Returns, connection and place
CONSTANTLY inspired by the world around her, Glenrowan writer Margaret Hickey has little time to rest on her laurels. And this year has been a particularly busy one for the prolific author, who is known across the North East and beyond for her prose and plays alike. She came second in the state for the 2018 Victorian Writers Grace Marion Award – and first in regional Victoria - for her short story, Binky, which was written about a failed playwright returning to the places of his childhood, a farm in the Western District. She also flew to Perth in October to receive first prize in the Australasian Association of Writers and the Australian Short Story Festival emerging writers prize for her short story, Fowler’s Bay. The Fowler’s Bay short story was set in South Australia, in “an incredible landscape of history and change,” Margaret said. “Both Binky and Fowler’s Bay are about people returning to the rural places of their childhood.” Margaret said she was very happy to be recognised for her work. “Winning those two awards so close in succession was very satisfactory,” she said.
Margaret also enjoyed chairing the ‘Badlands’ panel at the Write Around the Murray festival with authors Chris Hammer, Mark Brandi and Mark Smith. “It’s been a busy year,” she said. And as if all that wasn’t enough, she submitted her PhD on a subject very dear to her heart - depictions of landscape in contemporary Australian literature. This same PhD was recently recommended to receive the Nancy Millis Award, a prestigious award for exceptional theses, named for a renowned female Australian scientist. “It is very exciting to be nominated for this national award,” Margaret said. “Finishing the PhD was hell, but this shows that I must have done something right. “I’m excited about continuing to write into the future.” Living in a rural area, surrounded by the bush, Margaret said her writing has always been infused with a profound sense of place. “I don’t think it is any one place, but rather rural areas which strike some sense of connection or awe,” she said. “That sense of sublime which the Romantics referred to; that’s what inspires me.” “My work is always written through the lens of landscape and rural life.” Margaret said she loved to write short stories and finds inspiration in many places. “They’re based on things I see around me, the things that worry me, or pique my interest, or instances that I find hilarious,” she said. “I write about returns, connection and place.” When she’s not writing, she also teaches Theatre Studies and Drama at Cathedral College Wangaratta. Margaret is deep in the process of writing new plays and at the same time, has begun a novel loosely based on her experiences of hitchhiking in the outback. “I have two plays on the go – one is a series of conversations and the other is a more serious play, which deals with toxic masculinity and finding solace in connection to place,” she said. Margaret is also enjoying the process of writing her new novel. “It’s different to anything I’ve ever written,” she said. “I’m not putting any pressure on myself to make it publishable, or of a scholarly standard, and that’s really refreshing.”
◆ INSPIRED BY SURROUNDINGS: Margaret Hickey in her home near Glenrowan.
◆ CREATIVE SPIRIT: Margaret Hickey with fellow writers (from left) Chris Hammer, Mark Smith and Mark Brandi at a panel at the recent Write Around the Murray festival.