Stiff Gins & Crocodiles
Join Byron Writers Festival for an evening with Nardi Simpson; Yuwaalaraay writer and founding member of Indigenous folk duo Stiff Gins, when she speaks about her debut novel Song of the Crocodile with Bundjalung writer, editor and Byron Writers Festival board member Grace Lucas-Pennington, on Tuesday at the Mullumbimby Civic Hall. Nardi spoke with The Echo about her latest venture.
Congratulations on the book – have you always been a bit of a storyteller? What was it about this story that spoke to you?
Thank you very much! It was a combination of the way I was socialised around culture, place, people and language that really spurred me on to write a story like this. I wanted to explore and celebrate all of those things, their difficulties and joys… and a little while after I started, I became in service of the story that wanted to be written, rather than plotting my way through a series of ideas.
Could you tell me a little about the story?
The setting is a remote bush flood plain. There’s a town that has eked out an existence, focussed on progress and accumulation, and detached from the town is an Aboriginal settlement spread along the river. The two places hold very different experiences and knowledges about people in place. And it is this difference that the story is really about.
How did you write this? Did you have to lock yourself away?
Because this was the first time ever for me in writing long form, I really mixed up the creative process. Much of it I wrote in cafes in Sydney’s Inner West. Some of the intense scenes and exchanges I wrote came while locked away in quiet bedrooms. I think the places I wrote in reflected the type of prose I was creating – family-based relationships were written amongst the bustle of business and life. As too was the ‘spirit world’. Essentially those parts are full of the joy and vivacity of life also. I figured a cafe was the perfect place for these things!
You’re one half of Stiff Gins – how important is your creativity to your wellbeing? You are clearly a very creative person…
The best way I can answer that is to say that creativity is my wellbeing. It is when I feel the most connected; the most empowered, and feel I can contribute in the best way to my communities and homelands. Stories in sound and words make me happy. This ultimately keeps me healthy and strong.
Is writing novels a path you want to continue with?
I definitely want to continue to write novels! I want to get better and extend myself, but I also want to see where it leads me. I’m more than happy to chase words for the next ten years!
How important is it for us to listen to country?
I think this is an essential thing all Australians need to do, and many do already. Many people have their ‘special place,’ a place they have been drawn to or return to year upon year. I believe this is country speaking. Us First Nations mob have a different level of connection to place – we have customary responsibilities and roles toward country, but everyone can and should listen and learn from the land.
What kind of Australia would you like to see in the next ten years?
In the next ten years I want to see this country move towards Nations entering into treaties with the Crown. Anything less is wasting time and wasting lives.
Nardi will also treat audiences to a few songs when The Byron Writers Festival presents Nardi Simpson in conversation with Grace Lucas-Pennington at the Mullumbimbhy Civic Hall on Tuesday 1 December 6pm.
Tix at byronwritersfestival.com