I’ll be overseas for a few weeks, mainly in and around some of the locations of my new novel A Thousand Tongues, which is set partly in England (19th and early 20th century) and partly in Western Australia.
5 August, 1.30-4.30, Peter Cowan Writers’ Centre, Joondalup
I’ll be conducting a workshop – suitable for experienced authors or beginners alike – on ‘Writing About the Past.’
This Saturday afternoon session will cover historical fiction as well as various non-fiction genres such as biography and memoir. For details click here.
18 March, Historical Fiction Reading Group, Subiaco
Book clubs and reading groups come in many shapes and sizes. In recent years I’ve been invited along to a pleasant variety of them to join in the discussion of one or other of my novels. This Subiaco-based club is a new one – or rather, it’s an established literary study group that is now turning its attention to a new genre. I was delighted to be asked to come along on this occasion to talk with them about The Mind’s Own Place.
10 March, writing workshops, South Coast Baptist College
I had a great time running a full day of writing workshops with students from this school south of Perth (several groups, ranging from Year 7 to Year 12), under the auspices of the ‘Reading Australia BookPros’ program, jointly organised by the Copyright Agency and the Australian Society of Authors. Any school can request an author visit through this scheme: click here for details of the scheme.
17 Feb, Wireless Hill Museum
Launched at the Wireless Hill Museum in Ardross, ‘The Wire’ is a new exhibition that focuses on the history of morse code. It takes visitors back to the earliest days of radio in Western Australia – a period represented in my novel That Untravelled World, which is partly set in and around the buildings that now comprise the museum.
I was invited to the exhibition opening, where I met members of the Morsecodians Fraternity of WA – a dwindling group. The exhibition is beautifully curated by Gina Capes.
Copies of That Untravelled World are on display there for special discount sale to museum visitors.
Thurs 1 Dec, 5.30pm, University Club, UWA
I enjoyed chatting with fellow-writers from my part of the country at the Christmas drinks get-together hosted by the Australian Society of Authors for WA members. Although I knew most of those attending, there were quite a few new faces too. As an ASA Board director I was asked to say a few words on this occasion, but it was an informal social event with no elaborate speechmaking.
Sun 16 Oct, 1.30pm, Perth Town Hall
The theme of this year’s Perth Heritage Days Festival was ‘The Way We Worked.’ In my conversation with Richard Offen as part of the festival, I discussed ‘Victorian Perth in Fact and Fiction’ – with particular reference to the crisis that faced the Swan River Colony through lack of capital and labour, and the solution that convict transportation was intended to supply. This included some of the historical background to my main characters in The Mind’s Own Place.
Tues 4 Oct, Karrakatta Club
This talk to the Literary Lyceum group, focusing on The Mind’s Own Place, was my first visit to the Karrakatta Club, a venerable Perth institution. Nice to be invited! There was a good crowd, a convivial lunch, and plenty of book sales. What more could I want? Thanks to Mary O’Hara for the arrangements.
Sat 10 September, 10am, Avon Valley Literary Festival, Northam
For the second successive year I took part in this regional literary festival. It was nice to be invited back to conduct a talk-with-workshop on ‘Writing Historical Fiction.’ There was plenty of interaction with an appreciative group, and a good number of people bought copies of my novels afterwards. Congratulations and thanks to Angi McCluskey and her colleagues for another well organised event.
Sun 28 August , Mattie Furphy House, Swanbourne
Mattie Furphy House, built more than a century ago in the Arts & Crafts style and associated with the author of Such is Life, provides a congenial setting for literary events. Look at that lovely jarrah panelling behind me! Hosted by the Fellowship of Australian Writers, my talk on ‘Writing from Memory’ attracted a good crowd and generated plenty of conversation. I discussed the use of personal memory and cultural memory in various genres, from memoir and family history to historical fiction.
Sat 27 August, University Club, UWA
I spoke about my novel The Mind’s Own Place at this ‘Literary High Tea’ event run by Charlotte Guest from UWAP. Elegant food and elegant company – a very pleasant occasion. A highlight for me was that, during the lively Q&A session following my talk, one man in the audience announced that he had grown up in and worked in certain regions of England that figure substantially in the early chapters of my book (particularly Lancashire and Staffordshire towns), and he wanted to congratulate me on having managed to make all the local details I’d woven into the story – concerning the Vulcan Foundry, the potteries, the canals etc. – authentic in every respect. It’s gratifying to have that kind of authoritative testimony!
