Category Archives: Events

WA Premier’s Book Awards winners…

The WA Premier’s Book Awards for 2020 releases were announced last night at a lovely ceremony at the State Library of Western Australia.

WA Premier’s Award for an Emerging Writer: Rebecca Giggs, Fathoms: The World in the Whale (Scribe Publications)

WA Premier’s Award for Writing for Children: Meg McKinlay and Matt Ottley, How to Make a Bird (Walker Books)

Daisy Utemorrah Award for Unpublished Indigenous Junior and YA fiction: Carl Merrison and Hakea Hustler, Dirran

WA Writer’s Fellowship: Sisonke Msimang

Congratulations to the winners, and also to the wonderful shortlisted authors (a full list of those shortlisted is on the State Library’s website).

Before the announcement, A.J. Betts and I, as previous Fellowship winners, took part in a discussion about the impact of the Fellowship with Jo Trilling (ABC Perth). The event was streamed live on the State Library’s YouTube channel.

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Something new—the York Writers Festival…

I love regional festivals, and they hold a special place in my heart: the very first festival I took part in as a writer was one (sadly now defunct) in Albany, where I discussed my debut novel, The Sinkings. The historic murder that is at the centre of Little Jock’s story in The Sinkings took place at a lonely campsite near Albany, and one of the thrills of my writing life was when several Albany residents introduced themselves to me at the festival as descendants of the real people who feature in the novel.

The York Festival—a diverse, family-friendly multi-arts festival held in the historic town of York—has been running for many years. But this year its program includes a one-day writers festival, curated by the wonderful William Yeoman and featuring some fabulous Western Australian writers—many of them introducing new books.

The writers festival, to be held on Saturday 2 October, is divided into several sets:

The Fiction Set: Skyglow by Leslie Thiele, Wherever You Go by Monique Mulligan and Locust Summer by David Allan-Petale, with a discussion on Truth in Fiction

The Crime Set: The River Mouth by Karen Herbert and Death Leaves the Station by Alexander Thorpe, and a panel on Criminal Speculations

The Non-Fiction Set: Isolation by Stephen Scourfield and Many Maps by Bill and Jenny Bunbury, with what sounds like a fascinating conversation entitled Westralia Triumphant?

The Children’s Set: Beneath the Trees by Cristy Burne, The Wrecker’s Curse by Norman Jorgensen and Where Do Stars Go? by Katie Stewart, and a panel on Writing for Children

The Poetry Set: John Kinsella, Caitlin Maling, Fr Robert Nixon and Rose van Son, and a discussion on Wordmusic

There’s also a Long Table Breakfast, featuring Stephen Scourfield and Will Yeoman, with proceeds going to the local River Conservation Society.

Details and bookings here (check the ‘Writers’ box).

I’m thrilled to be taking part in the festival, chairing sessions with Monique Mulligan (10.30am), Cristy Burne (11.30am) and Rose van Son (4.30pm). In this episode of the festival’s Pod Fiction podcast, Will Yeoman and I talk about these sessions and the festival in general.

York, situated on Ballardong Nyoongar land, is 98 kilometres east of Perth—a short drive for Perth residents. It is the oldest inland town in the state (established 1835), and really worth visiting, with its heritage buildings and vibrant arts scene.

I’d love to see you there.

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Coming up: Margaret River Readers & Writers Festival

At the moment, with so many places locked down around the world, it seems a great privilege to be able to attend a writers festival in person. I always look forward to the Margaret River Readers & Writers Festival, in our beautiful South West wine region, but this year more than ever.

The festival will run from Friday 14 to Sunday 16 May, in venues in and around Margaret River but primarily at Margaret River HEART, the region’s new entertainment hub in the centre of town.

Congratulations to new festival director Sian Baker, who has put together an ambitious program of events. Among the many authors taking part are Julia Baird, Kate Mildenhall, Pip Williams, Karen Wyld, Chris Flynn, Bob Brown, Craig Silvey, Donna Mazza, Elizabeth Tan, Brigid Lowry, David Whish-Wilson, Natasha Lester and Emily Sun. The full program is here.

If you’re keen to ‘attend’ from afar, there’s also a Three-Day Virtual Pass available.

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Coming up: masterclass series at Centre for Stories

If you’re an emerging or established writer in the Perth metropolitan area, you might be interested in a series of six masterclasses being presented over April and May at the Centre for Stories in Northbridge. The series consists of the following three-hour masterclasses presented by six award-winning writers:

17 April  The Narrative Landscape with Portland Jones

24 April  The Hybrid (Decolonised) Narrative with Rashida Murphy

1 May Science in Story and Imagination with Vivienne Glance

8 May Politics and Creative Writing with Susan Midalia

22 May The Researched Imagination with Annamaria Weldon

29 May Editing Your Own Work with Amanda Curtin

You can book individual sessions, but there is a great offer available for those interested in attending all six.

I’m delighted to be taking part in this series alongside writers whose work I love and respect, and I might even book a few sessions myself.

