Writing Out Adversity: bushfires, tree-pulling and the pandemic

From Homer’s Odyssey, through Boccaccio’s Decameron, to Behrouz Boochani’s No Friend But the Mountains, adversity has provided a loyal companion to writers. Some have responded by creating fictional worlds of escape, while others have tapped into real events to make sense of trauma or inspire us to overcome adversity. Mary-Lou Stephens and James Parker are two of the latter kind: no strangers to adversity; each responding to the past in contrasting, entertaining and fascinating ways.

This session will focus on some of their recent work:

  • Mary-Lou Stephens’ The Last of the Apple Blossom starts in the 1967 Tasmanian bush fires, and encompasses the demise of the Tasmanian apple industry.
  • James has been hosting “The Van Diemen Decameron”, in Forty South online. This is a project collecting writers’ responses to Covid – which are many, varied and colourful. The project is becoming an historical document in itself.

About the presenters

Mary-Lou StephensMary-Lou Stephens was born in Tasmania, studied acting at The Victorian College of the Arts, and played in bands in Melbourne, Hobart and Sydney. Eventually she got a proper job – in radio – where she was a presenter and music director, first with commercial radio and then the ABC. She received rave reviews for her memoir Sex, Drugs and Meditation (2013), a personal memoir about confronting and overcoming darkness, and a true story of how meditation changed her life, saved her job and helped her find a husband. Mary-Lou now lives on the Sunshine Coast with her husband and a hive of killer native bees.

DON’T MISS: You can also catch Mary-Lou at the session Writing the Remote. And Arianne recently hosted a conversation (watch here) with Mary-Lou and publisher Nicola Robinson, about the writing and publishing process, from pitch to publication.

James ParkerBorn and educated in Tasmania and at the ANU, James Parker’s early career was in theatre during the heady days of the revival of Australian drama in the 1970s. James then spent over a decade immersed in film production as the film industry followed the theatre in a strong national revival. Returning to Tasmania in the late 80s, James became a professional fisherman, but also went back to university and obtained an honours degree in History, Philosophy and Aboriginal Studies. He researches, writes and gives talks mainly on colonial subjects; particularly convicts, women and the Tasmanian Aboriginal People. He was a founding committee member of the Convict Women’s Research Centre and the Convict Women’s Press, and has contributed to several of the Press’s publications. He conceived and curates the The Van Diemen Decameron for Forty South online: writers’ responses to Covid and lockdown.