7-10 July, Adelaide – English Teaching conferences
I presented an invited paper at a “Re-reading Dartmouth” symposium, marking the 50th anniversary of an epoch-making event in English education, and then the following day I gave a keynote address on “The woven fabric of storytelling: memory’s warp, imagination’s weft” at the joint national conference of the Australian Association for the Teaching of English (AATE) and the Australian Literacy Educators Association. Large and responsive audiences, good discussion. My thanks to the AATE for the invitation, and also for having just reissued (in pdf form) my 1984 book The Making of Literature.
Mon 16 May, Retired Teachers Literature Group
I didn’t know about this group until recently but I’m glad to have been asked to give a presentation to its members about The Mind’s Own Place. Thoroughly enjoyable.
Mon 16 May, Miller Bakehouse Museum
Nice to have been invited back to speak to members of the Melville Historical Society about the factual basis of my latest novel. It’s a hospitable group, and there was plenty of lively discussion after my talk.
Thurs 12 May, Glyde-In Community Learning Centre
I really enjoyed my first appearance on the program at this well-known East Fremantle community centre – 42 Glyde Street – efficiently run by Ann Reeves. My talk on “Resurrecting the Dead in Fiction” used The Mind’s Own Place as its main frame of reference, and (to judge by the sales of copies afterwards) it was well received.
Tues 10 May, PLC Independent School
I had a lot of fun speaking to a group of young PLC students about writing narrative. When I visited this school for a similar session last year I found them refreshingly keen to learn from a practising writer, and this sequel occasion was equally satisfying.
Sat 7 May, ETAWA conference
It was a great pleasure to be a keynote speaker at this well organised, well-attended state conference of the English Teachers Association of Western Australia.
4 March to 8 April, Fridays 10am: MALA lecture series
As the feedback on my 2015 series of lectures for the Mature Adults Learning Association was enthusiastic, I was invited back for this term. Last time my focus was on historical fiction; this new course had a different topic, ‘Reading Like a Writer: an insider view of literature.” I enjoyed ranging across different genres and interacting with a large and responsive group.
Mon 21 March, 12pm, Weld Club
It felt appropriate to be giving a talk about The Mind’s Own Place in the Weld Club, which is named after the person who was Governor of this state during part of the period when my novel is set. There was a pleasing appetite for book-buying among those who attended, and an excellent lunch satisfied my own appetite.
Tues 8 March, Fremantle
A group of loyal supporters of my novels, a Fremantle-based book club, asked me along to their meeting – this time for a chat about The Mind’s Own Place. I’ve been a guest of this group when it has discussed my previous novels, so it was be pleasant to see them for the third time and hear their questions and comments.
19-21 Feb, Perth Writers Festival
This year I was able to get to more PWF sessions than in the past, though even so it was often difficult to choose which of a number of simultaneous talks to attend. Not all writers are eloquent speakers, but several of those I heard were well worth listening to, and I’ll remember them for some while. I greatly enjoyed chairing the “Reimagining” session, which brought together the authors of three fine historical novels: Lucy Treloar (Salt Creek), Shirley Barrett (Rush Oh!) and Genevieve Glasfurd (The Words in my Hand). I was also a “living book” in one of the Human Library events. I’ve posted comments about both sessions on the blog page of this website.
2 Feb, Kent Street Senior High School
This was a bracing challenge: I worked with groups of Year 12 (English ATAR) students to develop their creative writing abilities. It seemed to go well, judging from appreciative comments afterwards (“That was really cool, sir!” etc.).
29 Jan 2016, Shenton College
I enjoyed conducting a workshop for the English teaching staff on creative writing with particular reference to the new Australian curriculum for Years 11 and 12.
Sat 19 Dec, 3pm, Bunbury Museum & Heritage Centre
This was a a public lecture on history, heritage and fiction, to celebrate the opening of the new Bunbury Museum in the heart of the CBD: the Paisley Centre, 1 Arthur Street. Details here.
