The stories so far …
Showcase of Tassie’s finest tales
AFTER reading hundreds of Tasmanian short stories for their collection Deep South, co- editors Danielle Wood and Ralph Crane still find it difficult to choose a favourite.
‘‘ Sometimes I think it’s The Tasmanian Devil by James Leakey,’’ said Crane, professor of English at the University of Tasmania.
‘‘ Other times it’s Black Crows: An Episode of ‘ Old Van Diemen’ by A. Werner.’’
For Wood, author of prize- winning novel The Alphabet of Light and Dark, Carmel Bird’s whimsical The Woodpecker Toy Fact is a stand- out, as is James McQueen’s Death of a Ladies Man and Hal Porter’s Great- Aunt Fanny’s Picnic.
‘‘ But then I look at the list and see a story like Faith, Hope and Charity by Philomena van Rijswijk and it’s such a beautiful, really accomplished short story,’’ she said. ‘‘ And I really love The Conquest of Emmie.’’ Twenty four stories ranging from historical to contemporary fiction make up the Deep South collection, all of which are either written by a Tasmanian or have a Tasmanian focus.
After searching the state’s literature history, colleagues Crane and Wood read hundreds of stories before deciding on the final list.
Aiming for a balance across the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, the stories are grouped by themes rather than being in chronological order, a process that resulted in some quintessential Tasmanian connections.
‘‘ We knew we wanted The Conquest of Emmie to be the final story and Rachael Treasure’s story fit just before it but its author, Joan Wise, appeared to be a mystery,’’ Crane said.
‘‘ We asked all the usual suspects about her but nobody knew,’’ Wood said.
‘‘ Finally our editor’s mother said, ‘ Oh, Joan Wise, she had three daughters and one of them married Val Smith’ and I said, ‘ Val and Jenny Smith are Rachael Treasure’s parents!’
‘‘ So I rang Rachael and asked, ‘ Is Joan Wise your grandmother?’ and she said ‘ yes’.
‘‘ Rachael knew her grandmother was an author but she knew nothing about the story – and we’d already linked those stories together.’’
Wood, who teaches creative writing at UTAS, said it had been satisfying to share the stories with her students.
‘‘ It’s nice for them to get a sense of the literature produced here because there is sometimes a sense that things happen elsewhere, outside of Tasmania,’’ she said.