WF Author Interview - Lindy Warrell

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  1. #1

    WF Author Interview - Lindy Warrell

    This time, we interview Australian writer Lindy Warrell. Also known as WF member TaniAliya.

    You live in Glenelg, South Australia. Can you tell us something about the place?

    Established in December 1836, Glenelg is recognised as the oldest British settlement in South Australia. When HMAS Buffalo and other vessels first sailed into Holdfast Bay the temperature was 40 degrees Celsius. Bush fires are said to have raged on the su
    rrounding Mount Lofty Ranges as the colonists sailed in.

    A beachside suburb of the Adelaide plains Glenelg is now a popular local and international tourist destination served by the last surviving and, now colourful, tramway through the city, its market precinct and entertainment centre.

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    During your creative writing process, do you expand on imagery or ideas, or it something else?

    Not really. I tend to come from moments of reality that appeal to or intrigue me although, sometimes, this might be as slight as the recollection of the time I bought a cashmere cardigan when mourning my mother.

    I also write of things that disturb me. The first poem I ever published,
    A Federal Fiddle, arose from my horror at the then Australian Government's initiation of what came to be known as The Intervention into Aboriginal lives. Originally, the proposal was to medically examine small children for evidence of sexual abuse. That was quickly quashed of course but the intent spoke volumes to me.

    I would say I use creative and poetic techniques to transform my stories, whether poetry or prose into something that might take a reader on a journey of their own.

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    As a WF veteran, do you have any favourite sections of the site?

    Originally, I was invited to WF's Metaphor3 workshop by someone who got to know me and my poetry on LinkedIn. I was flattered and delighted. Metaphor3 members are wonderful poets and I have learned a great deal from them and from Poet's Workshop, another private forum.

    Although I also write prose, I have not yet availed myself of those forums but it's nice to know they are there. I love
    Flashes of Brilliance which I learned of when I was invited to publish a poem about Cyclone Tracy in Darwin (1974) that is very special to me.

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    You are a retired anthropologist, what drew you to this line of work?

    I am a publican's daughter who left school at 15 to run with the boys or find a husband. I worked in hotels and in secretarial roles for many years until someone suggested I was bright enough to go to university. As a single mum of three young children, I won entrance to the University of Adelaide, the first in my family to do tertiary studies.

    Having been a lonely child who had a special dispensation from the library to take out extra books, I always dreamed of becoming a novelist so I enrolled in English and Philosophy but, when I discovered that social and cultural Anthropology had the qualities of both as well as being grounded in reality, it was as though I found my destiny.

    Having a spiritual bent, I soon turned to South Asian philosophy, myth, ritual and religion leading me to do field work for my PhD, three kids in tow, in Sri Lanka which became my second home.

    Your CV includes a lot of work amongst Aboriginal communities, whose social and health issues are well documented.
    Of course, there are no easy fixes, but what single change would you wish implemented to most benefit these communities?

    After teaching at tertiary level for several years, I became an independent consultant, working with Aboriginal people on land entitlement matters. I was privileged to travel through country across Australia, with people who entrusted me with their stories.

    I did not publish this material although one report of a story line I worked on from South Australia through New South Wales to Queensland is lodged in the Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Library in our capital, Canberra.

    Those were physically hard but emotionally heady years. It broke my heart last year when our Prime Minister dismissed out of hand a Statement from the Heart report seeking a First Nations voice to be enshrined in the Australian Constitution.

    The report was the voice of Australia's Indigenous people seeking "... constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country

    I would like them to finally be able to have that voice.

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    Congratulations on the recent publication of your collection of poems 'Soft Toys for Grown-ups'. Can you tell us about the process involved in its publication?

    Soft Toys for Grown-ups
    is my second chapbook, published by Ginninderra Press, Adelaide. My first, Ol' Girl Can Drive was well received in 2017 and Soft Toys will be launched in October 2018. While I've had a number of poems published since I started writing poetry in 2007, I was encouraged to start with a small collection by poet friends and I am so pleased I took that path.

    For me, the selection process is not difficult, I just picked out poems that I liked and sent them off. Ol' Girl Can Drive has more of an anthropological feel while Soft Toys poems are more personal. I referred above to the eponymous poem when mentioned a cashmere cardigan that consoled me, comforted me, when my mother died and attach an excerpt below.

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    Could we have a short excerpt from one of the poems in 'Soft Toys for Grown-ups'?

    Shivering, I enter a Coogee shop,
    Australian woollens on racks: merino
    jackets, jumpers, vests
    and pure cashmere cardigans
    so soft I almost forget
    my mum has just died.