The editing masterclass I’m presenting is designed to assist writers look at their manuscript objectively, examine the prose, architecture and effects of the work, and polish it to the highest level within their capability prior to submission. If that sounds like something for you, there are more details on the link above.

I’d love to see you there!

The Centre for Stories is located at 100 Aberdeen Street, Northbridge,
and each masterclass is run on a Saturday afternoon, 1–4pm.

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At the heart of writers festivals…

I saw a comment on Facebook recently that made me think. A writer was bemoaning the lack, in this year’s Perth Literature and Ideas Festival program, of sessions bringing authors together to discuss particular topics, in favour of sessions where authors were just discussing their books. I have, of course, no problem with this writer expressing their opinion; it just prompted some thought about what writers festivals mean to me.

I’ve certainly enjoyed many of the issues-based panels I’ve attended over many years of festival-going, but I have to confess that those I’m most drawn to are one-on-one author interviews, or panels of two or three authors, usually loosely connected, talking about their books. Issues and ideas, as well as aspects of writing and publishing, fall very naturally into sessions like these, and it’s not often that I come away without feeling I’ve learned something.

I was dismayed a few years ago when I scoured the program of a highly regarded writers festival and struggled to find a single session in which an author talked about a book. I know that festival directors have a formidable task in trying to satisfy competing interests, wanting to honour their traditional audiences, needing to grow their audience base and especially to attract younger members. But the core elements of a writers festival are surely books and authors, and I applaud the directors who put these elements front and centre while finding interesting ways to present them.

Since Covid rushed in and took over our lives, hats off to every festival director in the country for navigating their way around restrictions and uncertainty and new technologies to keep their festivals alive. And congratulations in particular to Sisonke Msimang, director of this weekend’s Perth festival.

Due to other commitments, I’ll only be attending two live sessions, as well as two ‘watch-at-homes’, and look forward to the opportunity to listen to Susan Midalia, Josephine Taylor, Lucy Peach, Bron Bateman, Julia Gillard, Britt Bennett, Donna Mazza and Laura Jean McKay. If you‘re going, I wish you a happy and fulfilling weekend. If you haven’t booked anything yet, there may still be a few tickets left. And for anyone distant from Perth, there are some great ‘watch-at home’ sessions. You can check the program here.

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Well, scrape me down from the sky…

It’s been nearly three days. You’d think I would have managed to post the news before now. But it took me by surprise, and it’s taken a while to come down to earth.

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Last Friday, at the announcement of the WA Premier’s Book Awards,* I was awarded this year’s Western Australian Writer’s Fellowship. My fellow shortlistees were Lucy Dougan, Caitlin Maling, Rafeif Ismail and Carl Merrison, and it was a privilege to be in the company of these wonderful writers.

Congratulations to all the WA Premier’s Book Awards winners and shortlisted authors:

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Unlike an award given for a published book, a fellowship is not a prize; it’s a contract. It comes with expectations and responsibilities, and I’m so excited about the work ahead. The fellowship will enable me to make substantial progress on the new novel I’m working on, set in Perth and Coolgardie during the 1890s—a story of emigration and racism and extraordinary social change.

My thanks to the WA Government, the State Library of WA and the judging panel for this unparalleled opportunity.

*The event was live-streamed on YouTube (the feed begins at around 6 minutes).

A few photos, courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia…

 

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Susan Midalia, Jo Taylor, Amanda Curtin, Francine Nababan, Jan Nicholls

Premier's Book Awards night Friday 7 August 2020

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Premier's Book Awards night Friday 7 August 2020

Premier's Book Awards night Friday 7 August 2020

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Premier's Book Awards night Friday 7 August 2020

Meg McKinlay

Premier's Book Awards night Friday 7 August 2020

Kim Scott

Premier's Book Awards night Friday 7 August 2020

Premier's Book Awards night Friday 7 August 2020

 

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China sojourn…

Amanda Curtin(photo by WEI Donghua)

Photo courtesy Wei Donghua

I recently took a four-week break from the blog—from all social media, in fact—when I joined the 2019 Sun Yat-sen Writers’ Residency in China. The residency promotes the reading and writing of world literature by providing the space for international writers to engage with Chinese literature, culture and people.

I had the privilege of sharing these four unforgettable weeks with seven other writers—Damien Wilkins, New Zealand; Abigail Parry, United Kingdom; Geoffrey Nutter, United States; Alecia McKenzie, Jamaica; Ignacio Vleming, Spain; Helmuth A. Niederle, Austria; Irene Santori, Italy—as well as the residency creator and director, Professor Dai Fan, her colleagues from Sun Yat-sen University, and three groups of translation students.

During the residency, writers each had a piece of work (mine, the short story ‘Gratitude’, from Inherited) translated into Mandarin, and I found the process of working with student translators Junhai Yang and Yueyie Kong fascinating, rewarding, and occasionally confronting. I learned that some words in English have no literal equivalent in Mandarin, and a common question from the students—Does this mean…?—required stepping back in time, into the genesis of the story, to find ways of explaining overall intention as well as words and sentences. It gave me an appreciation of the collaborative art that translation is—or can be—and of the students’ sensitive, careful work. During the residency, each writer gave a reading of the work translated, with both the English and Mandarin versions projected on screen.

