Day 2: Ellena Savage

Welcome to Day 2 of the totally unofficial EWF Book Club.

Thanks to everyone who made yesterday’s launch such a success.

From the Retweeters and Likers, to the commenters. From the bloggers who wrote about EWF-BC ‘elsewhere’ to you, the many readers who may not have put fingers to keyboards, but hopefully read Charlotte’s article and got something out of it.

Now, on with the show…


Oh, before I forget… if you’re interested in a rundown of ALL the writers in The Emerging Writer 2013 Book, you’ll find it here… including their bios, and links to blogs/Twitter/interviews etc.

Today’s piece we’ll be discussing is Ellena Savage’s Truth, Memory – words with Helen Garner.

I think this essay is a knockout.

Ellena effortlessly jumps from quotations to personal anecdotes to interview content to the history of the interviewee. I can only read through and marvel at her, as the words swarm, swirl and fly by with the precision of the Bolshoi. And – I’m reminded that Helen Garner is one of 7236 writers whose books I’ve never opened.

A quote that hit me.. “..her voice shifts effortlessly from seething rage to crystalline delicacy..  she stirs at what is painful and inaccessible.”

There’s also some dynamite insights in the article from Helen Garner re keeping a diary during non-fiction projects, and the challenges of being truthful when covering tough stuff you’ve uncovered in interviews.

Ellena has kindly contributed some background thoughts/experiences on her essay…

I was quite nervous before interviewing Helen. She’s a heavyweight in Australian writing, and her work has influenced me in so many ways. Her challenge to genre, especially, has been hugely important to my sense of what work I want to make. But what really made me nervous was that she suggested we do the interview at my kitchen table. When I asked her why she preferred it that way—surely it would have been easier for her for me to go to her side of town—she told me that the thought of writers and photographers in her house made her uncomfortable, because she knows them to be highly observant people.

I don’t consider myself all that observant (even though I probably should be), but when she said that, I immediately ran through a list of the things she might have observed about my own house and appearance. Helen is one of the best authors I know of for impressionistic writing. She just lays a whole person out with the stroke of a brush. It’s incredible to read, but when you’re in the company of someone whose mind is that sharp, it feels slightly unnerving. Turns out she’s an extremely kind and polite person, and she only said positive things about my house afterwards.

The essay was partly about trying to reconcile myself with the conviction of my own stories, the way Helen does so well. It’s a difficult thing to do when you don’t think you’re writing at the level required to deliver the story you want. At the time of the interview, I was feeling a bit defeated by some very harsh criticism of my writing I’d encountered. I was having trouble working out whether I’d continue to write about some parts of my experience and identity. Helen’s advice was so no-bullshit. Her words were basically: “get over it; do some work; don’t answer to your critics.” She said it with a nanna’s charm, of course, and it was exactly what I—and probably every other emerging writer out there—needed to hear.

So, what did you get out of Truth, Memory – words with Helen Garner? Please – hit the comments below!

Come back from 9am tomorrow and we’ll discuss

For an easy no-spam reminder, just scroll ‘up and to the right’ and subscribe via email or RSS. Or follow me on Twitter. I’ll be tweeting the latest post each day with the hashtag #EWFbookclub.

Of course, this a book club discussion becomes more interesting with each new member who contributes.   Can you help spread the word?

Today’s tweet..

I’m in the unofficial  #EWFbookclub! Today we are discussing @RarrSavage’s essay on Helen Garner. via @gabemcgrath <click to tweet this>

Or here’s a generic one…

Let’s read/discuss the @EmergingWriters book. 36 articles/36 days. Join us? via @gabemcgrath #ewf13  <click to tweet this>

If you’re not a Twitter user, a quick link to this post on your Facebook, blog or similar would be appreciated.

Thanks for joining the totally unofficial EWF book group – see you tomorrow!


About Gabe McGrath

Freelance writer, radio creative, retro gamer and a dad. Gabe's writing has appeared in , My Child, Retro Gamer, , & more. Editor in Chief of JustOneMoreGame
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One Response to Day 2: Ellena Savage

  1. Duncan Richardson says:

    Thanks Ellena, for an interesting piece. Helen Garner is one of my favourite writers and I think you’ve conveyed her insight, honest and humanity very well. She’s one of those writers who doesn’t publish enough in my view.

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