“Protect the kernel of each creative idea until it is strong enough to withstand criticism”, was the advice of prize-winning novelist Gillian Mears to creative writing students at Flinders University.
There was strong sense of poignancy to the recent spontaneous session, as it represented the novelist’s farewell to South Australia – because of the progression of her multiple sclerosis, she is leaving the State to move closer to her family in Grafton, New South Wales.
Creative Writing lecturer Dr Gay Lynch said the 60 attendees felt privileged to hear from Mears, who is one of Australia’s most successful and acclaimed novelists.
“As winner of the Vogel prize, twice winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ prize, and winner of the Steele Rudd prize for short stories, she has enjoyed a stellar career,” Dr Lynch said.
Her new novel, Foal’s Bread, is on the long list for the 2012 Miles Franklin Literary Award and for the Barbara Jefferis Award.
While visits from established writers are a regular feature of the Creative Writing course at Flinders, Dr Lynch said that the session with Mears was a moving and memorable one for the students.
Mears spoke of her craft and her own writerly tricks of the trade, which employ notebooks, dried flowers, particular pencils, and handmade cushions in red and yellow.
Dr Lynch said the session was simultaneously “gut-wrenching and inspiring”.
“Students were moved to tears by her candour on the subject of her now compromised writing praxis, and by the generosity with which she advised them,” Dr Lynch said.