Tues 17 Nov, Shenton College
I gave an invited talk (“How to approach ‘Composing’ with Composure”) on the creative writing section of the new national curriculum for senior English to a conference of English teachers from state schools. Nice to see that one of the attendees, Sam Boswell, has posted some informal jottings about my presentation on her website (here).
Sun 8 Nov, 3pm, Mattie Furphy House, Swanbourne
I discussed with Bruce Devenish his biography Sir James Mitchell: Premier and Governor of Western Australia at this year’s final session in the “Creative Conversations” series organised by the Fellowship of Australian Writers (WA).
Friday mornings 16 Oct to 13 Nov, Mature Adults Learning Association
This invited series of lectures for MALA on “Presenting the Past in Literature: A Writer’s View” seemed to go well. The group members were a lively bunch of keen readers, and I enjoyed sharing with them a practitioner’s perspective on historical fiction.
Wed 28 Oct, 10am, City of Vincent Library
There was a large and responsive group for my talk on “Resurrecting the Dead.” Thanks to Julie Davidson, Local History Librarian, for organising the event.
Mon 21 Sept, Claremont/Cottesloe Probus Club
I’ve spoken at Probus Club meetings elsewhere in the past, but this group was the largest. A receptive all-male audience of 86 seemed to enjoy my presentation “A Fiction-Writer’s View of WA History” – and afterwards they certainly belied the notion that only women buy books: I’d brought along two large boxes of my novels and in a matter of minutes every copy was sold. My thanks to Ron Jones for arranging the session.
Sat-Sun 19-20 Sept, Avon Valley Writers Festival, Toodyay & Northam
Another regional festival, with all the pleasures of meeting local readers (from Toodyay, Northam and the surrounding district) and sharing experiences with other guest writers, who included my UWAP stablemates and fellow fictioneers Amanda Curtin and Susan Midalia. Thanks to Angi McCluskey for coordinating the weekend’s events. My main contribution to the program was a workshop on “Finding Your Voice: Poetry or Prose?” You can read some of my thoughts on this topic in a blog post here.
Thurs 17 Sept, 7pm, Rockingham Arts Centre
Susan Midalia and I featured in a Q&A chaired by Charlotte Guest (UWAP Publications Officer) at this “networking night” organised by the Rockingham Writers Centre. Not a large group but an interesting range of participants.
Fri – Sun 11-13 Sept, Kimberley Writers Festival, Kununurra
What a fascinating environment, and what a lively community up there in the far north-east!
Local librarian Jo Roach and her cheerful team of volunteer colleagues provided warm hospitality, and there were lots of memorable things, especially (for me) a river cruise, a convivial dinner at the waterside Pumphouse Restaurant, a tour around the Kununurra community museum, and several sessions in the handsome new library building.
It was good to spend time with fellow-writers, too, including a talented bunch from Perth (Dave Whish-Wilson, Ken Spillman, Josh Cunniffe and Wendy Binks).
Here (left) are some of us in one of the “On the Couch” sessions.
All in all, this visit to the state’s furthermost corner was a really distinctive festival experience. Warm thanks to those on the spot in Kununurra who organised the event and to those from elsewhere who supported it in various ways, most notably WritingWA.
Wed 26 Aug, 10-11pm, Royal WA Historical Society, Nedlands
I gave a brief talk about my new novel as one of the guest speakers for this well-attended RWAHS “Booked in for a Cuppa” event, and sold a good number of books afterwards. Geoffrey Bolton was scheduled to have been there too, and it would have been good to hear what he’d have said about his biography of Paul Hasluck – but he was too ill to take part, and his death came just a few days later: a shock for those of us who knew him, and a sad loss for anyone with an interest in WA history.
Thurs 27 Aug, 6pm, Lawrence Wilson Gallery, UWA campus
This 80th birthday party for UWA Publishing was a happy occasion, featuring fine music (Fiona Campbell’s voice blending beautifully with clarinet and piano) and a talk by Amanda Curtin about her long association with UWAP as editor and author.
Fri 28 Aug, 1.30pm, Mandurah Public Library
I enjoyed this return visit to the library in Mandurah. Stormy weather kept the attendance small but discussion was lively. My thanks to Irena Sadjovic for organising the event.
