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Long-form fiction ‘rewarding’

You have published poems and short stories in several literary journals and magazines. Now, having published a novel, is there one form of writing you prefer?

I am passionate about all those forms, but for me writing a longer work of fiction was a rewarding challenge. I have often struggled to finish things; to focus for long enough to explain the connections that I make between disparate and particular concepts. Writing ‘Sisters of No Mercy’ was challenging because I set myself the task of writing a story about a heist, which requires some series plotting work. After I finished writing the novel in late 2017, I set a goal of writing two short stories in 2018. This hasn’t happened yet – but I have started working on a new novel, so maybe the novel is the form I’m most interested in at the moment.

You’ve been described as a ‘thinking individual/harbourer of rage’ and ‘a true bad boy of literature’. Do these attributes still apply and why?

Those were off-the-cuff descriptions a friend and I came up with when I was twenty-one and didn’t know what you’re supposed to put in a writer’s bio. I think I do that a lot – either ask someone or just try something out because I don’t know how I’m supposed to do it. I think I was fictionalising the ‘writer’s bio’ as much as I was describing myself or my writing practice. I use humour and flippancy in my fiction a lot, particularly in descriptions of people and even more particularly in descriptions of men, so ‘harbourer of rage’ and ‘bad boy of literature’ make me laugh.

I don’t know if those attributes still apply or if they ever did. I still spend a lot of time thinking about everything and now that I have more of a structural analysis of the world, I can express myself differently. But I don’t think I was ever much of a ‘bad boy’.

The Writeability Fellowship professional development plan offers free mentoring or a manuscript assessment or agreed workshops at Writers Victoria. Which did you choose and how did your choice help develop your writing?

I chose to attend three workshops facilitated by Maria Tumarkin, called Hard Bits in Non-Fiction. I had just finished a writer’s residency at Next Wave festival which focused on creative art writing and I wanted to learn more about approaches to writing non-fiction. Maria is an incredible writer and researcher, with expertise in ethics and also an amazing literary voice. I learned a lot from her and from the other participants – everyone had different projects they were working on and different ideas about how to achieve them. Even though I threw myself into fiction after finishing the course, I took a lot from the course with me. ‘Sisters of No Mercy’ is heavily informed by research about the themes in the story: climate change and rising sea levels, gentrification and housing accessibility, medieval weaponry and so forth. The things I learned in Maria’s course helped me make decisions about how to write those aspects of the novel.

Describe your experience with the Writeability Fellowship.

It was a great experience. I felt supported to engage in things I otherwise might not have. I was inspired by meeting people at Writers Victoria events and by being involved in open and equal conversations with other writers. I also enjoyed being at The Wheeler Centre building. On several Saturdays when attending the course, there were protests on Swanston Street and people were making speeches outside the State Library. One group was protesting off-shore detention of refugees, and another was a rally about marriage equality where a bunch of young kids spoke on the microphone. This was in 2016. It’s interesting to think back and remember that while writing often seems like a solitary practice, we’re always being touched by the environment we are in.

About Vincent Silk

Vincent Silk is a writer based in Narrm working in fiction and non-fiction. You can find his work published in the UTS Writers’ Anthology, ‘Going Down Swinging’, ‘Archer’, and ‘Seizure’, among other places. ‘Sisters of No Mercy’ is his first novel, published by Brio Books in 2018.

About Diane McPherson

Diane McPherson lives in central Victoria and is working on her first novel. She participated in the Loddon Writeability Goes Regional and Online program and continues to meet monthly with interested writers from this group and local writers with disability.


Writeability Goes Regional and Online is funded by the Australian government through the Department of Communication and the Arts’ Catalyst—Australian Arts and Culture Fund. Writeability is also supported by the Grace Marion Wilson Trust.

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