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Aside from providing time to write—and reflect—the residency gave us an outstanding opportunity to experience aspects of Chinese culture and history, life in cities and villages, and some of China’s amazing landscapes. We spent time in Yangshuo (Guanxi Autonomous Region), Gejiu City (Yunnan Province) and the Guangzhou and Zhuhai campuses of Sun Yat-sen University (Guangdong Province), and I gained a sense of just how vast China is on the day we spent eight hours on a high-speed train, covering more than a thousand kilometres.

Here are a few visual highlights.

Yulong riverside, surrounded by karst mountain formations, Yangshuo…

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View from Green Dragon Bridge

Flora…

Mountain Song, Yangshuo…

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Artists and calligraphers, Yangshuo…

 

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Not a very good student!

The coastal city of Zhuhai…

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The art of tea…

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Gejiu City…

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Azheke Village, Yuanyang Prefecture…

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Visits to schools and colleges…

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Wild, Weird & Wonderful in Margaret River…

For those of you who don’t know—and I’m sure most of you do—Margaret River is a world-acclaimed food and wine region in the South West of Western Australia, and one of Australia’s most beautiful and vibrant tourist destinations. It is also home to a fabulous writers festival, and I’m delighted to be taking part in this year’s Margaret River Readers and Writers Festival, 3–5 May, at Voyager Estate.

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The festival theme is Wild, Weird & Wonderful, and I like to think there’s a bit of all three in all of us.

I’m in very good company this year. Among those on the very long list of authors and presenters are Germaine Greer, Anna Funder, Kim Scott, Liz Byrski, Susan Midalia, Sarah Drummond, Ian Parmenter, Dave Warner, Michael Leunig and William McInnes.

I’ll be talking about Kathleen O’Connor of Paris with chair William Yeoman (Friday, 9.30–10.30am, Main Stage), and about Elemental in a session entitled ‘Salt, Sleet and Wild Seas’, with Sarah Drummond, author of The Sound, and chair Rashida Murphy (Friday, 2–3pm, Main Stage). You can view the full program here.

If you’re going, please come and say hello!

Need a reminder of just how glorious Margaret River is? Here are a few of my favourite photo-memories…

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Margaret River resident and all-round treasure Ian Parmenter

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Our Imagined Selves…

Most people who know me also know that I don’t get on with summer. Which is why I spent most of January somewhere a bit cooler…

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Ah, take me back…

But there’s one thing I do love about Perth summer—Perth Festival Writers Week! If you’re here next week, culminating in the weekend of 23–24 February, you’re in for a treat.

Curator William Yeoman, in his second festival—‘Our Imagined Selves’—has put together a fabulous program, with visiting guests Ben Okri, Anna Funder, Monica McInerney, David Malouf, Markus Zusak, Trent Dalton, Esi Edugyan, Fiona Wright, Jane Caro, Benjamin Law, Chloe Hooper, Hugh Mackay, Kristina Olsson, Carly Findlay, Angela Meyer and many others. Local writers are out in force, too, including Alice Nelson, S.A. Jones, Dervla McTiernan, Susan Midalia, David Whish-Wilson, Meg McKinlay, Steve Hawke, A.J. Betts and Carrie Cox.

I’m thrilled to be chairing a session with award-winning UK author Amy Sackville, who will be talking about her wonderful new novel, Painter to the King. And my fellow panellist in the ‘(Re)Writing History’ session is UK historical novelist Andrew Miller, whose latest, Now We Shall Be Entirely Free, I didn’t want to put down.

I’m also going to be trying very hard not to fangirl Gail Jones at the Sunday morning breakfast, ‘Ars Longa Vita Brevis’, during which she, Amy Sackville and I will be talking about our most recent works, all of them about art and artists.

My Saturday afternoon workshop ‘Writing Fiction: Getting Started’ is designed for those just starting out—or thinking about it—and covers basics like inspiration and creativity, and an introduction to the craft aspects of writing fiction.

Every year I warn myself not to go crazy in the bookshop, but I already have two four must-haves on my list, and I suspect that’s just the beginning!

Please come and say hello if you see me around, and I hope you have a wonderful festival.

 

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The short, the sweet and the historical…

The Australian Short Story Festival takes place in Perth on 19–21 October, at the Centre for Stories in Northbridge (with some events at other venues). The festival’s creative director, Susan Midalia, has put together a wonderful program, which you can peruse here.

Guests include David Malouf, Maria Takolander, Roanna Gonsalves, Anthony Macris, Laura Elvery, Jennifer Down and an impressive list of local emerging and established writers. I’ve booked for several sessions and am looking forward to a stimulating weekend of discussion on fiction in its short form.

I’ll be presenting a workshop on historical fiction, It’s not just breeches and bloomers, on Friday 19 October, 1.30–4.30pm. If that’s of interest to you, here’s the link for booking.

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