Salisbury Writers’ Festival 2009

Salisbury Writers’ Festival

Today I attended the Salisbury Writers’ Festival in Adelaide. This was my first time at this festival, now in its fifth year. I wasn’t able to attend last night’s session, nor will I be able to attend tomorrow and Tuesday. Although it involved 3 hours of travel today it was certainly well worth the effort.

The keynote speaker in the morning was Tom Keneally. Probably his best known book is Schindler’s Ark, the inspiration for the well known movie Schindler’s List. Tom said that it was always hard to get published, even when he was starting out as a young man over 40 years ago. He went on to say that in those days fiction was king, whereas today non fiction is predominant in the publishing world. Despite that, the novel survives, and he was confident it will continue to survive.

He also made the interesting observation that men mostly read non fiction. I wasn’t aware of that. It would be interesting to see statistics to back up his claim.

An interesting observation I made was even before the proceedings began for the day. The attendance was about 100-120 people, a fair figure for the community from which it was drawing attendees. Of those attending, the average age was in excess of 55 with only a sprinkling of those in their 20s and 30s. Furthermore, about 80% of attendees were female. I’m not sure what these facts are saying; it’s just an interesting observation on my part. Being a Saturday, were all the men at sporting events? (It is nearing the end of the football season.)

Good writing.

Writing a novel – a writer’s journal part 8

Writing Hannah: on writing for children by Libby Gleeson

This is an unusual writing book. It is not your usual run-of-the-mill writing book. While the Australian author Libby Gleeson does deal in passing with various aspects of writing – structure, style, dialogue, rewriting and so on – her prime focus is on the actual process of writing a short novel for young children; a bit like I am attempting to do in this series of articles. One major focus was how her novel fitted into being the third in a series featuring Hannah, the main character. My focus is purely on a stand alone book – or will I turn it into a series too? Mmmm – food for thought!

In a very real sense, her book is very similar to what I am attempting to do on this blog, documenting the process of writing a novel. In part she is also teaching other writers how to write a novel. She includes discussions (with herself) on the many decisions a writer needs to make along the way. She explains why she did certain things with her novel and these are elements other writers can be well advised to follow.

On the other hand, it is more than an instruction and teaching book about writing: it takes the reader on a journey of discovery with the author. We are taken along the pathway which highlights the author’s thinking and writing process.

Fascinating reading.


Gleeson, L, 1999: Writing Hannah: on writing for children. Hale and Ironmonger, Alexandria, N.S.W.

Further reading in this series:

  • Writing a novel – a series of articles about how I went about writing a novel.

Australian Children’s author Ivan Southall

One of the most influential and respected authors in Australia is Ivan Southall. He was a prolific writer whose main works, mostly for children and teenagers, were published in the 1960s and 70s. He had a profound influence upon me as a teacher and writer. I think I’ve read most of his books; it’s about time I revisit the best of them as I haven’t read any of them in many years, despite taking up space on my bookshelves.

I was saddened to hear late last year that Ivan Southall had died, aged 87 after a short battle with cancer. He is best known for his novels Hills End, Ash Road, Josh and To the Wild Sky. He wrote 30 novels and many other books, some for adults. He was a four time winner of the Australian Children’s Book of the Year Award, just four of many awards in his lifetime. His works have been translated into at least 20 languages.

Southall’s writing was exciting and he often put his characters in difficult and dangerous situations, often without adult help. I found his writing to be very lyrical, pushing the boundaries of what many regarded as good literature for children.

Before his writing career began he was a pilot in the RAAF during WW2, winning the Distinguished Flying Cross in the process. His early books draw heavily on his war time experiences.

Vale Ivan Southall, 1921 – 2008.