Diane Finlay – Northern Vision

Diane, welcome to my blog. It’s lovely to be able to welcome another North Queensland Writer. Have you always lived in Cairns or are you an import? How does the tropical north influence your writing?

I came to Cairns in ’91/’92 and fell in love with the place. I went back to the UK and spent  the next two years battling Australian immigration before finally immigrating in ’95! The tropical north influences my adult writing far more than my children’s stuff.  I feel a sense of freedom here and I think that is the biggest influence.

That sense of freedom is very real up here isn’t it. What genre do you write? What’s your publishing experience been like? What advice do you have for other aspiring writers?

I’m a genre slut – I write all sorts. I write for children – short fiction, novels, picture books and poetry. For my adult writing I prefer short stories and poetry. My kids stuff is my happy place and my adult stuff is often the underbelly or darker side of life.

My first foray into publishing was to do it myself. This involved much passion, drive, determination and almost zero knowledge. I didn’t know any writers or editors but went ahead and did it anyway.

That book “The Duck with No Quack” was a picture book for children 3-5 years old and it has sold in excess of 400 copies. My advice to anyone thinking of self publishing is to do it, but think very, very carefully about your ability to market your product. I’m not the shy retiring type so I find it easy to pick up the phone, chat to someone, book an appointment, do story telling and make sales.

I’m building a collection of children’s short stories and poems based on funny things to do with food which I’d like to put together as recipe book. I’ve written two novels for children in the 7-9 age group and I’m actively looking to have them published by a main stream publisher – not an easy job. Currently there are only 5 publishing houses in Australia who will take an unsolicited manuscript for children. So I’m now looking at UK and North American publishers.

I’ve been published in all three Tropical Writers Anthology’s and I’ll also be in the latest TW anthology. I was successful with my submission to “Short and Twisted” 2010 anthology which is being launched in June. I’m really pleased about that achievement.

Your children’s recipe book sounds fascinating!

Tell us about the Tropical Writers group – you are clearly a motivated and dedicated group of writers.

Tropical Writers is a very busy group. We hosted the inaugural Tropical Writers Festival in 2008 and buoyed by the success of that event we have gone ahead with a second festival in October 2010. We meet monthly to share work, critique and advise writers on how to improve their writing.  We use anthology sales opportunities to showcase the group around the region and raise awareness.

I have a personal mission to see the writers used in schools as an adjunct to the normal curriculum and through TBSHS and Whitfield S.S. we have had a number of opportunities come our way.I’d like to see that involvement grow.

Last year we travelled to Yungaburra to be part of “The writers in the Red Shed.”

The Tropical Writers Festival is being held on the 15th to 17th October. Tell us a bit about the festival and what we canexpect.

I’m very excited about the festival. I’m events coordinator this time round and enjoying the challenge immensely. I hope I have put together an interesting and varied program with something for everyone including the young writers of the region.

We’re introducing the Biggest Book Club event on Sunday 17th. Gretel Killeen is part of the panel along with Val Shier, Fiona Sewell and Gavin King. Gretel is also our Literary Dinner Speaker. You don’t have to be literary, or a writer, to join us at the Shangri-la, Trinity room for that event. Tickets are on sale at Ticketlink.

We have a workshop program which includes Romance Writing with Barbara Hannay, Speculative fiction with Sylvia Kelso, Thriller writing with James Phelan, and Angela Murphy has put together a fun workshop for any one wanting to become involved in play writing. I’m not saying any more – keep up to date by visiting the website  www.tropicalwritersfestival.com

What other events are planned for the rest of the year? “Writers on the Waterfront” Saturday 4th September as part of Festival Cairns. We’ll be at Donnini’s from mid-day. Hot off the press – James Phelan has agreed to be our guest author.

Tropical Writers will launch their fourth anthology – “Cracks in the Canopy” and James will be promoting his latest release with book signings at Apostrophe Bookstore after lunch.

For other interested writers, how do they go about becoming involved with Tropical Writers.

Writers wishing to become part of our group should contact Carol Libke our President on carol.libke@aanet.com.au but I’m always happy to take inquiries too.

I know you have a clear vision for where you’d like to see writing go in the Tropical north. Can you share some of that?

I heard recently that a member of a big Arts organization said they failed to see how you could have the words ‘regional’ and ‘excellence’ in the same sentence. When I heard that I got mad – really mad. Anyone who visits the www.tropicalwritersfestival.com, and reads our vision statement, will see we believe Regional Excellence is more than possible. In fact pursuit of that is my single biggest driving force in organising this festival. Can you tell I’m on a very big soap box – here?

I believe we have enough talent in this region to sustain a boutique publishing industry of our own.  We could become a real powerhouse. Our publishing house would be for writers of the region so any one submitting work would have to demonstrate previous commitment to regional writing and be prepared to honour that  commitment long term. There would be a residency requirement so that the work published truly reflected the writing of the region. I could be accused of adding fuel to the parochial fire here, but what are we to do? It is hard to get published, it is hard to get recognition and it is hard, not to mention expensive, to keep travelling south to pitch to publishers at the big festivals.

I know if you believe in yourself and your product you will do all of this and keep doing it until the results are achieved, but it is very draining. Having a positive outlook helps, but rejection after rejection is soul destroying. A truly local publishing house would bring the possibility of publication closer – maybe enough to sustain all of those excellent regional writers who deserve the recognition.

