UPDATE: Thursday 31 October 2013. The competition has now closed. Congratulations to winner Megan Warren. Happy reading, Megan!
This month the Writers Ask Writers group is giving away a set of TWELVE books (value $300)—a copy of our most recent releases, plus a book we’ve each selected that has, in some way, inspired our own.
If you live in Australia, you can enter the giveaway by going to the Elemental Facebook page and clicking on the blue BOOK GIVEAWAY tab, centre; alternatively, you can link directly by using the Facebook mobile app link.
Here are the titles you could win:
Interesting choices? Read on to find out what’s behind these pairings. And good luck!
In the conception and writing of Elemental—a period of more than five years—I was never conscious of having Tirra Lirra by the River in my head. If you’d asked me then what my writing inspirations were, I might have opened up an archive box full of research materials—an eclectic collection of books (history, biology, philosophy, language, poetry, memoir), photocopies from archives and newspapers, travel notes and photographs, printouts from websites.
All of the materials in that archive box were indeed inspirational, and indispensable, and they mean a great deal to me.
But now, reflecting on the novel I have written, I can recognise other inspirations—the kind that are less about the particularities of time and place, character and circumstance, and more about writing itself.
They lay scattered, like breadcrumbs, along the reading pathways of my life—trails winding around books I love, stories I have lived and breathed as my own, authors whose words scale summits I aspire to reach. Among them are novels by Gail Jones, Annie Proulx, Simone Lazaroo, Anne Michaels… so many others.
And one of them is Jessica Anderson’s 1978 classic and best-known work, which won her the first of her two Miles Franklin Awards.
Tirra Lirra by the River and Elemental have in common an elderly woman reflecting on her life. And through that central act of reflection, the two novels also share a preoccupation with memory, time and change—although Anderson’s Nora Porteous and my narrating character, Meggie Tulloch, are women of different eras, different worlds. There is nothing alike in their life experiences, or in their character or heart.
However, I fell in love with Tirra Lirra by the River primarily for its voice (something I have spoken of in a previous post)—the acerbic, imperious, unflinching voice of the elderly Nora Porteous who, returning (grudgingly) to the place and people of her childhood, looks back on all that drove her away and all that has brought her back.
And this is where I owe my debt to the late Jessica Anderson. I think it was Tirra Lirra by the River that taught me what I needed to know to create a distinctive voice for the first three parts of Elemental: the voice of Meggie Tulloch, the fisher girl/gutting quine who emigrates from Scotland to Western Australia, who lives through what she calls ‘the shifts in the world when everything changes’, who is daughter, sister, mother, wife, widow, grandmother and, through all of these, friend.
And I think it was Tirra Lirra that gave me resilience when I happened to read Henry James’s crushing opinion that ‘In any long fiction, use of the first-person point of view is barbaric.’
Thank you, Jessica Anderson, for proving Henry wrong so resolutely and so elegantly. For giving me so much to aspire to.
Here are links to why my writer friends have chosen their companion titles—and to more ways you can enter our big October giveaway.
Dawn Barker: ‘The subject matter was horrific, and made even more so by the way she [Lionel Shriver] chose to be quite blunt and realistic in the way she wrote. This book didn’t have a Hollywood ending to make it more palatable.’—Read more here
Emma Chapman: ‘…each one made me think differently about what women’s fiction was and how for women writers at that time, it was almost impossible to separate your gender from your identity.’ —Read more here
Sara Foster: ‘I wasn’t just moved by the story, I was also impressed by how Anthony managed to combine realism with idealism when discussing conservation. This delicate line is one my characters struggle with in Shallow Breath…’ —Read more here
Natasha Lester: ‘Joan Didion’s book covers some similar themes; it’s about mothers and daughters and their relationships, it’s about husbands and wives and their relationships, and it’s about the way grief can simply overtake a person, although they may appear to be functioning on the outside.’ —Read more here
Annabel Smith: ‘In hindsight, I see Zadie Smith’s protagonist, Alex-Li Tandem, as a kind of spiritual brother to my protagonist Charlie: a little lost, blind to his own shortcomings, stubbornly refusing to grow or do the things he knows he needs to do…’—Read more here