In late 2013 Dr Anita Heiss sent a series of questions to contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers. The responses she received are at times funny, sad, moving, and always deeply insightful. Universally an important piece of advice was to 'Read, read, read' if you want to write. As an ambassador for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, Anita was very happy to see that advice coming from some of Australia's most admired and read authors.
In 2014, BlackWords published a series of interviews conducted by Dr Anita Heiss with prominent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. This series challenges notions of what Indigenous writing is, who is writing it, and what Indigenous writers are writing about.
In the first of the series of interviews, Anita speaks to Samuel Wagan Watson.
Samuel Wagan Watson is a Brisbane-based freelance writer, an award-winning poet, and a professional narrator and storyteller who has performed his work internationally.
In the second of this series of interviews, Anita speaks to Melissa Lucashenko.
Melissa Lucashenko is an acclaimed Australian writer of Goorie (Aboriginal) and European heritage. Since 1997, she has been widely published as a novelist, essayist and short story writer, and her latest novel, set in northern New South Wales, is titled Mullumbimby.
You can visit Melissa’s website here.
In the third of the series of interviews, Anita speaks to Kim Scott.
Kim Scott is a two-time winner of the Miles Franklin Award - the first ever Indigenous winner of that award - for his novels Benang: From the Heart and That Deadman Dance. He has a background in education and the arts and is proactive in Wirlomin Noongar Language reclamation in Western Australia.
In the fourth of the series of interviews, Anita speaks to Sue McPherson.
Sue McPherson is a visual artist and author living on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. Her novel Grace Beside Me was completed as part of a Kuril Dhagun Indigenous Writing Fellowship and was published in 2012 by Magabala Books.
In the fifth of this series of interviews, Anita speaks to Dave Hartley.
Dave Hartley, a descendant of the Barunggam people of the Darling Downs/Chinchilla regions of Queensland, is a writer and deputy principal of a primary school in Logan City, Queensland. Dave's first children's book Deadly D and Justice Jones: Making the Team(co-authored with Scott Prince), was awarded the Kuril Dhagun Indigenous Writing Fellowship in 2013.
In the sixth of this series of interviews, Anita speaks to David (Dub) Leffler.
Dub Leffler is an animator, muralist, art teacher and author of the children's picture book Once There Was a Boy. He grew up in the country town of Quirindi in New South Wales.
In the seventh of this series of interviews, Anita speaks to Bruce Pascoe.
Bruce Pascoe is a prolific writer of fiction, young adult fiction and non-fiction. He was a long-time editor and publisher of Australian Short Stories (1982-1998). His YA novel Fog A Dox won the prestigious 2013 Prime Minister's Literary Award for young adult fiction. He lives in Victoria.
In the eighth of this series of interviews, Anita speaks to Ellen van Neerven.
Ellen van Neerven (also known as Ellen van Neerven-Currie) is currently an editor for the black+write! editing project at the State LIbrary of Queensland, which partners with Magabala Books. In 2013 she won the David Unaipon Award for an unpublished Indigenous manuscript for her novel Heat and Light. She was also shortlisted at the same time for a second novel entitled Hard.
In the ninth of this series of interviews, Anita speaks to John Maynard.
Professor John Maynard is an academic and historian who grew up in the world of horse racing, hanging out with his jockey father Merv Maynard, which inspired his first book,Aboriginal Stars of the Turf: Jockeys of Australian Racing History (2002). John is currently an Australian Research Fellow at The Wollotuka Institute at the University of Newcastle.
In the tenth of this series of interviews, Anita speaks to Lionel G. Fogarty.
Lionel G. Fogarty is one of Australia's most prolific and well-known Aboriginal poets. He was born in south-east Queensland and since he released his first collection of poetry - Kargun - in 1980, Lionel has continued to write with passion about issues close to his heart, including land rights, identity, black deaths in custody and the ongoing consequences of colonisation. He has been defined as a 'guerrilla poet'.
In the eleventh of this series of interviews, Anita speaks to Lorraine McGee-Sippel.
Lorraine McGee-Sippel is the author of the memoir Hey Mum, What's a Half-Caste? and winner of the 2009 Deadly Award for Outstanding Contribution to Literature. Her years of commitment to reconciliation, particularly in the Lane Cove municipal area, saw her receive the Yabun Elder of the Year award in 2009. She currently lives in Sydney.
In the twelfth of this series of interviews, Anita speaks to Kerry Reed-Gilbert.
Kerry Reed-Gilbert is a Wiradjuri writer and poet from central NSW who is based in Canberra. Her totem is the 'white cockatoo' (the messenger) and it's through her writing that Kerry believes she is giving meaning to her totem.
In the thirteenth of this series of interviews, Anita speaks to Ali Cobby Eckermann.
Ali Cobby Eckermann is the multi-award winning author of Ruby Moonlight: A Novel of the Impact of Colonisation in Mid-North South Australia around 1880. She travels extensively and also runs an Aboriginal Writers Retreat based in Koolunga, South Australia.
In the fourteenth of this series of interviews, Anita speaks to Jackie Huggins.
Jackie Huggins is a Brisbane-based historian, researcher and writer. She is the author of a collection of essays titled Sister Girl: The Writings of an Aboriginal Activist and Historian. In 2001 she became a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for her service to the Indigenous community, particularly in the areas of reconciliation, social justice, literacy and women's issues. She is currently writing short stories.
In the fifteenth of this series of interviews, Anita speaks to Kate Howarth.
Kate Howarth is the award-winning author of Ten Hail Marys: A Memoir, in which she vividly recounts her early years growing up in Sydney’s inner city, western suburbs and far western New South Wales. Kate identifies with the Wonnarua people of the Hunter Valley, through her Granny, ‘Lizzy’ Harriet Higgins (nee Wood) and the Wiradjuri people of western New South Wales. Her family, originally from Nyngan, Bourke and Cobar areas, migrated to the inner city of Sydney during the Second World War.
In the sixteenth of this series of interviews, Anita speaks to Jared Thomas.
Jared Thomas is an Indigenous author, playwright, poet, and academic. In 2013 he won the State Library of Queensland's Indigenous Writing Fellowship (black+write!) for his manuscript Calypso Summer, which will be released through Magabala Books in 2014. Jared lives in Adelaide.
In the seventeenth of this series of interviews, Anita speaks to Teagan Chilcott.
Teagan Chilcott began her love of reading and writing at school. Not long out she released her first young adult novel, Rise of the Fallen, a paranormal romance, and the first in a series of novels with demons, angels and elementals at war for power. It was published by Magabala Books after her manuscript won the 2012 State Library of Queensland's Indigenous Writing Fellowship (black+write!).
In the eighteenth of this series of interviews, Anita speaks to Samantha Faulkner.
Samantha Faulkner is from the Cape York Peninsula and the Torres Strait but lives in Canberra, where she is an active member of the local First Nations writing group, Us Mob Writing. She writes oral history, life stories and poetry. She was recently published in Ora Nui: A Collection of Maori and Aboriginal Literature.
In the nineteenth of this series of interviews, Anita speaks to Lawrence Bamblett.