On Writing

Writers, editors, agents, publishers and more share their thoughts, experiences and stories.

a close-up photograph of a microphone with the words 'on the air'

Festivals can be a good opportunity to meet other writers and, of course, other readers! Kate Holden takes us behind the scenes as writers let down their hair.

'Remember school play night? All the bustle and the brimming nerves. The school hall lit up specially in the dark and the sound of activity within. Your parents forsaken at the door as you caught sight of your friends – everyone pink with excitement, suddenly so much to say, the glory of importantly pushing aside the curtain that separated mere humans from the Stars of the Stage. And afterwards, when everyone wanted to know...

headshot of Craig Sherborne

Memoirist, novelist, poet, and journalist, Craig Sherborne knows the best ways to start writing in many genres. He spoke to Deanne Sheldon-Collins about some of the issues he will cover in his upcoming workshop in Clunes.

Craig’s novel ‘The Amateur Science of Love’ won the 2012 Melbourne Prize for Writing and was shortlisted for the NSW and Victorian Premier’s Awards. His memoir ‘Hoi Polloi’ was shortlisted for the Queensland and Victorian Premier’s Awards. The follow-up, ‘Muck’, won the Queensland Premier’s Award for Non-fiction.

the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival logo 2014

Melbourne-born Janet De Neefe first traveled to Bali in 1974 with her family. She returned 10 years later, fell in love with a local man and decided to make this island her home. In this Postcard, Janet describes the beauty and benefits of the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival.

"It all began with a family holiday in Bali in 1975. I was instantly smitten with the culture, the food, the place, with the rustic charm and that infectious Balinese warmth. Our lodgings, Hotel Tjampuhan, was a shadow of its current self. Peacocks roamed the garden, the swimming pool was filled with spring...

A straw-hatted boy made of rubber sails the seas to find the greatest treasure in the world and become the King of the Pirates. He is racing thousands of other pirates to the end of the Grand Line, where the infamous Gol D. Roger has left his riches behind. The rubber boy’s pirate crew contains a robot shipwright, a shapeshifting animal doctor, an animated skeleton musician, and a bunch of equally zany humans. This is the premise of the manga series, ‘One Piece’, which is currently dominating the Japanese entertainment industry. Ah Japan, you’ve done it again. 

In 2009, the year that I turned 41, a slew of significant things occurred for me. I published the ninth issue of the romance comics anthology ‘Tango’, a comic book anthology that I’d been putting together since 1997, compiling new short comics stories from cartoonists all over Australia. At the same time, Allen & Unwin published ‘The Tango Collection’, a selection of pieces from the first eight issues.

For a children’s writer thinking about going “indie” and publishing their work outside of the traditional publishing house, what advice do you have?

Don’t assume writing for children is easier – it most definitely isn’t – and a picture book is the hardest to do: it’s the Rolls Royce of writing. A children’s audience is far more critical (they give you much more praise and fantastic fan mail, though!). Professional editing and quality is absolutely vital (and the benefit of this is it will mean your work lasts longer).

Working as a book designer for the past thirty years, I’ve witnessed quite a few attempts at self-publishing. It’s a tough gig. But as a part-time writer myself and confronted with the shrinking world of commercial publishing opportunities I decided to set aside my skepticism and try my hand at publishing solo. I knew that commercial success was highly unlikely but this didn’t really deter me. I was more interested in the process.

First a confession. The idea of writing a story about post-natal depression (PND) aimed at children was abhorrent. Plenty of people – mostly counsellors – had suggested I write about my depression. “Think of it as a form of therapy,” they said. To my mind, immersing myself in the very thing that was upsetting me seemed like an idiotic plan. 

We drove home along the forest road, the trees like exposed bones in the headlights. I stared out into the bush while behind us the darkness closed like a jaw. Uncle Cricket’s roll-your-own dangled from his lip, the ember tip brightening when he breathed. It happened quicker than I could blink; the kangaroo flung itself out of the night and, vibrating from the impact, the truck slewed across the track.

“A woman must have money and a room of her own,” Virginia Woolf told us, “if she is to write fiction.” The wisdom of this is never clearer to me than when I work on my novel while my husband hangs a curtain. Crafting fiction fires the brain – it’s all you and your ideas.