I love the most about being a story teller is interpreting interviews with scientists, researchers, conservationists, volunteers, and individuals passionate about the work they do, into more accessible stories, articles and features. Although the sometimes dense, dry scientific papers are often the basis for me interviewing people in the first place, the scientific jargon doesn’t always make for easy reading. I’ve spoken with so many fascinating individuals over the years, and nearly all have confirmed the adage ‘everyone has a story in them’. I consider it a privilege to have been given the opportunity to bring some of these stories to a wider audience. 6. What’s your favourite read so far this year? There have been a couple, but a standout is definitely Born Into This by Launceston writer Adam Thompson. Adam is a truly gifted writer and I like to think, with his win in the writing competition that was held as part of the 2016 festival, TVWF played a part in his success. Two other memorable books have been Richard Flanagan’s Toxic — a powerful exposé of Tasmania’s salmon farming industry, and Sonia Purnell’s A Woman of No Importance. This biography of Virginia Hall, an American who established an extensive resistance network in France during World War II, and who evaded the Germans multiple times (often by the skin of her teeth and despite having a wooden leg) was a gripping read. The recent film A Call to Spy is based on the lives of Virginia and other WWII female SOE agents who played a crucial role in the war, but who have largely been overlooked and airbrushed from the history books in the years since. They were amazing and resourceful women, and not all of them survived.

  • Tamar Valley Storytellers: Lyndon Riggall

    Lyndon Riggall is a writer and secondary English teacher from Launceston, whose passion for words goes as far back as being a volunteer book reviewer at The Examiner at the age of twelve. In 2013, Lyndon won the global Hot Key Books’ Young Writers’ Prize for his manuscript Charlie in the Dark, while his premiere theatre script for Launceston’s Mudlark Theatre Company, ULG, played to sold out audiences at the 2017 Junction Arts Festival. Lyndon has been a judge for the Children’s Book Council of Tasmania, a writer in residence at local Tasmanian schools, and has received national recognition for his screenwriting and poetry. His first picture book for children, Becoming Ellie (created in collaboration with artist Graeme Whittle), was released in 2019. Lyndon can be found by following @lyndonriggall on Twitter and Instagram, or at his website: 1. What are you working on? As always I have a few projects on the go, and I love bouncing between them depending on my mood on a particular day or which idea might be firing. At the moment, the files that I might open on any particular morning include a picture book project, a children’s novel set on the Overland Track and a slightly overwhelming Tasmanian gothic horror novel that is now sitting at 100,000 words long and shows no signs of stopping! 2. How does the Tamar Valley influence your writing? The Tamar Valley will always be home for me, and I think that more than anything else it is a place of peace and space, and those two things are a wonderful breeding ground for a writer. I love travelling to the mainland and soaking up that big city energy and hustle for a few days, but when I come home I am usually exhausted. Somewhere by the banks of the river is where the real work gets done. 3. What themes are you exploring? Almost everything I write has the ultimate goal of helping us understand ourselves and each other better. I like to write about characters who have a single-mindedness to them and who refuse to acknowledge that something is missing from their lives until the story’s conclusion. My first picture book created with my friend Graeme Whittle, Becoming Ellie, is a great and simple example of this: Ellie the greyhound is so focused on being the best runner that she can be that she neglects her basic needs for comfort, rest and a sense of individual identity. When an accident causes her dreams of racing to fall apart, she has to completely reinvent her understanding of who she is from scratch, and that journey is frightening for her, but it is also what life is. The worst thing that we can do is stop growing. 4. Describe for us where you like to write. Writing is the first thing I do to start my day at 6am, usually with one foot still in my dreams. Nevertheless, squeezing some creative expression in before the chaos of school and teaching steals the day away from me is the best way for me to get things done, and once I’ve ticked off my writing I can call the day a win. I have a small desk just near the kitchen (and the kettle!) with a second keyboard, and my laptop up on a small shelf to put the screen properly in my eyeline. It’s basic, but I haven’t seen any evidence yet to suggest that a bigger, better desk would make me write any more often or better. Of course it’s the middle of winter at the moment, and cold, so I must confess that this morning I have snatched my computer off its stand and gone back to bed! 5. Finish this sentence, "I want my writing to..." I want my writing to reignite the reader’s passion for words. I often think about my life and values, and it seems to me that my mission is about sharing the power of stories; not just because developing literacy on this island is so important, but also because all of us have increasingly aggressive demands on our time, and so many people are missing out on those moments where we get so invested in a narrative that we forget where we are, or even that we are reading. My great fear is that these kinds of experiences will eventually slip from rarity to near-impossibility if we don’t find a way to turn it around. 6. What's your favourite read so far this year? There are two books released this year that every Tasmanian should read: Adam Thompson’s Born Into This and Richard Flanagan’s Toxic: The Rotting Underbelly of the Tasmanian Salmon Industry. While Thompson’s work is fictional and Flanagan’s non-fiction, both of them are wake-up calls for the way that we treat the environment around us and each other, and they contribute key arguments to conversations that have been continually pushed aside on this island and need facing. On an international level, for just a great page-turning novel with a fantasy twist you can’t go past The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab. The ending made me gasp!

