Tasmania is the full stop at the bottom of the world, and we live on an island of stories. For years now, the Tamar Valley Writers Festival has celebrated our great thinkers, writers and readers, and now we are excited to share these insights globally, right here, on the Tamar Valley Writers Festival podcast. Lyndon Riggall and Annie Warburton talk to writers, playwrights, comedians, poets, editors and all of those who share a love of the written word.
The Tamar Valley Writers Festival podcast series is sponsored by Events Tasmania, MVisuals and the award winning Turner Stillhouse at Grindelwald. For more information on any books mentioned, please visit Petrarch’s, Launceston’s major book retailer.
Dr Stella Kent’s musical Marjorie Unravelled (chronicling the life of Tasmanian housewife superstar Majorie Bligh) will premiere on September 9, kick-starting our pop-up festival Word of Mouth. In this podcast we gain a tantalising glimpse of what goes into the making of such a play, one of fifteen she has written. The award-winning Tasmanian writer has taught at the University of Tasmania’s school of performing arts and has been a Playwright in Residence at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in Launceston, where she produced Tamar Tidings, a community play produced on a specially built barge with a cast of 130.
In this talk, originally delivered to the Friends of Theatre North, Dr Kent reveals the secrets employed to seduce an audience into disbelief, including an analysis of how such narratives as Oedipus Rex, Hamlet and Star Wars all fit the archetypal patterns of the human brain. Drawing on her PhD research and the writing of her own plays, she reveals how dramatists create an alternative reality, and how our awareness of the devices used to make theatre so enduringly bewitching still fail to stop us from being caught up in the magic of a darkened auditorium, swept away as the curtain lifts.
Nick Brodie describes himself as a professional history nerd. He started out as a boy from country NSW who spent a lot of time outdoors dreaming of dinosaurs, but ended up a writer of a growing catalogue of popular histories about Australia. 1787: The Lost Chapters of Australia’s Beginnings told of Australia’s place in the world before the coming of the Europeans. Kin: A Real People’s History of Our Nation tells of that coming using his own family’s history; The Vandemonian War documents the British campaign against Tasmania’s indigenous people; Kosciuszko tells the story of our highest mountain through the 1928 disappearance of two athletes on its slopes, and most recently, Under Fire is a history of guns and gun control in Australia.
And those are just the most notable and recent of his books. Before he settled down to Australian history, Nick received his doctorate in late mediaeval vagrancy, of all things, before changing direction and taking up the study of archaeology. He has worked hands-on in that field. He’s also worked in software – he used to write computer games as a kid – and he researches and teaches widely as well as writing his histories and working as an archivist for the Catholic archdiocese in Hobart.
Nick says he’s always been a storyteller. He says he wants his writing to be both accessible and erudite, and to bring fresh angles to old tales. Let’s find out how he does that.
Adam Thompson is a pakana writer from Launceston. Awarded a First Nations Fellowship at Varuna Writers House and one of ten recipients of the inaugural Next Chapter initiative from the Wheeler Centre, his work spans prose, performance and television and saw him named as Aboriginal Artist of the Year in 2019 at the Tasmanian NAIDOC awards. Adam was runner up in Overland’s 2020 Neilma Sidney Short Story Competition and has worked for nearly two decades at the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, where he is passionate about advancing the interests of the Aboriginal Community. Born Into This (UQP) is his first short story collection.
Born Into This is a powerful and timely collection of stories that pulls into sharp focus the challenges and triumphs of Aboriginal Tasmania, exploring everything from the political and the environmental to the social and heartbreakingly personal. It is a wake-up call, a call to arms, and a plea for action, commemorating generations of necessary resilience and resistance that have nevertheless taken their toll. Somehow, beyond all of these other ambitions, Born Into This is also by turns funny, sarcastic, compassionate and gut-wrenching, with Thompson’s writing being justly celebrated by such Australian heavyweights as Melissa Lucashenko, Tony Birch, Ellan van Neerven, Bob Brown and Tara June Winch.
In this episode, podcast host Lyndon Riggall talks to Adam about short stories, life as an advocate for Aboriginal land and heritage, and the power of fiction to challenge and inspire.
Dr Danielle Wood is a senior lecturer for the University of Tasmania and a writer of astonishing diversity. Her transformation across various genres of fiction and non-fiction, short stories and novels, or writing for adults and children, is perhaps matched only by her reinvention of self as she hops seemingly effortlessly from one identity to another, including as one half (with Heather Rose) of Angelica Banks, the author of the Tuesday McGillycuddy Adventures, and as Minnie Dark, the woman behind Star-Crossed and her latest release, The Lost Love Song.
The Lost Love Song is a novel that playfully jumps across a number of strands of narrative with one common thread flowing beneath them: a song composed by classical pianist Diana Clare for her fiancé, Arie. Exploring the power of music in a way that is by turns devastating, playful and soul-feeding, Wood weaves the novel’s various perspectives together as different instruments in a beautiful symphony, and the result is heartwarmingly executed with her trademark lyrical style.
In this podcast, Danielle shares about the art of the love story, her many secret lives and how the island she calls home feeds her work.
In this episode we tackle the final taboo: our own mortality. Podcast host Lyndon Riggall talks to two of our most engaging experts on the topic of death and the practical questions of what might lie beyond.
Dr Terry J. Hannan is an experienced physician who has worked for more than forty-five years in direct-patient care and has twelve years’ experience in palliative care. A staunch proponent of the necessity for medical professionals to listen to their patients and treat their “dis-ease” along with their “disease,” Dr Hannan’s collection Bedside Stories chronicles some of these interactions and the lessons he has learned about life and death from his own patients.
