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Bad Writer single work   essay  
Issue Details: First known date: 2016... 2016 Bad Writer
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'Two years ago the British Centre for Literary Translation invited me to Anhui Province in China to participate as a guest author in their annual translation program. I was asked to facilitate a creative writing workshop with the English-speaking participants in the program which would follow on from a workshop run by Vietnamese-Australian author of The Boat, Nam Le. For two hours I watched patiently and quietly as Nam worked with twenty aspirational writers and translators who had come to China from all over the (Western) world, including Australia, the United States, Ireland, Scotland and England. Nam wrote six random words up on a chalkboard, ‘shoes’, ‘man’, ‘mountain’, ‘love’, ‘fear’ and ‘fingers’, and then he told the participants to each write a short story or poem using these six words. I was disappointed to hear the writers in the group read back the stories they wrote, which all followed the same thread: A man wandered a mountain in a pair of shoes, searching for love and afraid he would find it. It did not occur to even one of them that a mountain could be in love with a man or a shoe could be afraid of a finger, or more importantly, that the mountain, the man, the shoes and the finger could all have a specific identity. After all, we were in view of China’s Sacred Yellow Mountain and with so much diversity in the room, participants had dirt on their shoes and under their fingernails from places no one else in the group could have imagined. It was at this point that I realised the universality of bad writing: the bad writing that this international collective of writers produced was no different from the bad writing I had dealt with as a writer, editor, publisher and teacher in Western Sydney for over fifteen years.' (Introduction)


  • Epigraph: ‘All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’

    ― Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

  • Appears in:
    y separately published work icon Sydney Review of Books October 2016 10243544 2016 periodical issue 2016
  • Appears in:
    y separately published work icon The Best Australian Essays 2017 Anna Goldsworthy (editor), Carlton : Black Inc. , 2017 11466492 2017 anthology essay

    'The Best Australian Essays showcase the nation’s most eloquent, insightful and urgent non-fiction writing. In her first time as editor, award-winning author Anna Goldsworthy chooses brilliant pieces that provoke, unveil, engage and enlighten, and get to the heart of what’s really happening in Australia and the world.' (Publication summary)

    Carlton : Black Inc. , 2017
    pg. 148-166


Last amended 12 Apr 2018 10:19:11 Bad Writersmall AustLit logo Sydney Review of Books
148-166 Bad Writersmall AustLit logo