I wanted to do something a little different. We were asked to write a short piece introducing ourselves, for the second unit in my Masters of Creative Writing with Deakin University. So I ‘rang Martin Amis’ and had him interview me as we stood on the rooftops, he in Paris in the 1970s, and myself in contemporary Launceston. He was only too obliging. Here’s what we talked about.
MARTIN: Hello again Fiona, what are you hoping for from this Fiction Writing unit? Will you drop the shallow humour of your memoir writing and reach for something more existential?
FIONA: Oh Marty, you hit the nail on the head every time. Yes, I’ll be looking to nail down some structure and actually learn how to do fiction. You’ve got that cracked by now, mate, haven’t you?
MARTIN: (laughs modestly): Well one had a head start, what with Pater and one’s stepmother to an extent, although she had to fit in the housework. Tell me, how’s the weather where you are?
FIONA: We’re heading into the Tasmanian spring now, Martin, and the farm is looking very fine and lush.
MARTIN: And how’s work going? Are you managing to cast aside the tribulations of keeping wolf from door to allow for creative practice?
FIONA: No, Martin, the festival that I’m event manager for is making me want to chew my own arm off. Thank god it will be over in November and I can concentrate on Deakin instead.
MARTIN: Have you segued neatly into digital-age learning, Fiona? I find one’s children can be helpful in negotiating the labyrinthine pathways of the online world.
FIONA: You mean they play you at Fortnite? Actually, this will be my second unit. I did the Personal Essay one last trimester. I’d love to say you’d be shit at that, but you’re infuriatingly good at both fiction AND memoir, aren’t you.
MARTIN; (blushes) Ah well, one needed the money, so had to give in to the prurient gaze of a curious public. Are you managing to write every day? I find it essential for keeping momentum on one’s WIP.
FIONA: Well it’s all very well for you to say that Martin, you probably have household staff in that Hyannis Port compound you live in. I’m a bit busier.
MARTIN: (laughs modestly): It does help take the strain off, to be honest. Plus my wife makes a terrific deep-fried chicken, it’s epic stuff.
FIONA: I do write every day, as it happens. I’m writing the sequel to the first humorous rural memoir that I told you about. This next one is the story of the farm business we ran.
MARTIN: Do reach out if you need a paragraph or two for the blurb. I’m so up for it.
FIONA: Kind of you Marty, I’ll put you in the queue behind Marian Keyes.
MARTIN: Tremendous stuff, I love Marian’s jolly way of approaching vital topics through relatable narrative and great craic.
FIONA: Me too. It’s been great catching up, Marty.
MARTIN: You too, Fiona. (Leaves, to change into tennis whites.)
Well, Martin Amis has left the building. To recap, I’ve begun my second unit in the Creative Writing Masters with Deakin University. In the first I received a High Distinction. I’m on a tiny farm in Tasmania, and am a woman of certain years with a very spurious working life, having chosen ‘lifestyle’ over superannuation. I have a book out about living here, am writing another one about being an accidental pig farmer, and now want to move from memoir and article writing, into fiction. I’m currently reading a biography of Vita Sackville-West and some memoir stories from Helen Garner. I don’t believe pineapple belongs in any savoury dish, unless it’s something my children will eat, and then anything goes.
I’m about to start a Patreon page where you’ll be able to support me by paying for short pieces of creative writing on a monthly or quarterly basis, and writing tips. I’ll bring you news of that soon.