Bec Stafford Interviews Alison Croggon (Pt 2):
Saturday, 4th September, 2010, Midday.
Hilton Hotel, South Wharf, Melbourne.
Alison Croggon is a Melbourne writer. She has published several collections of poetry, for which she won the Anne Elder and Dame Mary Gilmore Prizes, and was shortlisted for the Victorian (twice) and NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. Her most recent collection is Theatre (Salt Publishing, 2008). She is the author of the Books of Pellinor quartet, a fantasy series that has been published worldwide to critical and popular acclaim, to date selling half a million copies in the UK and the US alone. She runs the influential review blog Theatre Notes and is Melbourne theatre critic for The Australian, for which last year she won the Geraldine Pascall Prize for criticism. She has written several works for theatre, including the operas The Burrow and Gauguin with the composer Michael Smetanin. They are currently working on their fourth opera together, Mayakovsky, which will be produced by Victoria Opera in 2013. This year she co-wrote Night Songs, a music theatre work for young people commissioned by Bell Shakespeare, with playwright Daniel Keene, and finished her sixth novel, Black Spring. She has three children and is married to the playwright Daniel Keene.
The line-up at AussieCon4 was nothing short of spectacular. Writers from a vast array of disciplines converged on the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre in the first week of September to talk science fiction and fantasy. I had the great privilege of speaking with Alison Croggon: poet, author, playwright, opera creator, and esteemed critic. A couple of hours with Alison will leave you feeling greatly inspired (and incredibly lazy!). Despite her many achievements and awards, she’s not one to rest on her laurels: for Alison, every week brings with it new opportunities for absorbing, engaging with, and creating art. Pretty remarkable, don’t you think?
B: Do you feel that young adult authors have a responsibility to educate, or to moralise, when they write?
A: Not moralise, no. I think moralising is… Uh, I never like it in books. I never did as a kid, I hated being patronised. But I think that education, in a broad sense, is absolutely important. I mean, it was a big driving thing behind my books, which sort of emerged. I mean, I started writing for young people after the Serbian bombing in 1999…uh…so, sort of before 9/11. But I was doing a lot of reading–a lot of in-depth reading–and when 9/11 did happen, I wasn’t at all surprised. Oh, shocked, but you know, not surprised. If you’re at all politically aware of the world, and if you’re at all concerned about the environmental catastrophe that’s happening right now, and have any kind of public engagement at all, you can end up feeling very despairing about the adults in this world. And one of the things behind the books was just that–oh, it sounds a bit vainglorious–but I just wanted to talk to young people about things that I thought were of value, or about values and ethics. Things that I thought mattered. And one way of speaking to them was by writing stories. But I did not want to moralise. I mean, the things I wanted to explore in the books were ‘what does it mean to be Human?’ … ‘What is not Human?’. You know? ‘What is the natural world?’ ‘What is love? What does love mean?’ ‘What are our responsibilities to each other?’ So, I wanted to look at those things, and dramatise them, I suppose.
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