  • Tamar Valley Storytellers: Joy Elizabeth

    A poet and novelist, Joy Elizabeth has been part of the poetry community in Tasmania for over 36 years. She was guest poet at the inaugural Tasmanian Poetry Festival in 1985, and again this year. In 2004, Joy won the Scarlet Stiletto Awards, Dorothy Porter Award for the Best Crime Story in Verse, for her story The Mystery of the Missing Paycheques, which she says, she wrote in the hope of impressing Dorothy Porter! Joy’s poetry has appeared in a number of collections and journals, including The Loom of Time (1985), Vashti’s Voice, Famous Reporter and Westerly. Her latest collection of poetry, Fragile Friday, was published early this year. Her first novel, Rebekah & Sarah, based on the life of her Jewish grandmother who escaped the Nazis during WWII, has just embarked on its search for a publisher. Passionate about mentoring young poets and promoting poetry and performance, Joy is, with Yvonne Gluyas, co-organiser of the Tasmanian Heats and Final of the Australian Poetry Slam. Together they organise and run poets’ breakfasts and workshops at folk festivals in Tasmania. 1. What are you working on? A collection of poems about my mother, iconic Victorian feminist, Eileen Capocchi’s life, and a spoof crime novel set in Tasmania. 2. How does the Tamar Valley influence your writing? In so many ways; I’ve lived here for most of my life and love this part of the world. The valley’s very varied environment, its moods, the people, towns and rich cultural history, going back so many thousands of years, all directly or indirectly affect the way I approach my work. 3. What themes are you exploring? The courage, determination and commitment of women to overcome painful pasts, betrayals and violence. The power and groundswell of the women’s movement, the environmental movement, and those for indigenous rights; how far we’ve come in some ways and at the same time the bitter realisation that in other ways so very little has been won. The complexity of relationships in a small place like Tasmania. And that ever constant theme; greed. 4. Describe for us where you write. Mostly in the dedicated corner of my living area, in my round house in Newnham, surrounded by a ridiculous amount of clutter, but sometimes in coffee shops or wherever an idea comes to me. More recently I’ve spent time writing in my gorgeous motorhome, Matilda, wherever we happen to be. 5. Finish this sentence, "The thing I love the most about being a storyteller is…" ...that when I least expect it, I find I have spoken to people I don’t know, about what matters to them.” 6. What's your favourite read so far this year? That’s a hard one. I’m relishing Jane Williams’ Points of Recognition and Esther Ottaway’s Intimate, Low-voiced, Delicate Things, both exquisite collections of poetry. But my very recent discovery is the extraordinary novel by American writer Kim Michele Richardson, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek.