It was very pleasant to discuss my new novel with members of a Faculty-based book group – all intelligent and appreciative readers. Lots of interesting comments on the book. Thanks to Helen Wildy for arranging this session.
Wed 19 Aug, 6-8pm, State Library of WA Theatre
Horrible weather and consequent traffic chaos prevented some of the 150 people who’d registered from attending, and others trickled in late – but the audience seemed to enjoy this, which was the public presentation arising from my project as the 2015 Battye Fellow. Following an illustrated talk by me on “History’s Grist and Fiction’s Mill: researching and amplifying stories of Western Australia”, a panel of fellow-writers responded: Amanda Curtin, David Whish-Wilson and Jenny Gregory. My thanks to them and to the Library staff for organising the event.
Thurs 6 Aug, 6.15-7.45pm, South Perth Public Library
I was the featured writer on this occasion as part of the Library’s “Words with Wine” series. The event was organised with great efficiency by Tamara Lampard, and a good crowd of between 40 and 50 people turned up to hear me speak and then lined up to buy my new book. Thanks, Tamara!
Tues 28 July: recording of Cover to Cover interview
Meri Fatin is a skilled interviewer, and I enjoyed my conversation with her for an instalment of the “Cover to Cover’ TV program broadcast in August by Westlink.
The program is sponsored by Writing WA, through which the interview is now available here.
Thurs 23 July, 2-3pm, Swanbourne Bookcaffe
I was the guest at a very pleasant meeting of the Swanbourne Bookcaffe’s book club, smoothly organised by the enterprising Emily Paull. (Thank you, Emily!) If you don’t know her cafe/bookshop, it’s well worth a visit.
I enjoyed the discussion and the session was well attended – this photo shows only one corner of the group.
Wed 15 July, 6-8pm, Lawrence Wilson Gallery: Book launch
My new novel The Mind’s Own Place was eloquently launched by Brenda Walker at the splendid Lawrence Wilson Gallery venue on the campus of the University of Western Australia. You can read my post on this happy event here.
Tues 30 June, 6-7.30pm, Reception Room, Fremantle Town Hall
I was the invited speaker at a meeting of the Fremantle History Society on the topic “Constraint and Coincidence in the Small World Of Colonial Fremantle: the factual basis of The Mind’s Own Place.” There was a good crowd, good discussion, and plenty of book sales.
Sat 27 June 11am, Capital Radio broadcast
Tony Howes interviewed me about my new novel.
Thurs 4 June, 12-2pm, State Library of WA
I was an invited speaker at a “Campaign for Copyright” event organised by the Copyright Agency. My topic was “Why Copyright Matters: An Author’s Perspective.” The CA has made the text of my talk available online here.
Tues 31 March, PLC
It was a pleasure to give an invited talk about narrative writing to a group of young students at PLC, an independent school in Peppermint Grove. Their teacher, Catherine Smyth, asked me to illustrate my remarks with reference to my own fiction, but the emphasis was on the students’ own understanding of storytelling. It was a lively discussion, and the students had plenty of ideas. Good fun.
Perth Writers Festival
Chairing a couple of sessions at the Perth Writers Festival was a pleasant experience:
Sat 21 Feb: Dolphin Theatre (UWA): WAR STORIES
This was a stimulating conversation with Nicholas Shakepeare, whose novella Oddfellows is a fictionalised account of the only attack on Australian soil during World War 1, and Miranda Richmond Mouillot, whose A Fifty-Year Silence uncovers the story of her grandparents’ escape from the Nazis and the painful aftermath of that experience.
Sun 22 Feb: Dolphin Theatre (UWA): COLONIAL DAYS
Another interesting conversation, this time with John Marsden, author of South of Darkness, and Rohan Wilson, author of To Name Those Lost, whose novels recreate aspects of Australia’s colonial past.
16 December 2014: Attadale Probus Club
There was an appreciative crowd at this event, held at the South of Perth Yacht Club with great views across the Swan River, for my talk on ‘A Novelist’s View of Local History and Family History’, which provoked plenty of discussion. The Club’s newsletter has printed an enthusiastic report on my presentation, declaring it to be ‘interesting’, ‘fluent’, ‘engaging’ and ‘polished.’
