Edwina Shaw is a writer of fiction and memoir. Her 2011 novella, Thrill Seekers, was shortlisted for the 2012 NSW Premier’s UTS/Glenda Adam’s award for new writing, and rated an honourable mention in The Weekend Australian’s Best Summer Reading Guide. Her second novel, Child of Fortune, was a semi-finalist in the Amazon/Penguin US Breakthrough Novel Award, and shortlisted for the 2007 Australian Women’s Weekly Short Story Competition. She recently completed her third novel, Into the Fire, a literary thriller about a cane farmer’s wife, set in far north Queensland in the late ’60s.
She lives in Queensland with her husband and children.
Why I write
Short answer – because I can’t stop. Long answer – because it’s how I make sense of the world and create meaning from my experiences. I write to bear witness, and to give voice to those who might otherwise not be heard.
What sort of writing habits do you keep?
When I am not working outside the home in search of the rent, I write most days. I am a mother so have learnt to write in short bursts. When the children were small I used to sit down at their nap time and write in a frenzy for that hour, churning out about 1,700 words on average. Nowadays they are high-schoolers, so I have more time though am still confined to school hours. I write best from around 10 am till 2 pm, usually in a frenzy if it’s a first draft, and can clock up 4,000 words on a good day. I may have to bin most of them, but at least they’re there. I need privacy and solitude to write. If pressed, I can edit and fiddle with minor changes with others around.
Where do you work? Describe the physical domain of your writing space…
I have a home office that is a corner of the main living area. I have cordoned off a space using bookshelves, my desk and a curtain to provide some sense of separation from the main room. I am surrounded by books, inspirational pieces of artwork and writing, and positive feedback − to keep me going on tough days.
Worst source of distraction?
Working for money. At the moment I’m teaching yoga to the dance students at QUT and Narrative to students at UQ, as well as my usual private yoga classes and editing and the demands of motherhood. I’m overloaded with marking, which has whittled down the time I’d allocated for my own writing to almost nothing. And yes, I’m going mad!
Best source of inspiration?
Life. You can be grateful for life’s challenges as a creative artist of any type. It’s all fuel for your work.
How often do you get writers’ block / doubt your own ability?
Daily. Like most writers I swing between thinking I’m an undiscovered genius (when I’m writing in a frenzy) and a complete fraud (when I’m rereading what I wrote in a frenzy).
Contemporary writer in any medium who you never miss?
The Spare Room by Helen Garner.
I’m particularly enamoured of the writers of the American south – Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, Harper Lee, Tennessee Williams, Zora Neal Hurston.
The book you should have read but haven’t?
You look back at the first thing you had published and think…
Boy, did I get lucky.
How did you get started writing?
I have kept a journal since I was 18 and writing was always something I wanted to do. When my children were small, I decided to take the plunge and write something of substance.
Does writing change anything?
Yes. As a reader I know that good writing has the power to influence your life. When you read something that resonates with your own experience, it helps you feel connected to others in this great mess we’re all in. Good writing can lift you up or force you to cry.
As a writer, finding the words to express my truth has been extremely cathartic and healing.
What are you working on now and when is it out?
At the moment I’m working on a creative non-fiction exploration of the murder of my grandmother’s sister as a child in 1912 called “Dear Madman”. It’s fascinating material and I’m enjoying bringing this family secret and buried shame into the light.
I am only just beginning with this project, but already it has garnered interest from a major publisher so I hope it will be out within a few years. I have three other completed projects that I hope will find homes before then.
Posted: Monday, April 22, 2013