  • Tamar Valley Storytellers: Nancy Corbett

    Nancy Corbett was born in Canada in 1944. She has attained her B.A. and M.A. in English Literature from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver before moving to Australia in 1973. Nancy has since published two novels, several non-fiction books and a memoir (Firsthand). In March this year, she published her first book of poems, The Longest Conversation. Nancy has twice won the Launceston Poetry Cup (2016, 2019) and is currently a committee member of the Tasmanian Poetry Festival and a tutor at the Launceston School for Seniors, teaching a course in appreciating poetry and co-tutoring a writing workshop with Patience Stewart Gibb. 1. What are you working on? At the moment I'm editing poems from many years of writing poetry.  I wrote my first poem at the age of six years and published my first book of selected poems, The Longest Conversation, this year.  I am 77 now, so there are a lot of poems from the past which require my attention.  Also, of course, I'm writing new poems.  And stories for the writing workshop I teach at the School For Seniors.  That demands a new story every week when the school is in session.  I'm also taking part in a special project with Kristen Lang. More about that later... 2. How does the Tamar Valley influence your writing? I live in a house that overlooks the Tamar River and the hills across the way.  That view, and the continually changing sky, is a constant inspiration. The creative atmosphere in Northern Tasmania, our rich population of writers, painters, sculptors, actors, musicians and craftspeople is another inspiration, and a joy. One of the writing groups I belong to, Tatlers Women Writers of Northern Tasmania, published an anthology of fiction, history and poems last year titled In Pursuit of Tasmania. Most of us live in the Tamar Valley and it features significantly in the book. 3. What themes are you exploring? At present I'm taking part in a poetry project organised by poet Kristen Lang, exploring the world from the point of view of its non-human or earth-centred life. In Kristen's words: What might poems that support earth-centric ways of being look like and can they contribute to social change? I want to answer these two questions in pieces to begin with. By the end, we will see if we have a deeper, more inclusive answer. 4. Describe for us where you write. I am fortunate to have a study of my own, a dedicated place with a big, solid, old-fashioned wooden desk. On the desk is a small lamp, because I work early in the morning and in winter, it's still dark. There are always piles of books and papers on my desk, as well as my computer and printer. I have my latest journal at hand on the desk, too. I write in it with a pen. The study windows face the front yard where I sometimes see the secret wallaby who sleeps in a narrow, private spot next to the house. There are proteas in bloom now in the yard so I can see the wattle birds getting their honey fix throughout the day. There's a file cabinet which I sporadically try to clear out, and a floor-to-ceiling bookcase filled with essential books collected over many years. Non-essential books are in piles on the floor, as well as many boxes of photos from the pre-digital age. Paintings by friends and some of my own photos are on the walls. I love my study.  I know how lucky I am.  Most days I spend several hours in this wonderful space. 5. Finish this sentence, "I wish the literary scene was more..." Widely known, appreciated and well paid! 6. What's your favourite read so far this year? Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver.  The wonderful poet Mary Oliver died in 2019. I don't have any words that are strong enough to express my appreciation of her poems, and my gratitude for her work.

