Meet the local literati

Wordsmiths from all over the world and all walks of life will soon be uniting for the 2014 Sydney Writers’ Festival (May 19th-25th). This year the festival will explore writing that challenges our concepts of culture, history and identity. There are over 400 brilliant authors taking part – many of whom are from the Inner West. Ciao was lucky enough to catch up with two of these local writers in the lead up to the festival to ask for their take on how books can help change people’s thinking – and ultimately the world.

 


 

Anita Heiss

Anita (pictured above) is one of Australia’s most popular authors with her most recent non-fiction book ‘Am I Black Enough For You?’ taking out the 2012 Victorian Premier’s Indigenous Literature Prize.
Anita has also penned several novels and will be appearing at festival events: Anita Heiss: So You Want to Write a Chick Lit Novel, Fabulous Women’s Fiction, Turning the Tide and The Changing Face of Indigenaity: Now and Beyond.

What role do you think literature plays in bringing about social change?
I think literature holds a mirror up to society, reflecting upon us who we are as individuals and members of communities, and indeed as citizens in the global village. Sometimes these reflections show glory and glamour and at other times they highlight our flaws and failings as a society. Thanks to these reflections we have the opportunity to consider what kind of world we would like to live in, and what we are willing to do to make that world happen.

My own writing is always about making social change, whether I’m writing a novel for school kids or stories targeting Australian women who like books about relationships. I believe my own literature can break downstereotypes about Aboriginal people in the 21st century, and unite us through messages of sameness.

As an Advocate for the National Centre for Indigenous Excellence and an Indigenous Literacy Day Ambassador, what do you think needs to be done to raise literacy rates among Indigenous Australians?
I think more resources, including appropriate books, literacy programs and teachers, need to be made available on the ground to our most disadvantaged. This would require money, human resources and logistics to make sure it happens. I think the Federal Government needs to prioritise the needs of Indigenous people – both young and old – as the first step in improving literacy rates. When you consider the appalling statics related to First Australians you’ll see a huge gap in what should be an equitable education system.

What’s the secret to your success as a writer?
I am highly motivated and find inspiration in everyday life. I marry this with hard work and the belief that what I do can make a difference in the world.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
I think I’d be a librarian. Most of the librarians I meet absolutely love their jobs. They work very hard and are passionate about their role in engaging their communities – whether at school or locally – in the joy of reading and storytelling. I’ve found librarians to be happy in their workplaces, innovative in the challenge to keep up with competing technologies and also LOADS of fun to hang out with.


 

writers-fest-fiona-mcfarlaneFiona McFarlane

Fiona (pictured right) will be appearing at both the ‘Different Perspectives’ and ‘Fiona McFarlane: The Night Guest’ events at the festival on May 22nd. The Night Guest is Fiona’s debut novel.

What role do you think literature plays in bringing about social change?
Writing and reading literature is an exercise in expansion; not only do the best books open our eyes to experiences and worlds beyond our own, they can also explain our own worlds and experiences to us. The more we understand about the time and place we’re living – our particular neighbourhood, country, planet – and the strange, beautiful, brutal experience of being human, the more we can apply that understanding to our encounters with the world and other people.

You will be discussing how seeing the world from different perspectives can be enlightening to both readers and writers atthe festival. How do you go about accessing a character’s viewpoint?
People often ask me how, as a young woman, I managed to write from the perspective of an elderly one. The answer is that I’m not sure – I wonder if writers are ever sure how they achieve the final alchemy of character – but I know I didn’t sit down and think, “Now I must write from the point of view of an elderly woman.” I thought, instead, about a woman called Ruth Field, who has seventy-five years of experience, memory, habit, opinion, prejudice and preference; she’s a very specific person, who is also a woman and elderly. The Night Guest opens on the night Ruth thinks she hears a tiger in her lounge room but a great deal of living has taken place – on Ruth’s part – before that first sentence.

What do you think is the key to success?
The key to success as a writer is perseverance. I wish it were something more glamorous, but it isn’t.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
I find it hard to imagine being anything else – everything I’ve chosen to do has been because
I wanted to write. In a parallel universe, however, I might be a pastry chef.

 

• For more information about these authors or to book tickets to their events visit www.swf.org.au.

 


 

The Sydney Writers’ Festival comes to Ashfield

The Inner West is proud to be welcoming internationally renowned Irish crime novelist John Connolly to Ashfield Town Hall as part of the Writers’ Festival this month.

John will be discussing his bestselling Charlie Parker thrillers and the latest novel in the series, The Wolf in Winter. This is the twelfth year Ashfield Council has been involved with the festival and fittingly, John’s new novel is book number 12 for everyone’s favourite former NYPD Detective, Charlie Parker. John launched the series about the guilt-ridden detective driven by revenge after the shocking murders of his wife and daughter back in 1999.

Don’t miss your chance to come along to this special free event and hear John talk about the evolution of the character after all these years. Guests are welcome to buy a book and have it signed by the author himself on the night.

When: 6.30pm, Thursday 22nd May. Bookings can be made at www.eventbrite.com.au.