Popular authors to discuss ‘writing Australia’ at public symposium

Published 31 October 2011

quillSeveral popular Australian authors will be guest speakers at a University of New England symposium that will pose the question: “Where do you think you are?”

Lisa Heidke, Angelo Loukakis and Sophie Masson will be the guests of the UNE-based research centre Arts New England for the full-day public symposium that the centre is presenting on Tuesday 15 November. The symposium’s subtitle – “Writing Australia” – makes it clear that the subject under discussion will be the development of an Australian identity in and through writing.

Angelo Loukakis’s Greek-Australian heritage has informed much of his writing – including the novel The Memory of Tides (about Greek – Australian contact on Crete during World War II), the short stories in For the Patriarch (which won the NSW Premier’s Literary Award), and non-fiction such as The Greeks (a children’s book about Greeks in Australia) and Who Do You Think You Are? (a book on Australians’ ancestry). Angelo Loukakis, who is the current Executive Director of the Australian Society of Authors, said his talk at the symposium would be “a meditation on whether where you are determines or influences who you are, and how Australian authors engage with this question – or otherwise”.

The New England author Sophie Masson, who spent her childhood moving with her French parents between France and Australia, said that her talk would be about her experience as a “border crosser” – both as “a child of two very different worlds and two very different languages” and, as a writer of fantasy, in her creation of  imagined worlds.

Lisa Heidke, the author of Lucy Springer Gets Even, What Kate did Next and Claudia’s Big Break, will talk about contemporary women’s fiction – its writers, its rules, its popularity and its future.

Bronwyn Clarke (the international award-winning romance writer Bronwyn Parry) will continue the discussion of “genre” writing and publishing with a talk titled “Challenges for Australian genre authors in the digital age”. “While territorial rights have in the past supported the Australian publishing industry to acquire authors with distinctly Australian voices,” she said, “in the now global, digital market those same territorial rights can conversely disadvantage an author’s access to a wider readership – and earnings.”

The other papers on the program will include new perspectives on Australian biography and poetry, the history of Australian publishing, and the teaching of Australian literature and culture.

Dr Jeremy Fisher, the UNE lecturer on writing practice and theory who is convening the symposium, said that it would “explore a range of ways in which Australian writing has evolved and is evolving”. Dr Fisher, a former Executive Director of the Australian Society of Authors, added that, within this literary evolution at a national level, regions such as New England had developed their own “distinctive voices”. “And here in New England, UNE has played a role in the development of that ‘voice’,” he said. Contributing to this theme, UNE’s Associate Professor John Ryan will talk about the many “displaced” academics (including Dr Ryan himself) who found in New England and its University a place where they could teach and write in an environment of “tradition, tolerance and understanding”.

Dr Fisher said that all UNE staff members, UNE students, and members of the general public would be welcome to attend the symposium, but that they should – for catering purposes – notify the organisers of their plans to attend by an e-mail to artsadmin@une.edu.au.

The symposium will be in Lecture Theatre 3 in UNE’s Arts Building, starting at 9.30 am and concluding at 4 pm after a panel session in which Angelo Loukakis, Lisa Heidke and Sophie Masson will answer questions from the audience. Morning tea, a light lunch, and concluding drinks will be provided.