  • Tamar Valley Storytellers: Cameron Hindrum

    Cameron Hindrum lives, writes and works in Launceston. He has published a novel, two collections of poetry and had two plays professionally performed in Tasmania. He recently completed a Doctorate of Creative Arts through the University of Wollongong, and is currently working on a script commission for the Launceston Youth Theatre Ensemble. He is a regular contributor to Mudlark Theatre's One Day project, whereby short plays are written, rehearsed and performed in a 24-hour cycle and for 17 years until 2019 he coordinated the annual Tasmanian Poetry Festival. 1. What are you working on? I usually have a couple of different things on the go. I recently finished work on a Creative Writing doctorate so that has freed me up somewhat! I’ve returned to tinkering with a collection of poems and story fragments which I hope to finalise and submit to a publisher this year, and my other major focus is a commission to write a script for the Launceston Youth Theatre Ensemble, to be performed next year. That’s going to be epic—essentially a trilogy of plays, one for each main LYTE ensemble and a huge cast of very talented and passionate young actors. There is also another novel idea hanging around in the background, hoping I’ll eventually pay some attention to it. 2. How does the Tamar Valley influence your writing? It really is a place of extraordinary beauty. My family and I often go swimming down at Lagoon Beach, Low Head, and the drive there is always obscenely pleasant, as the valley slowly unfolds in front of you. What an absolute privilege it is to have fine food and wine available right on our doorstep. I will always be proud of the community activism and protests that were influential in having the notorious Gunns Pulp Mill development stopped in its tracks. That sort of committed dedication—which is stamped into the DNA of many Tasmanians—is in itself influential and very inspiring. 3. What themes are you exploring? Fundamentally I am always fascinated by what makes people tick. What is it in our behaviour that influences relationships and helps create our senses of self? In both of the two plays I’ve written this has manifested itself in examinations of fatherhood, although the net is cast a little wider in the novel I have just finished for my doctorate, The Sand. This is based on an infamous Tasmanian cold case, the as-yet unsolved murder of Victoria Cafasso in broad daylight on an east coast beach in 1995. It explores how trauma can be the catalyst for us to find resolution for other issues in our lives, and how a small regional community reacts to a sudden and shocking act of violence. People are very often simultaneously flawed, sometimes quite deeply, and also capable of great compassion and empathy. I think, overall, I’m interested in trying to explore just how that works at the level of daily interactions, resilience and so on. The first decision I made in starting to write The Sand was not that I would not attempt to neatly resolve the murder, and indeed I’ve remained true to that—which is an attempt to reflect the often messy and confronting reality, that we have to find ways to resolve things that are not resolved. 4. Describe for us where you write. I am extremely fortunate in that I have a splendid home office, lined with books. Over last Summer a builder and I renovated our garage in order for me to use it this way—I had bought too many books to remain adequately accommodated in the smaller space I had been using inside the main part of our house. (Actually, even with the expanded premises, I still don’t have room for all of my books—keep your eyes peeled for news of some giveaways! I would say that I have too many books, but genuinely I don’t really think that’s possible.) My little Writer’s Cave is very cosy, and even features a dedicated reading chair which was a dentist’s chair in a former life, picked up for an absolute bargain at Andy’s Salvage in Mowbray. Often one of our cats will keep me company while I am in there, being affectionate in the hope that I will stop what I am doing and feed her (again). 5. Finish this sentence, "What Tasmanian writers need is..." This could be a long list, but I will assign priority to: More exposure nationwide—we have some excellent writing happening down here and with some notable exceptions, news of it tends to stay here. I would love to see more of a national profile happening for our writers. The ongoing work of a committed (and properly funded) Writers Centre—take a bow, TasWriters! As many literary festivals as we can manage. Opportunities to meet, network, sell work, listen to great writing, make connections, be inspired and motivated, all of that good stuff. 6. What's your favourite read so far this year? There have been some excellent reads but two have stayed with me, and it occurs to me now that they’re both about loss in very different ways. Truganini: Journey Through the Apocalypse, by Cassandra Pybus is a compelling reminder of the price that’s been paid to allow us to live where we do. The debt can never be paid in full but we should engage with the place where we live, with its brutal histories, with open hearts and minds. The other is The Living Sea of Waking Dreams, by Richard Flanagan—a deeply profound, troubling, beautiful novel about loss and the part that we as a species have played in it, rendered in some truly mesmerising prose with a vastly powerful central allegory. Honourable mentions go to The Fire of Joy by Clive James, which is a collection of his poems that he memorised during the course of his life, each of them accompanied by a superb little essay in which he discusses the poem and/or its meaning to him, and to Squeeze Me, the latest novel by American crime writer Carl Hiaasen—very funny as all of his Florida-based crime novels are, taking square aim at the Trump Presidency and its many, many, many failings. *photo by Grace Roberts.

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