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Working with Words: Simon Barnard

Read Wednesday, 8 Oct 2014
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Simon Barnard was born and grew up in Launceston. He spent a lot of time in the bush as a boy, which led to an interest in Tasmanian history. He is an illustrator and collector of colonial artefacts, and his new book is A-Z of Convicts in Van Diemen’s Land (Text Publishing).

We spoke to Simon about writing making more time for cuddles with the dog, approval from Nick Cave, and what he’d be doing if he wasn’t working with words … (thieving).

What was the first piece of writing you had published?

It would have been some regrettable schoolyard juvenilia for the Launceston Examiner.

What’s the best part of your job?

Time to think. Cuddles with the dog.

What’s the worst part of your job?

Too much time alone. Lack of conversation.

What’s been the most significant moment in your writing career so far?

Approval from Nick Cave was very nice. But acceptance from Text Publishing has been life changing.

What’s the best (or worst) advice you’ve received about writing?

Best: Never get comfortable.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve ever heard or read about yourself?

A masseuse recently told me that my shoulder muscles felt like ‘gritted teeth’!

If you weren’t making your living by working with words, what do you think you’d be doing instead?


There’s much debate on whether writing can be taught – what’s your view?

Perhaps not. But I’d hate to discourage anyone from trying.

What’s your advice for someone wanting to be a writer?

It’s only worth doing if you can only just do it. In other words – never get comfortable.

Do you buy your books online, in a physical bookshop, or both?


If you could go out to dinner with any fictional character, who would it be and why?

I guess it would be Captain Ahab. Not not much of a gabber, perhaps, but he’d fry a mean fish!

What’s the book that’s had the most significant impact on your life or work – and why?

Harvey Kurtzman’s Jungle Book. Published in 1959, arguably the first ‘graphic novel’. For me, it redefined my perception on how words and pictures relate. I find it so impressionable that I can no longer read it.

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The Wheeler Centre acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the traditional owners of the land on which we work. We pay our respects to the people of the Kulin Nation and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders, past and present.