Ian Norton has an impressive CV that covers his work as an Alderman and as a Scientific Officer at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery. Now a professional snake-handler, Ian is an expert in the preservation of cadaveric material, though over time his insight into this field has taken on a deeply personal significance.
Erin Hortle grew up at Clifton Beach in southern Tasmania, which may explain her affinity for the ocean.
Erin’s debut novel The Octopus and I, is utterly steeped in the feel, the sights and the sounds of the sea, and it’s peopled by the creatures, human or animal, that live in or by the sea. In this case they live in the small coastal community of Eaglehawk Neck, the narrow strip of land that divides the Forestier and Tasman Peninsulas.
The central character Lucy lives there with her abalone-diving boyfriend Jem. Following breast cancer, she’s had a double mastectomy which needless to say has affected her feminine self-image. She gets silicone implants, which Jem – a supportive SNAG type – rather likes, and they seem to have a physically and emotionally satisfying relationship. She befriends two older women who catch and pickle octopus, and she becomes interested in the life cycle and habits of this strange creature. Then a nasty road mishap causes Lucy further physical injury but also leads to further fascination with the octopus, and through the octopus to more profound questioning of femininity, femaleness, motherhood, maternal sacrifice, sex, love and death – the whole shebang.
Dylan Hesp is a comedy stand-up performer, writer and actor whose best-known work includes starring in ABC TV’s Sando and his smash hit YouTube series Australia’s Best Street Racer, created with assistance from Screen Tasmania and Screen Australia. Street Racer is the story of Taylor James, a young man trying to crack the big time in the Tasmanian late-night racing scene, one block at a time, and all from behind the wheel of his mum’s 1994 Holden Barina.
Working alongside his creative partner Michael O’Neill, Dylan continues to develop multi-platform projects that explore our island’s “lovable losers” and which take audiences by surprise as they transcend laughter to touch the heart as well. In this episode of the podcast, Lyndon Riggall and Dylan discuss his love of laughter, street-racing culture, the Tasmanian sense of humour and the secrets to crafting comedy.
Robbie Arnott is a Hobart-based writer whose debut family saga with a magical realist twist, Flames, set the world on fire in 2018. Winner of the Sydney Morning Herald’s Best Young Novelist Award and the Margaret Scott Prize in the Tasmanian Premier’s Literary Prizes, Arnott was recently named the inaugural Hedberg Writer-in-Residence at the University of Tasmania, where he will spend twelve weeks engaging with the university’s culture and working on his third novel, a follow-up to this year’s The Rain Heron.
The Rain Heron is Arnott’s most transcendent work yet; a beautiful and devastating eco-fable that feels both intimately Tasmanian and somehow inexplicably outside of time. It is the story of Ren, a woman living in the remote frontier of a country engaged in brutal and ongoing conflict, who is pulled into a military search with the goal of harnessing the power of a mythical creature. Through this central thread, The Rain Heron explores our longing for control, our abuse of the sacred, and the stunning beauty and treachery of the natural world. It is a mesmerising piece of fiction which, as it takes flight, solidifies without question Arnott’s place in the pantheon of our finest novelists.
Lyndon talks to Robbie about nature, narrative, and his meteoric rise from debut novelist to becoming one of Tasmania’s most celebrated authors.
When Kate Kruimink won the Australian Vogel prize for her book A Treacherous Country, the nation’s most prestigious literary award for a young author, it was by unanimous decision of the panel of four judges. One of the judges, Tegan Bennet Daylight, said what impressed her and her fellow judges was Kruimink’s assured voice. Voice is crucial to Kate Kruimink’s story, for it is the voice of someone totally unlike herself, a young Tasmanian woman struggling with motherhood and the work/life balance.
The ‘voice’ in Kate’s story is that of Gabriel Fox, a young Englishman, who comes to Van Diemen’s Land in the 1840s on a mission to find a woman – Maryanne Maginn — sent there 30 thirty years earlier as a convict. He’s doing this at the behest of an older woman – a friend of his family in England – who wants to be reunited with Maryanne. Gabriel is the third son of his aristocratic family, so will not inherit the estate, so when this Mrs Prendergast offers him money to find Maryanne, here’s his chance for a new life in the colonies. There’s the added incentive that if he succeeds, he might well win the hand of the Mrs Prendergast’s pretty young ward Susannah, with whom he is smitten.
It’s a story of love and loyalty, of youthful folly and the getting of wisdom, of family sorrows and guilt, of peril and hardship in the young convict colony….and of whaling.
Annie Warburton chats with Kate about her book, motherhood and the trajectory of her career after winning the Vogel Prize.
Kyle Perry is a writer who divides his time between his hometown in North West Tasmania and Hobart. Growing up in the foothills of the Great Western Tiers, he has occasionally found himself lost in the Tasmanian wilderness and is inspired by experiences of the natural world that defy explanation. As a youth worker who has worked extensively in high schools, shelters and drug rehabilitation, his fiction interrogates these issues in a way that is deeply appreciative of the human soul at the centre of them, as is evident in his debut novel, The Bluffs.
The Bluffs is a story of two disappearances beneath Tasmania’s Great Western Tiers: a group of teenage girls in 1985 and a second group in the present day. As fingers are pointed in various directions the secrets of the past begin to unwind, while some locals fear that a mythical figure blamed for the abduction thirty years ago might have returned, known as “the Hungry Man”.
Lyndon Riggall chats with Kyle about The Bluffs, creativity, and the influence of Tasmania on his work.