Vale Max Fatchen, author extraordinaire

Max Fatchen

It was a sad day yesterday as South Australia farewelled one of our beloved writers, Max Fatchen. The popular author died at the age of 92 after a career which started in 1946. He was a renowned journalist, columnist, humorist, novelist and quirky poet.

His children’s books alone places him at the highest level of children’s literature in Australia, but he was far more than that.

His regular poems and columns written for our state daily newspaper The Advertiser will remain in the memories of many for years to come.

Cate Kennedy at Adelaide Writers’ Week

Novelist Cate Kennedy at Adelaide Writers Week 2010

Novelist Cate Kennedy at Adelaide Writers Week 2010

Novelist and short story writer Cate Kennedy was one of the Australian speakers at this year’s Adelaide Writers’ Week.

Cate is a novelist, poet and short story writer who has already achieved a significant body of work, wide recognition and a number of major awards, including winning The Age short story competition on two occasions. She is the author of the novel The world beneath and the poetry collections Joyflight and Signs of other fires. She also spoke at length about the inspiration for and the experiences which contributed to her travel memoir called Sing and don’t cry: a Mexican journal. This resulted from working in Mexico for two and half years during which time her yearning for Australia set her writing in earnest. Her collection of short stories called Dark roots was short listed for several literary awards in an era when writers are told that short stories do not sell.

I found her talk very interesting, especially on the way she goes about her writing.  She claims that story telling is in her blood and has been especially inherited from her grandfather who told her many stories in her formative years. One particular anecdote about him had the audience laughing. Her grandfather and a good friend – both in their 80s – worked out a mathematical formula which would enable them – at a calculated speed – to drive from one side of the Adelaide CBD to the other without having to stop at traffic lights. Somewhere their calculations went awry and they ended up crashing and in trouble with the law. It sounds dry and humourless told here, but Cate’s skill as a story teller enlivened the crowd listening to her.

She encouraged the writers present to have fun with their writing. ‘Write what you enjoy reading,’ she said. ‘Draw on your life experiences. Write the best you possibly can and you will get published.’

Good advice.

Good writing everyone.

Related articles:

Where are the writers for children?

Adelaide Writers’ Week 2010

Last week I attended three days of the week long Adelaide Writers Week. This biennial event is an integral part of the Adelaide Festival of Arts here in South Australia, one of the leading such festivals of its kind in the world. The list of guest speakers is often a who’s who of the writing world. This time was no exception and the impressive parade of talented writers throughout the week was very inspiring. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

But where were the writers for children?

They were conspicuous by their almost total absence.


Only Markus Zusak could be said to be a writer for children – a debatable point as his audience is best described as Young Adult.

Australia has an impressive number of world class writers for children. They lead the world in their chosen field. They are acknowledged around the globe for their talent and many outsell their adult counterparts. Why, then are they totally ignored festival after festival?

Is this a case of literary snobbery on the part of the organising committee? Or ignorance?

Adelaide Writers' Week 2010

Adelaide Writers' Week 2010

Adelaide Writers’ Week March 2010

Tom Keneally opening Adelaide Writers' Week 2010

Tom Keneally opening Adelaide Writers' Week 2010

Last week I attended three days of the six day Adelaide Writers’ Week. This is an important and integral part of the Adelaide Festival of Arts held every two years. This festival attracts readers and writers from all over Australia, as well as a glittering gathering of international writers who come as guest speakers. Each day starts at 9:30am and runs until 6pm so it is quite a marathon effort for organisers and attendees as well. The sessions are all free (except for several evening sessions in the Town Hall). The sessions vary from panel discussions on writing, reading and literature through to book launches and meet-the-author opportunities.

Three large marquees are set up in the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Gardens a five minute walk from the CBD. The East Tent and the West Tent host sessions concurrently while the Book Tent is housed in another tent in between. This shop features books written only by authors present on the programme. All authors are available for book signings too.

2010 Writers' Week, Pioneer Women's Memorial Gardens, Adelaide

2010 Writers' Week, Pioneer Women's Memorial Gardens, Adelaide

On the first day of the festival there was a special session to announce the winners of the Festival Awards for Literature. This was done by the Premier of South Australia, Mike Rann. In all there are ten awards ranging from plays, children’s books, non-fiction to unpublished manuscripts. The cash awards are very generous and I applaud the state government for supporting our writers in this way. May it continue.

Premier Mike Rann at Adelaide Writers' Week 2010

Premier Mike Rann at Adelaide Writers' Week 2010

Further reading:

Australia Day 2010 honours our writers

Laughing Kookaburra

Laughing Kookaburra

January 26th is Australia Day, a special day celebrating the first landing of European settlers in Sydney Cove, 1788.

The day is celebrated in many ways: family gatherings, picnics, barbecues, going to the beach,  attending sporting events or just having a lazy day in the middle of the Australian summer.

Every year for the last few years Australia Post has celebrated the event by issuing a special set of postage stamps called Australian Legends. This series of stamps features people who have made a major contribution to Australian life and culture.

This year the stamps are called Australian Legends of the written word. They highlight the works of six of our most prominent writers. The writers honoured in this way are Peter Carey, David Malouf, Colleen McCullough, Bryce Courtenay, Thomas Keneally and Tim Winton.

I think it is wonderful that our leading novelists have been honoured in this way. Writers in Australia are often overlooked for the massive contribution they have made to our culture. Each of the writers featured are truly deserving of the honour.

Where are they?

Of course, by featuring these six writers, many other well deserved writers have been overlooked. In the field of novelists another 15 to 20 worthy recipients could have been listed, including Nobel Prize winner J.M. Coetzee. Admittedly, he was born in South Africa but now resides here in my home state of South Australia. Bryce Courtenay was also born in South Africa, so here is an inconsistency in the choice of recipients.  And what of Patrick White, Helen Garner, Kate Grenville, Peter Goldsworthy, Robert Dessaix and Elizabeth Jolley? The list could go on and on. Then you have the great writers who are no longer contemporary, such as Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson.

My major gripe however is that no poets or children’s authors are represented. Judith Wright, Les Murray, Bruce Dawe and Gwen Harwood have all had significant influences in the field of poetry. That’s just four I could name from dozens of worthy recipents.

Australian children’s authors lead the world in their field. Writers like Colin Thiele, Mem Fox, Sonya Harnett, Ivan Southall and dozens more have had or continue to have a significant impact on young readers around the world.

I guess that Australia Post had a difficult job narrowing the choice down to just six writers, but a little balance in the final six would have been nice.


  • Australian Legends of the written word
  • Peter Carey
  • David Malouf
  • Colleen McCullough
  • Bryce Courtenay
  • Thomas Keneally
  • Tim Winton