    I pay $800 for a mark-down,
    patterned in an empyrean map
    of our labyrinthine landscape, its
    sandy river swirls
    tree-lined billabongs
    rusty earth plains and
    serpentine bitumen curling round hills.

    Warmly wrapped in my treasure
    I brave the long road ahead.

    Yesterday, I bought a velvet cushion.

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    As a published author, do you have any advice for up-and-coming writers?

    No matter where you are in life, when you get the urge to write, when you feel you must write, just do it. Writing starts with what I call a splat on the page. Just get your story, poem or novel out there with emotional honesty.

    Once you capture the essence of your experience, without judgement, you can begin to make intellectual decisions about how to proceed, how to entice and entrance your readers. Craft can be learnt and how to apply it can be discovered but the raw material must come from the heart.

    Some people may work first with the mind, devising plots and schemas. Many may know what they want to write about but stories have a way of telling themselves if you let them. Once you have something on the page, you can bring all your knowledge and skill to making it work.

    You are credited with a lot of 'Arts Writing' - what is this, and how did you get involved?

    While teaching anthropology at the University of Adelaide I was lucky enough to find a dear friend among my students, a well-known contemporary artist who was drawn to the intellectual life while, as an anthropologist, I was drawn to her creativity.

    We laughingly became a mutual admiration society and she invited me to write catalogue items for some of her installations. She liked and admired my scholarly skills and I was fascinated with her brilliance as an artist. It was a fun-filled and loving collaboration.

    Many of your academic publications concern studies within South Asia - what draws you to this region of the world?

    I suspect my initial attraction to things Asian came from the fact that I spent four years of my early childhood in Japan where my father, a Major in the Australian Army, was stationed to refurbish and manage the Maranouchi Hotel for the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF) post WWII.

    When I won a scholarship to do a PhD, I chose to work in Sri Lanka where my Professor had worked and where I knew I could afford to take my three children with me as I did.

    I later travelled through India for several months, at first cursing it for not being Sri Lanka, but, later, coming to admire it in its own right as a diverse and marvellous country full of kindness and generosity of spirit among even the poorest of the poor. In that, it was to me, like Sri Lanka. I was also drawn to Buddhism at this time.

    As a Buddhist, no doubt your faith influences most aspects of your life - but does it have any particular impact on your writing?

    I can't say that Buddhism has a direct impact on my writing but it certainly helped me find the calm and courage to put down on paper things that I might never otherwise have been able to do.

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    Marooned on a desert island, which three books would you choose to have with you?

    I would take Vickram Seth's novel,
    A Suitable Boy. Michael Ondaatje's The Cinnamon Peeler and the winner of the 2018 Stella Prize with Tracker: Stories of Tracker Tilmouth, Alexis Wright.

    And given a wind-up gramophone - what music would you wish to have?

    Goodness me. Jazz, blues and more jazz. Maybe a touch of Country and Rock.

    Are you working on anything at the moment?

    I am working on my second novel entitled
    High Rise Society. My first, On Gidgee Plains, is seeking a publisher.

    Where can the readers find out more about you and your work?

    Well, there is always LinkedIn but I was advised at a publishing workshop recently that is passé for writers so I am building a web site which I hope to have live in the next few months...I will be out of action for a while due to major surgery at the end of June but I have my domain name which is

    Is there anything else you wish to say to the readers?

    I am not sure I have given readers anything much to help them with their own writing but I do wish anyone who has a yearning to put their stories on the page to just have a go. There's nothing to lose. I wanted to be a famous author when I was an early teenager and it has taken me most of my life - I'm 75 now - to actually give myself permission to speak up. So, go for it.
    Last edited by Darren White; August 2nd, 2020 at 06:00 AM.

  2. #2
    Fantastic interview Tani and Ned. Tani, it's a privilege knowing you, your work and your background. I'm happy to call you friend.
    Last edited by Darren White; June 11th, 2018 at 08:44 AM.
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  3. #3
    Excellent! So happy to know more about you Lindy. Thank you Ned.
    May we be true to both divinely implanted impulses—the yearning for God, and the hunger for knowledge—and know they are the same. John Keats

  4. #4
    Great interview, Tani. It's nice to get to know you a little better. I should imagine working with the Aborigines was extremely rewarding.

    Once you capture the essence of your experience, without judgement, you can begin to make intellectual decisions about how to proceed, how to entice and entrance your readers. Craft can be learnt and how to apply it can be discovered but the raw material must come from the heart.
    Tani, I think of the raw material as clay...
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