2017 EWF Ambassador Inga Simpson writes from a forest in the hinterlands. Her writing captures the sensory experience of the Australian landscape with loving precision and she uses it as the backdrop for her novels: Mr Wigg (2013), Nest (2014) and Where The Trees Were (2016). Her memoir, Understory, is out in June.
In the lead up to the 2017 National Writers’ Conference, Inga shares with us her thoughts on writing, nature and EWF.
Four books later I’m considered a mid-career writer on grant application forms, but I feel like I’m only just finding my feet.
I’ve worked as a farm hand, cherry picker, barista, film preservationist, courier, parliamentary researcher, senior investigation officer, and professional writer. Being an author is the best gig by far.
It took me years to get around to writing, and then a long time to break through with Mr Wigg. A lot of that was about fear and a lack of self-belief. For me, the biggest lesson has been in being myself, and finding what it is that only I can write. That and putting my writing, the writing process, first. Actually doing the work, day in, day out – not just talking about it.
There is a lot I’d like to share about being published – the industry. It’s about books of course, but it’s also about relationships. How you conduct yourself and build those relationships is really important to succeed long term.
I’m very much shaped by place, and by what I read – my imagination comes from somewhere in between, the intersection of the two perhaps. It took time and courage to reveal my world view in my writing. But I think as writers we need to write from a place that is our best self, our most honest self, rather than trying to present ourselves in a good light. That’s just as true of fiction as memoir.
I grew up close to nature, on a property in central west NSW, which was formative, and I’ve been reading and studying Australian literature for over forty years. Landscape, language and imagination are entwined for me. For the last decade I’ve been lucky enough to live as part of a little forest in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, and the experience, together with my discovery of the genre of nature writing, has been central to finding my voice, and my path as a writer.
I’m interested in how we relate to the natural world – and how to preserve it. In all my writing, I’m trying to bring the reader into my world, to break down the division between the human and natural worlds. It’s our habitat, too. Imagination is the key to that process – again, whether fiction or non-fiction.
This will be my first time at EWF, which always looks like a lot of fun, so I’m thrilled to be involved. I’ve had a lot of support and mentorship along the way, which is easy to forget when things are going well. I saw this as an opportunity to give back, and share some of the knowledge and perspective I’ve acquired along the way.
I have a new book out in June, called Understory: a life with trees. It’s my first foray into nonfiction, a nature writing-memoir that answers all of these questions in much more detail.