Novelist and author of the popular book ‘The Writer’s Room’, Charlotte Wood continues her in-depth conversations about the creative process. She talks to writers and other artists about how they work, what keeps them going, and the joys and challenges of making art.
This episode features non-fiction writer Ruby Hamad about persuasive writing, cultural critique, and how to weather the storms of public opinion while holding on to your writerly hat.
Ruby is a journalist, author, and academic, currently completing her PhD in media studies at UNSW. She’s a former columnist at Fairfax's Daily Life where she wrote about issues as varied as feminism, veganism, and Middle East politics. She’s also written for The Guardian, The Saturday Paper, Crikey, SBS, and The New York Times. Her Guardian Australia article, headlined, “How White Women Use Strategic Tears to Silence Women of Colour” became a global flashpoint for discussions of white feminism and racism and grew into her first book, White Tears/Brown Scars. It was published in 2019 by Melbourne University Press, and will be released in North America and the UK later this year.
This episode was recorded at Charlotte's house in inner Sydney, with its attendant suburban background soundtrack. Oh, and please enjoy Charlotte's embarrassing bungle in which she confuses Aristotle & Plato ...
What can fiction writers learn from actors about character development? One of Australia's finest actors, Heather Mitchell, draws on her four decades of experience to share how she moves from reading a script outline to fully inhabiting a character on stage or screen. In this extended hour-long conversation, Heather and Charlotte discuss how actors use close observation, props and bodies, careful listening and attention to absence as well as presence in a scene to develop character. And Heather explains how knowing why you're an artist is key to sustaining a long career in the arts.
In Episode 5 we’re talking memoir with anthropologist and writer Long Litt Woon. We discuss the tricky questions involved in making a book about yourself. What to put in, and what to leave out, for example. How long after an experience should you wait before writing about it? And is a memoir only about the self, or is it just as much about other people?
After 32 years of marriage and without warning, Long Litt Woon suddenly became a widow. She was, of course, paralysed by grief. But eventually, almost by accident, she signed up for a beginner’s course in mushroom hunting – and found a way back to life. All this is detailed in her first book, The Way Through the Woods: on Mushrooms and Mourning.
We recorded this interview in early March, during Adelaide Writers’ Week. That now seems a blissfully innocent time - we had no idea then of the scale of the catastrophe unfolding across the world, and that even a week later this interview would have been impossible.
We hope you enjoy this pandemic-free conversation about writing, grief, translation, anthropology and the healing capacity of the natural world.
In Episode 4, we hear from Jerry Saltz about how he went from life as 'a failed artist' to long-haul truck driver to renowned art critic, and about his new book, How To Be An Artist.
Jerry Saltz is the senior art critic at New York magazine and its entertainment site, Vulture. He won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Criticism and a 2019 National Magazine Award. Before joining New York in 2007, he was art critic for The Village Voice where he was twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. A frequent guest lecturer, he has spoken at the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim, the Whitney Museum and many other major galleries.
How To Be an Artist formed out of a story in NY magazine in 2018 - which has now been read now by more than 600,000 people - which contained 33 rules for life as an artist. The book has 63 rules: warm, funny, sometimes brutal truths about what it takes to make a life in art, and why it's so rewarding.
This conversation was recorded online via Zoom so the sound quality is a little variable - but Jerry's enthusiasm is so infectious you won't notice.
What does a writer do when a novel in progress seems to die under her pen? Keep pushing on? Throw it out and start a new one? Vicki Hastrich, author of the acclaimed NIGHT FISHING, did neither of those things. In her words, she ‘went fallow’ – she stopped making her own art, and instead spent time absorbing other people’s. In Episode 3 we’re looking at artistic cross-pollination – the way one art form can speak to and inspire another, completely different one. This conversation was recorded at Charlotte's home in inner Sydney, so you’ll hear some aircraft noise and bird squawks in the background (and listen out for Charlotte's bizarre spooneristic mispronunciation of the great Zane Grey's name! ).
Every artist must be self-reliant, but it’s also true that creative people have always sought out the community of like-minded others. From Virginia Woolf’s Bloomsbury circle to Elizabeth Gilbert’s online clan, writers in particular have often worked alongside kindred spirits - consoling, challenging and inspiring each other to look more closely, and think more deeply. Today’s episode is an edited version of a public conversation between Charlotte and Tegan Bennett Daylight, recorded in Sydney in December 2019.
Every artist comes up eventually against some big, scary questions, like: what’s the point? How can I justify making art in the face of the world’s catastrophes – a burning planet, endless cruelty, broken politics? And yet we know other people’s art has saved each of us, again and again. Art clarifies our thinking, challenges our ideas, illuminates our darkest moments. In this episode of The Writer's Room, novelist Charlotte Wood speaks with PEN-award-winning author and theologian Sarah Sentilles, cutting through the despair to talk about why artists should keep showing up to make something meaningful, ethical, and beautiful.