I first met Phill in Leederville, and that, I promise, is the last time I am going to rhyme (damn it!) in this section…Read More
Some people think Van Morrison is cool. These people haven't met Van Ikin (right, although I recently spoke to Terry Dowling, the guy on the left, and I'll be damned if he weren't just as cool, and as kind as the above photo would suggest.)
How cool is Van Ikin? Well, take the considered approach of a Peter Carey novel, throw in the generosity of the Mother Theresa, and the patience of a monk, and you'll be halfway there. Plus, the man is funny. He gets irony, which is particularly helpful when you work in an academic setting.
When I told Van I'd been accepted into the Graduate Fiction workshop at Iowa, he said there was no way we could secure funding in our time frame. I then asked, ‘What if there was a way?' and we worked backward, forwards, sideways, anyways until finally, on the day I was due to fly out, my US visa came through.
Van is part of any student's supervisory dream-team, along with another gentleman, who, conveniently, I'm just about to discuss...
Tony Hughes D’Aeth
Tony is one of the deeper thinkers on campus but not in a combative, competitive way. If you're willing to think with him, together you can wade an ocean of thoughts and philosophy, coming out revitalised, invigorated, and ready to again dive into your Ph.D. project.
Good supervisors do this. They hear your aims and intentions, add their knowledge and, if necessary, illuminate blind spots. Great supervisors do something different, allowing themselves to be thinking, rather than to have thought, and so it’s a collaborative, rather than declarative process.
Tony taught me much about academic rigour, and in time took me in not as a former student but a fellow peer, a mark of respect I’ve always valued, and particularly so since pursuing my work outside of academia.
Amongst a swathe of kind words and compliments, Dr. O'Reilly made an interesting point while examining an earlier draft of You Belong Here. He said that while one could spot Winton or Carey's style within a paragraph of prose, my voice was not yet as distinctive. I know now why this was the case. While searching to be literary, I had forgotten to be human.
My rewrites on You Belong Here were fuelled partly by his comments, and partly by the publisher’s thoughts how to better balance the joy and the sadness within the manuscript. Whether by choice or by design, my writing until that point had been cast in shadows, or, as one student memorably put it, ‘A bit gritty.’
While Dr. O'Reilly has not yet read the finished book, I get the feeling he would approve of my more balanced tone, a style penned by my editor as pragmatic lyricism, or what I'd call happy-sad stories of love, loss, and resilience.
It's by no means an exaggeration to say that as an author, you're quietly packing your dacks in the time between your publication date, and that first precious post-publication review.
While it's early days, I'm grateful for some heartening personal feedback and some particularly positive reviews from readers and authors, both on Goodreads.com and via their own websites.
I've collated these into a new page on the website, and will add reviews as and when they arrive. In the meantime, thanks to everyone who's read the book thus far; those who've reached out to me via email, Facebook, and text; those who've sent me photos, who've called out 'Laurie, you bastard!' mid-book, much to their wife's surprise, (Dawson, I'm looking at you); to anyone and everyone who's been willing to read my words and so wholly engage with them.
You belong here, always.
Brigid Lowry read You Belong Here before anyone else asides from my PhD supervisors. She taught me that you don’t need to bring things to a meet-up to be worthy of meeting-up with; She taught me life is not in the joins but the threads that fray; she taught me that good things come to those who work. I had the better part (in every sense) of a year in her company, my first son gone from bub to toddler as we went. In that year we worked on words, worlds, and ways of seeing.
Brigid is uncompromisingly, unapologetically, delightfully Brig. As such, she is very, very special to me.
Ask me why I love Susan Midalia and I’ll tell you it’s because she dropped the c-bomb on stage, she rocks boots, and because there’s nothing quite so joyous as leaning down for a Susan hug, especially given she’s five foot and I’m like three metres tall. Move past that, though, and you get the real Susan: a kind, patient, no-bullshit but incredibly supportive woman, and a great guide as one struggles to find their feet and their strength as an emerging author.
Ryan is incredibly Scottish. I say this because, while I barely understood our first couple of conversations, I very much enjoyed them. He has this way about him, a quiet humility they should hand out to writers upon their literary debut. Say, ‘look, it’s great, your book is out; just don’t be dicks about it.’ He is also the kind of writer who eats books for breakfast, the story mechanic that wrote the manual on linguistic play and experimentation. As such, he’s already fast establishing himself as a national literary treasure, and I’m honoured to call him a friend.
I knew I was going to be friends with Brooke Dunnell from the moment I met her. Since those heady days in 2011, I’ve watched her grow into one of the best writers and writing teachers in WA. She always conducts herself with optimal professionalism, and, let’s be honest, far greater sartorial choices than my not-so-fine self. One winter, she let me stay at her flat in Melbourne, and never once admitted that my home-made panna cotta looked more like some low-rent tofu than a dessert befitting of Dunnell dynasty. She writes insightful prose and reads as though she touches every word, feels its surface for flaws, discolouration or some other subtle imperfection.
I call Heather Delfs, ‘Delfs’ because I see us as literary/parenting crossover trailblazers. This means we’re both parents of young children and are surprised we ever get any writing done. But we write, and we read each other’s stuff (her piece ‘Hraunfossar’ is epic in the best possible way, a literary Sigur Ros-like surge of motion and emotion). Because she’s a good friend, she also read an early version of You Belong Here and said, ‘WTF?’ in the most polite, gentle way possible. I call her ‘Delfs’ because we’re writing not to have books out but to break molds, and while we make a mess from time-to-time, there’s no one I trust more to spot the cracks in my work; to push down the clay, say ‘go again,’ in the hope I can create something truly special.