Living in the landscape

In September, I spoke at the Ballarat Writers’ and Illustrators’ Festival. My panel was called: Imagery in Fiction: Visualising, Imagining, Creating

The other panelists included author Penni Russon, illustrator Michelle Mackintosh, and editor Alison Arnold. Librarian Julie Bull managed to keep us more or less on track discussing the topic but somehow I came around to talking about the importance of ‘place’ in my writing. I talked about travelling through the far north of Australia, camping in mango orchards, travelling from Queensland into the Northern Territory and feeling the landscape as a living, breathing presence.

While I spoke about landscape, Simon Swingler drew this illustration of me, which I love because it captures exactly what it feels like to have a place enter your consciousness and take over your thoughts.

Recently, I’ve been dipping into Walden by Henry David Thoreau. I first heard of Thoreau when I was around 11-years-old and read My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. George’s novel is about a 13-year-old boy called Sam who runs away to live alone in the Catskill Mountains partly because he is inspired by Thoreau’s life at Walden Pond.
Reading My Side of the Mountain led me to track down Thoreau’s classic book about living in the wild. His writing affected my life in many ways and it still has impact on the way I think about landscapes and wilderness.
As I write this post, a chorus of frogs is singing in the darkness of a Western Australian night. In a chapter on ‘Solitude’, Thoreau wrote: “There can be no very black melancholy to him who lives in the midst of Nature and has his senses still.” This year of travel has made me fully appreciate that truth.

Kirsty is an Australian author of books for children and young adults.

“Every adult was once a child and the child inside them never disappears.”

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