Brigid Magner teaches Literary Studies at RMIT University and will participate in the KSP Fellowship Program in November 2016. I had the opportunity to interview Brigid about her passion for Australia’s literary places, why she enjoys writing literary non-fiction and her post-Fellowship plans.
Dr Brigid Magner, Literary Studies Lecturer at RMIT University and KSP Fellow for November 2016
How did you hear about the KSP Fellowship Program?
'I found it by chance while researching Katharine Susannah Prichard online.'
What is the project you will work on for the KSP Fellowship Program?
'On The Trail: Reading Literary Places in Australia is concerned with investigating places that are explicitly connected with Australian authors through material forms of commemoration such as writer’s houses, graves, statues, and trails. The focus is on a selected group of notable authors who have been celebrated through tangible memorials including Adam Lindsay Gordon, Henry Lawson, A.B. ‘Banjo’ Paterson, Joseph Furphy, Henry Handel Richardson, Nan Chauncy, Eleanor Dark, P.L Travers, and Katharine Susannah Prichard. The project aims to generate further interest in the preservation and promotion of literary places and greater awareness of the colourful rituals associated with them, arguing that they are irreplaceable elements of our cultural memory.'
Where did you get the idea for your project?
'In 2010, I was asked by a colleague to give a talk about a visit I had made to the Katherine Mansfield Memorial Room, which is located in the basement of a house where Mansfield once lived in Menton in the South of France. It struck me as strange that New Zealand sends its best writers to work in a basement! From then on I was hooked on literary tourism.'
What plans do you have for your project after completing the Fellowship?
'With luck, my book will be finished within six months of the Fellowship and delivered to the publisher. During the Fellowship I hope to learn more about the place where Katharine Susannah Prichard produced her writing through my stay there. I’d also like to learn from people who have studied her closely, like her biographer Nathan Hobby.'
Where did your interest in the literary non-fiction genre originate from?
'Through my work with the non/fictionLab research group at RMIT, I have become increasingly interested in the possibilities of the essay form and how I can combine my scholarly work with accounts of my travels to literary places. For my current project, my process involves the interweaving of my own impressions of literary sites with biographical, literary, and academic material.'
I understand you teach Literary Studies at RMIT University. Has your employment impacted your creative writing process? If so, can you elaborate on this?
'I'm not a creative writer but my work as a lecturer has definitely given me a boarder overview of the varied and amazing writing produced in Australia.'
How did you become interested in creative writing?
'My late father, Maurice Shadbolt, was a New Zealand author so I've always taken an interest in writing. In fact, he was a fan of Katharine Susannah Prichard and that's how I first heard her name.'
What book are you reading at the moment?
'Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar, a finalist for the Miles Franklin award.'
Do you have a preference for reading fiction or non-fiction genres?
'I would have to say that fiction is still my favourite but creative non-fiction is a close second.'
Who is your favourite author? How has their written works affected you on a personal and professional level?
'My favourite author is Janet Frame who is better known in Australia through the bio-pic, An Angel at my Table. When I first read her novels as a teenager, I was astonished at the creative risks she took with her fiction. It's a shame that her history of mental illness has overshadowed her writing in the public imagination.'
Applications for KSP's 2017 Fellowship Program close on Friday 18 November 2016. For more information visit the website.