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Festival Favorites: Robbie Arnott

Posted: 10 September 2019 Author: sikuska

With more than 180 storytellers from 30 countries, this year’s UWRF lineup is a treasure trove of discoveries. Each week in the lead-up to UWRF19, we speak to a writer whose work you may not have encountered yet, but who could well turn out to be your festival favorite. This week we hear from Robbie Arnott, author of Flames which was shortlisted for the 2019 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction, and many others. 

When and why did you start writing? 

I began writing as a teenager. I was an obsessive reader, and writing stories of my own felt like the most natural thing in the world. I can’t remember ever making a conscious decision about choosing to write – I was always thinking about books, then I was trying to write them. I couldn’t think of a better way to pass time.

What’s the most extraordinary place your work has taken you?   

I write a lot about the landscape of my home, Tasmania. Many of the mountains, rivers and forests of the island made it into my first book, Flames. The most extraordinary, to me at least, is probably Notley Fern Gorge. It’s a deep, jungle-like, Jurassic dent in the world filled with towering treeferns and ancient eucalypts. The light barely reaches the forest floor. I wish I could go there every day.

What’s your favorite part of the writing process, and least favorite? 

My favourite part is in the early drafting stage, when I’m coming up with ideas and different strands are starting to link up in my head. My least favourite is when a book is with my editor, and I’m waiting for feedback. I can’t concentrate on anything and start bumping into telephone poles.

I began writing as a teenager. I was an obsessive reader, and writing stories of my own felt like the most natural thing in the world. I can’t remember ever making a conscious decision about choosing to write – I was always thinking about books, then I was trying to write them. I couldn’t think of a better way to pass time.

What issues and ideas are you hoping to explore during UWRF19?

I’m very interested in the role that place plays in narrative, as well the power of imaginative fiction. If these came up at UWRF19 I’d be thrilled.

Who do you hope will be in the audience?

Anyone who likes fiction, and doesn’t mind hearing a strange, fluffy-haired Tasmanian talking about nature and the imagination and the importance of being a bit weird. But I’m happy to talk about anything, really.

What’s your advice for aspiring writers? 

I try not to give too much advice, because I don’t feel like I know what I’m doing yet. But when you’re working on a piece of fiction, I always think it best to refrain from speaking about it until you’re finished. If you tell someone about something that’s unfinished, you risk letting some of your excitement slip away. Hold onto that feeling until you know the work is done. That works for me, anyway, but it might not be true for everyone.

What are you working on now? Where to next for your writing?  

I’ve recently completed the first draft of my next novel. It’s with my editor at Text, so we’ll have to wait and see what he thinks. Hopefully it’ll be out in 2020.

What are you most looking forward to at UWRF19? 

I can’t wait to see Tara June Winch speak. I also recently read and enjoyed Sour Heart, by Jenny Zhang, so I’m looking forward to her appearances as well.

Robbie Arnott is part of the Main Program panel Location, Location, Location. But your 4-Day or 1-Day Pass here. He’s also conducting the workshop Writing the Wilderness, and running the children’s workshop Writing About Magical Places (which has already booked out). You can follow Robbie on Twitter. 

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