Biography writing can be a fraught, delicate business – from choosing a worthy subject to ensuring a life is interesting to the reader, a biographer often has to deal with difficult relatives, conflicting stories, and embittered rivals. Their subject may be dead – or worse, infuriatingly alive. And writing memoir and autobiography can have its own set of problems.
What choices does a writer make when faced with drastically differing versions of events? And how does a biographer decide which aspects of a life remain untold?
To celebrate the Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship’s fifth anniversary, and to announce the 2016 winner, we’re bringing together four great writers (three of whom are past Fellowship winners) to discuss their work. Janine Burke, a judge of the Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship, will interview Stephany Steggall, Maxine Beneba Clarke and Caroline Baum as they discuss the art, the attraction and the dangers of writing a life.
Presented in partnership with Writers Victoria and the Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship.
Janine Burke is an art historian, biographer, novelist and freelance curator.
Maxine Beneba Clarke is a widely published Australian writer of Afro-Caribbean descent. Maxine's short fiction, non-fiction and poetry have been published in numerous publications including Overland, the Age, Meanjin, the Saturday Paper and the Big Issue. Her critically acclaimed short fiction collection Foreign Soil won the ABIA for Literary Fiction Book of the Year 2015 and the 2015 Indie Book Award for Debut Fiction, and was shortlisted for the Matt Richell Award for New Writing at the 2015 ABIAs and the 2015 Stella Prize. She was also named as one of the Sydney Morning Herald's Best Young Novelists for 2015.
Stephany Evans Steggall has written biographies of Colin Thiele, Ivan Southall and Bruce Dawe, and she is the author of Status and Sugar, a history of the Australian Society of Authors. She holds a PhD in Australian Literature from the University of Queensland, and in 2013 was awarded the Hazel Rowley Fellowship for her recently-published memoir, Interestingly Enough: The Life of Tom Keneally (Nero, 2015).
Caroline Baum is a respected journalist and presenter. She has worked for the BBC, ABC, Time Life Books, Vogue magazine (UK and Australia), was the founding editor of Good Reading magazine and the editorial director of Booktopia.