Flavour of writing in the Barkly

Leni Shilton, Creative Writing Tutor, Batchelor Institute

Over the past eighteen months, I have had the pleasure of being a guest of the Barkly Writers’ Ink, running workshops and, more recently, editing some of the writing that will over the coming months appear in this blog. For two weeks, Barkly Writers’ Ink Coordinator Ktima Heathcote steadily fed my inbox with poems, fiction, journal pieces and non-fiction. The content in the writing was as varied as the genres. As I worked through each piece, reading and making suggestions, I was left with a strong impression of the flavour of writing in Tennant Creek and the Barkly region. It has the taste of loved country and speaks of the strength of resilient characters.

The work dovetails, one piece into the next, so as I read in one story, of a backpacker arriving in Tennant on the 2am Greyhound bus, the next story revealed a character who worked the graveyard shift and preyed on backpackers who arrive into a dark and unsettled town in the early hours of the morning. Another piece tells of journeying to live in Tennant Creek after living in many places around the world, and of how that really feels and the joy of it.

A poem following the narrative of a young girl, who walks through the country picking purple flowers, is woven with the traumas of alcohol-fired violence and stands beside a short non-fiction piece that explores the joys of families sharing stories around a camp fire, whilst trying to live in a post-Interventionist world.

There is the contrasting work in two very different genres: pulp fiction and science fiction.  The first has the protagonist telling of childhood trauma with a wry humour and a learnt disregard for those in authority because no one can be trusted. The science fiction epic intrigues the reader with complex characters and a rich story line. You may see just see an extract of these longer pieces here. They are rich and engaging and show that the writers know how to work their chosen genre with a deft hand.

There are poems that let us into the love and wonder the writer has for the natural world. There are the poems where the writer shows us how it is to live with an intimate knowledge of country, language and culture, and of the passion that wells up, riding on the knowledge of owning and being owned by the country. These poems are a type of dreaming that rise from the subconscious and leave the reader humbled.

Barkly Writers’ Ink is a unique mix of writers in a vibrant community and whilst some writers are new to the blogging world and others have numerous writing credits to their name, they all bring a richness and diversity to this process. Enjoy the writing in this blog, it is a taste of the delights that simmer in the desert.

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Barkly Muse: Leni Shilton

Creative writing tutor extraordinaire Leni Shilton came up from Alice Springs twice in 2011. She not only mentored writers in furthering their skills but was instrumental in helping everyone polish up their work before the official launch of the Barkly Writers Ink Blog on Sunday, 28 August. Leni, who inspired many Indigenous students at the Batchelor Institute (Alice Springs Campus) before moving on to do a PhD, has been working closely with local writers since the inception of Barkly Writers Ink in July 210.  For her birdseye view on the local writing scene, check out her post, the Flavour of Writing  in Tennant Creek.

David Curtis Jnr and other writers listen intently to Leni's words of wisdom

Adrian McNamara, Ziggy Santos, centre, and Maureen O'Keefe take a well deserved break from writing