2006 Tasmania State Report

Tasmanian self-published books were set loose on the mainland midway through 2006. Joe Bugden, director of the Writers’ Centre invoked “the Book Crossing Model” and invited self-published authors to donate their boxes of books to the Writers’ Centre from where they were taken to the mainland and “set free” (presumably from the garage). The book-reading public would then “find them, read them, appreciate them, and circulate them”. In the realm of virtual self-publishing (where no garages exist) the painfully acronymic NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) took off in November with absolutely no pretensions “valuing enthusiasm and perseverance” over what it termed “painstaking craft”; the results of this endevour – a 175-page novel – at least will not touch down on the mainland.

Speaking of craft: Kim Mahood ( Craft for a Dry Lake , 2000) crossed the Strait to hold a workshop in Hobart on old Guy Fawkes Day, 5 November. Titled “Writing the Country, Writing the Self” participants also contributed to a discussion of whether “nature writing” exists as a genre in Australia — (a pet subject of mine: see ASAL 2001 proceedings). The topic aimed to tease out differences between writing preoccupied with belonging and displacement, and environmental writing. In 2005 Mahood was a resident at the Djerassi Resident Artist’s program in California ; she spends several months each year in the Tanami and Great Sandy Desert region, working in association with Aboriginal communities and cattle stations.

In October Paddy O’Reilly held a Hobart workshop titled “Techniques for Going Deeper”. O’Reilly has just published The End of the World (2007); and her 2005 novel The Factory was short-listed by ABR as one of that year’s best books. October produced two local books: Frank Madill’s It All Comes Back to Sheep (a reconfiguring of “the sheep’s back”); and also juvenile literature by Bernadette Black, Brave Little Bear: The Inspirational Story of a Teenage Mother , which was launched by Lara Giddings, MHA.

2007 has barely begun but it’s already rich with literary events. On 2 February 2007, Bill Bryson held a talk and book signing in Hobart . The event celebrated (publicised) the release of his autobiography The Life and Times of The Thunderbolt Kid . On 22 February, Duncan Bruce Hose launched his first poetry collection Rathaus at Tricycle Café, Hobart.

Also in Hobart , at The Old Wool Store, on 9 March, a one-day seminar on the author in the digital age titled “Writing the Story of the Future” was developed to assist synergy between story, execution and technology. The seminar also served as an introduction to the Stories of the Future residential programs for writers wishing to pursue an idea and develop it under the guidance of the Laboratory for Alternative Media Production LAMP team. (For more information check the Screen Tasmania website: http://www.screen.tas.gov.au/)

Dr Roslynn Haynes, author of Tasmanian Visions: Landscapes in Writing, Art and Photography (2006) was a guest of the National Book Council in Launceston on 21 March. Tasmanian political and environmental activist, Max Bound, launched Tim Thorne’s latest book, A Letter to Egon Kisch (published by Cornford Press) on 22 March; followed by a Launceston launch by g ardening personality and wilderness advocate, Peter Cundall, on the 23 March – the opening of the biennial island festival, Ten Days on the Island .

For those who aren’t in the know, 23 March-1 April was the whole-of-the-island celebration, Ten Days in the Island . An international arts festival which encourages high-level cultural-creep into the outlying regions of the island it is generous also with its prize monies: Tasmanian book prizes include Tasmania Book Prize $25,000, won by Nicholas Shakespeare for In Tasmania (Knopf, 2004); The Margaret Scott Prize $5,000, won by Robert Dessaix for Twilight of Love: Travels with Turgenev (2004); and the University of Tasmania Prize $5,000, for the best book by a Tasmanian publisher – won by Blubber Head Press, for Michael Roe’s An Imperial Disaster: The Wreck of “George the Third” (2006). And in a new category, the Tasmanian Government’s Arts Award, “In Distinguished Company”, was instituted in order to recognise artists across the disciplines who have contributed significantly to the arts in Tasmania over a long period of time. In the writing category, Christopher Koch was one of ten artists to receive a gold medal for services to the arts, and arts community. Other events included the Long Literary Lunch with Ramona Koval from the ABC Radio National “The Book Show”; the launch of Island #108 by Natasha Cica with readings by Sarah Day, Karen Knight and Robyn Mathison; and the launch (by NSW poet, Deb Westbury) of Gina Mercer’s new book of poetry, Handfeeding the Crocodile.

Post-10 events didn’t ease off: on 4 April at the Hobart Bookshop, Margaret Reynolds launched  A Path is Made by Walking It: Reflections on the Australian Network to Ban Landmines 1991-2006 , edited by Patricia Pak Poy. At that same location (12 April) Wal Eastman launched Project Integrens, by John Biggs. The science fiction novel won an award in the Genre Fiction section, 2003 Jacobyte Fiction Competition. Biggs has published The Girl in the Golden House ; and Disguises is to appear later this year. Short story writer Cate Kennedy presented a writing workshop titled “The Power Of The Short Story” (15 April) at the Salamanca Arts Centre, Hobart. Kennedy authored two poetry collections Signs of Other Fires (2001), and Joyflight (2004); a travel memoir, Sing and Don’t Cry: A Mexican Journal (2005), and a collection Dark Roots (2006). Set to appear in May is Tansy Rayner Roberts’ children’s novel Seacastle: Book 1 of the Lost Shimmaron . Roberts is currently running online novel writing courses beginning 23 May, 27 June, 25 July, 22 August, 26 Sept, 24 Oct, 28 Nov and 26 Dec. Contact the TWC on 6224 0029 or email admin@tasmanianwriters.org

Among the 2007 Arts Grants and Loans announcements literary concerns included a grant to enable Heather Rose to take up a residency at Lake St Clair to write a draft of her third novel River . Arts Tas continues to support the island’s outstanding publications, Island , and Famous Reporter . Relevant UTAS Conferences include the “Colonialism and Its Aftermath” series; a Winter Symposium titled “Recovering Lives” is to include addresses from two Pulitzer Prize winning historians; while “Empire Calling: Administering Colonial Spaces” is an Interdisciplinary conference jointly convened by the UTAS’s Centre for Colonialism and Its Aftermath; The School of English, Journalism and European Languages; and the Department of English, Osmania (you’ve got to love the synchronicity) University, Hyderbad. The conference is to be held in Hyderabad , India . Meanwhile, Dr Anna Johnston has received a 5-year Queen Elizabeth II Fellowship from the ARC for “A Study of travel writing in Australian colonial history”; and UTAS (and ABC-antiquarian) Prof. Adrian Franklin was one of 20 international authors chosen for The Watermark Society annual Muster (for his work on Human-animal relations). If you’re interested in upcoming events contact the Tasmanian Writers’ Centre: director@tasmanianwriters.org . And if you’d like to read some late summer, early autumn reading with a heavily Tasmanian focus, go to: http://www.tasmanianwriters.org/read_tasmania

CA Cranston