This week the spotlight is on a critically acclaimed author whose award-winning novella The Fish Girl is one of six titles included in the 2018 Stella Prize shortlist of extraordinary books by Australian women. The winner will be announced on April 12. In the meantime, meet Brisbane-based writer Mirandi Riwoe…
Mirandi’s debut crime novel, She be Damned, was released in 2017 and is followed this year with A Necessary Murder. She is the recipient of a Queensland Literary Awards fellowship and awarded an Asialink residency at the Shanghai Writers’ Association in 2018. Currently, she is Peril Magazine’s prose editor. She has won the historical category of the Scarlet Stiletto Awards and has been shortlisted for the Josephine Ulrick Short Story Prize, Overland’s Neilma Sidney Short Story Prize, Fish Short Story Prize, and the Luke Bitmead Bursary. She has also been longlisted for the ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize and CWA (UK) dagger awards. Her novella The Fish Girl won Seizure’s Viva la Novella V. Mirandi’s work has appeared in Best Australian Stories, Review of Australian Fiction, Rex, Peril and Shibboleth and Other Stories. Mirandi has a PhD in Creative Writing and Literary Studies (QUT).
Why do you write? I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was young and reading Nancy Drew and Enid Blyton. I wanted to tell stories that other readers could enjoy. I still want to tell enjoyable stories, but I also want my stories to be worthwhile.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I think maybe I’d be a school teacher.
What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I think it takes time to polish both your work and your skill at writing. Maybe the obstacle lies in your work and your writing not being ready. It’s also a pretty tough, competitive market to break into too.
How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations? I’ve been lucky because my editors have each been wonderful, in that there is a lot of negotiation throughout the editing process. Not so much input into the covers. Usually you’re presented with what they think is appropriate, and you can maybe change things you think do not work.
What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Working in my own time and environment.
—the worst? I guess it’s not necessarily great pay for most of us 🙂
What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Read like a writer.
What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I wish I’d known more about the short story competitions etc., literary journals and sites like Aerogramme that notify writers of writerly things.
What’s the best advice you were ever given? Covered a bit below.
What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? I like what a Varuna ‘Publisher Introduction Program’ judge wrote in her feedback one year – to treat your writing as a craft, like you’d treat any other artistic pursuit. For example, you don’t just decide you’re going to be a painter or opera singer – it takes years of honing, training or practice.
How important is social media to you as an author? I like it because it keeps me in touch with other authors, but I don’t know that it’s that helpful in garnering new readers.
Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? Sometimes it takes me a while to ease into a scene or the day’s writing. I think it was Hemingway who said to always leave something for next time to go on with in your writing. I like that idea. So I’ll write what I can for the day but leave the next sentence, paragraph, idea for the next day, to get me going again.
How do you deal with rejection? Ugh rejection is so hard, I think at any time in your career. My biggest reaction to this, and what I say to fellow author-rejectionees, is to “keep on writing, keep on writing,” a bit like Dory.
If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? Well, I have always wanted to have a chat and a whisky with Val McDermid. I guess maybe I’d ask her how she copes with distractions, and if she works to a daily writing schedule.
Winner of the 2017 Seizure Viva La Novella Prize
Sparked by the description of a ‘Malay trollope’ in W. Somerset Maugham’s story, The Four Dutchmen, Mirandi Riwoe’s novella, The Fish Girl tells of an Indonesian girl whose life is changed irrevocably when she moves from a small fishing village to work in the house of a Dutch merchant. There she finds both hardship and tenderness as her traditional past and colonial present collide.
Told with an exquisitely restrained voice and coloured with lush description, this moving book will stay with you long after the last page.
The Fish Girl is available here.