Re­turns, con­nec­tion and place

Wangaratta Chronicle - North East Regional Extra - - FRONT PAGE - By KYLIE WIL­SON

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.”

PHOTO: Kylie Wil­son

◆ 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.

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