Fri 20/02

Artsource Update: Hannah Van Didden

In partnership with Artsource, throughout 2014 Rosemount Hotel saw a range of brilliant local artists utilising the 8 studio spaces upstairs. This year we’re feeling pretty privileged and excited to continue providing disused spaces for Perth’s creative industry.

One such creative is the wonderful Hannah Van Didden. Hannah writes and lives in Perth, Western Australia, with her husband and their three children. As well as playing with words, Hannah chases butterflies with her little people, eats mindfully, and fixes broken projects. She likes to think that her shower voice is particularly suited to jazz; others in earshot may not agree. We caught up with Hannah to talk breaking into the literary world, the challenges and upsides of freelance work, inspirations & food blogs!

Rosie: What initially made you want to branch out into writing and how did you go about turning this idea into a reality?

HD: I was telling stories before I could write, was cautioned as a youngster against it (‘You’ll never make a living out of it,’ they said), couldn’t escape it, and now it’s what I do. I write because it’s in me; that’s the best way I can put it. Even though I have been a writer all my life, I lacked the confidence and rigour to take my creative writing seriously—until one of my stories received 3rd place in the 2012 Trudy Graham-Julie Lewis Literary Award, which is a national literary competition run by the Peter Cowan Writers’ Centre.

Rosie: Do you work on a freelance basis? If so can you talk about the challenges and upsides of being a freelance writer?

HD: I do some freelance writing, depending on the day. On the main, my writing comprises new fiction, along with splatterings of opinion/how-to pieces, reports, essays, and editing. This style of working suits me because I enjoy my own company, I work well to deadlines, and writing creatively doesn’t feel like a job to me. My main challenges: distractions; marketing/promoting my writing; earning enough to live; dealing with constant rejection; long lead times; long hours; drawing the line between writing and family time. The upsides for me: I love writing; I can write anywhere; I can write what I want to most of the time; I get to work with some awesome people.

Rosie: Can you talk about where you draw inspiration from?

HD: I am inspired by what I see around me, by the obscure and the mundane, by the ‘what ifs’, by unbelievable and obvious and strained connections, by the moments you glimpse that nobody is supposed to see.

Rosie: What genres or forms are you currently enjoying exploring?

HD: While I’m focused on writing novels and novellas right now, I also enjoy writing short fiction pieces, and stories for my little people. Most of my writing to date could be classed as contemporary literary fiction, often with elements of magic realism, but I don’t censor and fit my ideas into boxes; I don’t delve into a story with a particular genre in mind. Some of my recent stories, for example, fit well with science fiction, fantasy and crime.

Rosie: What pieces or projects have you been working on recently?

HD: This is a dangerous question, as my response could set me up for spectacular failure…or success. Hopefully success. I have just finished the first draft of my first novel. In a recurring dream of mine, you’ll find my novel on bookstore shelves sometime, preferably soon, probably after the eighth draft.

Rosie: Can you let us in on any upcoming projects in the works?

HD: I was fortunate to have had my first-ever crime story recognised with a Special Commendation in last November’s Scarlet Stiletto Awards, the premier prize for women’s short crime fiction in Australia. I’m planning to extend this piece into a longer work. Before I work on that one, however, I have two other full-length works to exorcise, along with a few more short stories that have been living in my head rent free.

Rosie: Where can we find your work?

HD: If you want to read more, you’ll find my stories in literary journals and anthologies—like Southword, Gravel, and the Other Voices anthology—and I tweet @hannahvandidden. I have two ebooks published in relation to mindful eating and raw food—entitled Love Thy Food and Uncooked, respectively. Love Thy Food features early stories/vignettes and recipes, anecdotes, quotes, thoughts; Uncooked is a recipe book. Oh, and I blog. In addition to my mindful eating blog, I’m about to ignite my writing blog; thirtyseven should be live by the time this interview sees screen light.

Artsource is the peak membership body for artists in WA. The organisation provides members with relevant, practical and affordable services like the Rosemount Hotel studios. Visit artsource.net.au for more information.