10 October 2014: Friday@Furphy’s (FAWWA)
12 July 2014: Peter Cowan Writers’ Centre, Joondalup
It was a pleasant experience to conduct a workshop on editing – the first this year in a series for the Advanced Writers’ Class run by PCWC. The Centre’s website is at http://www.pcwc.org.au/
The group’s interests and experience covered a wide range but we found plenty of common ground. It was a bonus to have PCWC President Susan Stevens there throughout, and also a video-link to a participant in France!
18 May 2014: Mattie Furphy House, Swanbourne
I was invited to lead a session for the Fellowship of Australian Writers (WA) ‘Book-length Project Group’ ably oo-ordinated by Iris Lavell (who has since then handed over the role to others). For information about this group, contact the FAWWA: http://fawwa.org.au/
It has a lively website at http://booklengthproject.blogspot.com.au/
3 May 2014: Market Development Skills Workshop, State Library
This practical initiative by WritingWA in partnership with the Australia Council recognised that writers must increasingly be their own publicists. Conducted by Jaki Arthur from Hachette, the session got down to brass tacks of target readership, self-presentation and so forth. As the workshop was for selected writers only, I’m grateful for the opportunity to participate along with a number of other Perth-based writers, some of whom I hadn’t previously met.
17 March 2014: History Centre, City of Perth
I enjoyed conducting this workshop for the Perth History Centre on ‘Historical Writing’.
My thanks to Jenna Lynch for organising this successful event.
Well in advance the workshop was fully subscribed, and there’s a large waiting list for a repeat session next year when the History Centre moves to the new City of Perth Library premises that are currently under construction.
11 March 2014: City of Cambridge Library
In the last few months I’ve given a series of talks and readings in public libraries – most recently this one for the City of Cambridge, where I spoke about ‘A Fiction-Writer’s View of History.’ My thanks to Leesa Cheah for mustering a good audience.
27 Feb 2014: Royal WA Historical Society
I was invited with three others to discuss recent publications that have an historical basis – in my case, the novel That Untravelled World. RWAHS turned on a pleasant and well-attended show.
15 Feb 2014: U3A Melville Lecture Series
I spoke to an appreciative U3A group about the writing of That Untravelled World. It was my first contact with the University of the Third Age, which seems to be a well-run organisation. Plenty of book sales at the end of the talk testified to the enthusiastic reception.
5 Feb 2014: Koorliny Arts Centre, Kwinana: ‘Stories on Stage’
Amanda Curtin and I gave a joint presentation at the Koorliny Arts Centre on writing historical fiction – the first ‘Stories on Stage’ session for this year. The good-sized audience was pleasantly responsive, queuing afterwards to buy our novels, get them signed, and have a chat with us. The ‘duet’ structure seemed to work well. I was fortunate in being paired with Amanda. The Kwinana venue, which I hadn’t previously visited, was excellent for the purpose. Monique Mulligan, Koorliny administrator, did a great job of organizing the event and Terri-ann White, UWAP director, gave great practical support.
Dec 2013: KSP Writers’ Centre
I was the featured speaker in the final event for 2013 at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre. The occasion was [what would have been] Katharine ‘s 130th birthday. For the text of this talk, see my post: ‘TALES OF KATHARINE‘
Oct 2013: City of Vincent Library
This event pulled in a good crowd and produced some lively discussion. My presentation must have been fairly well received because at the end of the session I sold the whole box-full of my books that I’d taken along with me. Thanks to Julie Davidson, Senior Local History Librarian, for organising the occasion so efficiently.
Attached to the Vincent library entrance wall is this striking artwork by Judith Forrest, showing H.G. Wells emerging into our time and place with his book The Time Machine under his arm.
It’s an apt metaphor for the power of writing – especially historical fiction – to transcend the period of its creation, reaching out across the years to meet new readers.
Sept 2013: Geraldton Big Sky Festival
I had a great time as a guest at the Geraldton Big Sky Readers & Writers Festival in September. Susan Smith and her many helpers did an admirably efficient job in organising the event.
Audiences were appreciative, fellow-writers were congenial, and the atmosphere was very positive.