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The Writers of Janet Clarke Hall

Listen to The Writers of Janet Clarke Hall

In 2011, the University of Melbourne’s Janet Clarke Hall celebrates its 125th anniversary and will hold a series of events marking its heritage as Australia’s oldest residential college for women and one of the first in the world.

In the first of the series, held at the Wheeler Centre, Helen Garner, Anna Goldsworthy, Alice Pung and Lee Tulloch join in conversation with fellow alumnus Jan McGuinness. These writers and novelists have each spent time at Janet Clarke Hall either as students, tutors or artists in residence. They discuss the hall’s influence, the context and manner in which they found themselves there and the work they do now.

Each writer opens by reading a selection of their own writing, starting with Goldsworthy who reads from her book Piano Lessons, written at JCH a couple of years ago. Pung recalls her decision to accept a writing residency at the Hall, requiring her to move out of home and break from Chinese-Cambodian tradition.

Garner reads a short piece called A Happy Story, recommends open court hearings for writers seeking inspiration and analyses the public outcry over the Farquharson filicide case. Meanwhile, the high class protagonist of Tulloch’s The Woman in the Lobby finds herself lingering in the lobby of the Hotel Metropolitan at cocktail hour, looking to meet a man of money. After reading from the story, Tulloch explains its roots in her life as a traveller and her hesitation about writing fiction.

Together, the group discuss the idea of memoir and fictionalising personal experience, and share the ways in which their time at JCH - and the people they met - has affected their work.

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