I’d like to wrap around my vision of a boutique publishing house a resource centre for regional writers. Our own one-stop- shop. QWC is a fantastic resource, but how many times does a really great event come to NQ? Usually it is in the State Library in Brisbane on Tuesday night at 7.30pm . I’d love to pop down for a couple of hours one Tuesday evening to enjoy a cheese and wine evening with readings from so and so’s latest publication….but I can’t and it frustrates me. I’d like to have that here. The vision inside my head is so clear I could almost start sending out the invites to the next cheese and wine book launch at the Cairns City library but these things take time.

I am hugely heartened by the very strong advocate for regional excellence we have in Val Schier. Having a dedicated Arts space and museum in this city will feed my passion. I can just imagine going there, sitting in a cafe or wandering around people-watching and being inspired.

I love Cairns, it’s beautiful and inspirational and the people are so welcoming and friendly. I think together we can do really great and excellent regional things!

Diane, thanks for sharing your passion with us. It’s been lovely finding out more about you and your writing.

I’m sure there are many writers out there in other regional areas who can empathise with the difficulties of being so removed from Capital cities and their resources. We’d love to hear your thoughts, folks, on what we can do to promote regional writing.

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16 thoughts on “Diane Finlay – Northern Vision

  1. Hi Helene,
    Thank you for having me it’s been a lot of fun and I’m now seriously thinking of getting into blogging but It’ll have to wait until after the festival.I will definitely pop in closer to the festival. I am now only days away from announcing the full program. All details will be up on the website soon so I’ll drop in here to make that announcement as well as e-mailing

  2. Steve, welcome to the blog. I’m so glad you and your daughter enjoyed Border Watch:-)

    Diane and June, you should both be very proud of being in Cracks in the Canopy – and love that name!!

    Carol, welcome! Congratulations on joining the Art Nexus board. That is a very positive move for writers.

    Diane, thanks for being my guest – you’ll have to drop by closer to the Tropical Writers Festival to update us on the event:-)

  3. Hi Helene,
    Sorry I missed you on community radio. I’ve been away in Brisbane for the past week and only getting back to the emails now. So glad you were able to make it to Tropical Writers last month. I’ve not been into ‘blogging’ before but good to see Diane doing a great job in promoting Tropical Writers and Our Festival.
    I’ve just been accepted on to the Board of Arts Nexus and I believe it will be a really positive move to have the writing sector represented as well learning lots to bring back to the group as President of TW. Hope to see you at the meeting on 3rd.

  4. I am very proud to have made it into Cracks in the Canopy as well, and to be meeting awesome and inspiring writer in the region. I love Diane’s idea about boutique publishing, development of a regional storytelling/writing with the capacity to go GLOBAL (:

  5. Hi Steve, we are a very busy group. Just before the festival we will be launching our 4th anthology of prose and poetry called Cracks in the Canopy. This time we asked other regional writers groups to submit pieces to our selection panel. So this anthology is not just Tropical Writers, but other regional writers and I believe richer for the different voices and influences. I can’t wait to read Helene’s next book – very much looking forward to that.

  6. Hi Helene and Diane, always interesting reading about writers in other regional areas. Sounds like Cairns has a terrific group of writers prepared to get in and promote their regions.

    And Helene, Border Watch was a fascinating read. Loved the use of landscape and you kept me turning the pages long after midnight. Well done. I’ve leant it to my daughter now and it’s captivated her.

  7. I’ll spell my name correctly this time!
    Thanks Val. Yes I too would like to see Cairns as the Cultural Capital of Regional Queensland. I think that is totally doable. Being parochial is what keeps us connected to ur roots and gives a strong sense of what our influences are. Parochial equals colour – in the sense that it gives outsiders an insite into a different area, a different viewpoint and new influences. Speaking of colour – I can’t wait for the Indigenous Art Fair – it was awesome last year.I got goosebumps looking at all of the beautiful work and knowing that i live in the region that inspired this work.

  8. Hi Dave welcome to my blog. Glad you enjoyed the interview with Diane!

    Eve, welcome. I love the idea that culture is parochial and that makes it something to be celebrated!

  9. Enjoyed your blog, and hear-hear for regional excellence. As the former Arts Minister and poet Mat Foley was fond of saying, “all culture is ultimately parochial”.

    It never hurt Irish Writers from being known internationally, and they were born and worked at locations right across the back blocks of the emerald isle.

  10. Congratulations Helene on your blog & congratulations to Diane for her wonderful promotional work for not only Tropical Writers but the festival & Cairns in general.

  11. Welcome to my blog, Mayor Val!

    Cairns and the surrounding districts certainly has more than their fair share of talent and it’s great to see the various levels of government getting behind those artists.

  12. Wonderful to read the interview and to sense Di and Helene’s passion for both the region and writing. The Tropical Writers Festival is shaping up to be very exciting and I am delighted to be part of it. And of course the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair and the Cairns Festival are scheduled from 20 August and we’re underway with the planning for the Trinity Inlet Cultural precinct. I told the Premier that we want to be the Cultural Capital of Regional Queensland!

  13. Hi June, Might have known blogger wonderwoman would join in the discussion. I’m hoping the festival will be the best networking opportunity for all the writers and readers of the region. The last one was good – we got so much positive feed back i hope this one will be awesome.

  14. June, welcome to my blog. You are so right and networking is vital to promoting regional areas. I’m looking forward to the Tropical Writers Festival!

  15. I think promoting regional writing is about making connections locally and looking for opportunity, combined with finding and recognising capacity. Community partnerships, reaching out, encouraging literature. I just love it.

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