Dr Annee Lawrence

At some point though, I have to put the research to one side and focus on my imagination and the imaginative world of the characters. At that point, writing and language - the craft - is what matters.

Tell us a little about your background – what did you study and what path led you to what you are doing today?

BA (UNSW), Dip Ed (Syd), BComm (Hons 1) (WSU), PhD (WSU)

I have worked as a writer and editor since working on the student newspaper Tharunka at UNSW in the 1970s. Although I majored in history, my passion then was for drama and I started off writing theatre reviews. I then worked in-house and freelance in publications and publishing, and in the community and social justice sectors (Family Planning, NCOSS, Combined Pensioners, Disability Rights).

I always wanted to be a writer and in the early 1980s I joined the No Regrets Women's Writing Group in Sydney, the Out of the Bottom Drawer Group, and the Poet's Union. I wrote my first novel in the mid 1980s, and then became involved with Nola Colefax who needed assistance with writing her autobiography, Signs of Change, about her early life and work in establishing the Australian Theatre of the Deaf. From 1997, I began working on a feature film script that has now been written as a novel.

The novel which is now titled "The Colour of Things Unseen" will be published by UK publisher Aurora Metro Books in March 2019. It was the creative component of a PhD in Creative Writing (I graduated in 2015) in the Writing and Society Research Centre at Western Sydney University (WSU). Doing the doctorate was inspirational in that it opened the door to a community of writers and to work as a sessional tutor at WSU where I teach units on literature, philosophy and cultural studies.

Where do you derive your inspiration from?

Books and reading (certain authors especially), stories from families and friends, history, ethnography, literature and philosophy. And stories not told.

What have been one or two favourite recent projects?

My most recent project (ongoing since competing the PhD) is a novel based on the period during World War 2 when 5000 Indonesians were resident in Australia, including 500 political prisoners and their families who were brought from Dutch New Guinea where they had been interned by the Netherlands East Indies. This work, which was initially inspired by Jan Lingard's history, Refugees and Rebels: Indonesian Exiles in Wartime Australia, is focused on some of the remarkable Australian women who joined in supporting the Indonesian cause after the nationalist leaders, Soekarno and Hatta declared independence on 17 August 1945. It was a truly cosmopolitan moment in our history but one that remains hidden from plain sight.

Describe your process. Do you work from life, references or a combination of both?

I work from all of these. The process I have used has been termed practice led research, research led practice. This 'research' might include reading about writing, attending seminars and/or masterclasses, reading philosophy, conversations with other writers, walking, watching, as well as the reading and study I do for teaching literature, philosophy, sociology, etc.

This is a to and fro process in which I interrogate what I am writing and how I am writing it.

At some point though, I have to put the research to one side and focus on my imagination and the imaginative world of the characters. At that point, writing and language - the craft - is what matters.

What do you want the reader to experience when they’re engaging with your work?

Language and writing that makes the familiar strange, and the strange familiar. Entry into feeling with the characters who are different to them, immersion in their world, but immersion in the sense that it allows them to experience themselves and their own world differently. To think about lives that are different to theirs. To stimulate a sense of wonder or curiosity in the world.

  • Annee Lawrence