‘Sometimes as writers we’re so deep in our own thoughts that it’s hard to know whether the thing we’re creating is doing what it’s supposed to do,’ says Mark Brandi. So attending PWE was a good way of checking in.
The writing journey is made up of small steps – getting into the course and being accepted to a Varuna residency, all gave Mark the confidence to persevere to become a published author. His first short story was written as a response to reading Jack London’s ‘To Build A Fire’ in Ania Walwicz’s class. Mark polished it and sent it to ‘the usual subjects of Australian publishing, but no one touched it’. Eventually it was published in an Irish journal. From there, Radio National broadcast it in a fiction series.
‘This was the biggest audience I’d had for my work. It gave me confidence that this particular voice was resonating. From this, the work developed into Wimmera, my first novel.’ Seemingly small successes tend to snowball and, for Mark, the biggest moments in his career have been when he realises that what he’s writing ‘is close to working’.
Mark went into PWE with an open mind. He had no particular designs on being an author of fiction. He’d worked in government for a number of years and had always liked the writing element. ‘I thought I’d try a few things and, if I enjoyed one or more of them, I’d follow them and see what happened.’ So he took all sorts of classes – novel, short story, corporate writing and desktop publishing. He says he felt a lot of freedom in the creative classes.
As well, ‘hearing and reading other people’s work was a real education for me. I was in class with some fantastic writers who really inspired me to improve.’ Yet creative work is ‘poorly paid and hard to come by’, so the skills Mark picked up in Penny Johnson’s corporate-writing class meant he had a bedrock of a decent paying gig, which was still related to his craft. ‘The course was really timely for me.’
Find out more about Mark at markbrandi.com.
This profile was written and researched by Ann Bolch from A Story To Tell.