G’day Vin, and welcome to the Showcase! Let’s kick things off, please and thanks, by introducing you with your bio:
(Vin) I live in Melbourne, Australia. I’m somewhere between a writer and a journalist, with some editing inevitably in the mix. Only two books to my name: a textbook about professional writing I co-wrote 20 years ago (with my good friend Gina Perry, now a world expert on the psychologist Stanley Milgram); and a self-published collection of vignettes, Jacaranda Avenue, about 15 or so years ago. Editors used to find spaces for my gentle stories in the softer parts of newspapers. For the past ten years, I’ve been contributing to the Australian edition of The Big Issue. Day jobs have been writing for organizations that support worthy causes.
Q. (Bill: I genuinely enjoy your writing and musical collaboration.) Tell us what you feel you’re best known for?
A. Nothing especially. Initially, quiet stories about life and family and suburbia and grief and sport and the beach. More recently – the past eight years – I’ve gone from writer/journo working alone at a desk to founding editor and stage director of a project called Stereo Stories. It started as a website for people to write personal stories about favourite songs. Then it became a tightly scripted concert in which writers narrate their stories, backed by the ever-versatile Stereo Stories band. Audiences at writers’ festivals seem to connect with it pretty well. They’re not used to seeing a band up on the stage!
Q. (I love the multimedia.) What would you say brought you here?
A. Cyberspace. Serendipity. Fate. My parents Margaret and Ron. A bicycle, a 10 speed Soma Wolverine that includes parts from my previous bike, a 27 speed Kona Sutra. (Yes, that was the brand name of the bike and, no, I never needed all 27 gears. Melbourne’s pretty flat.)
Q. (And I thought my elementary school classmate with a 3 speed was a showoff!) Setting aside every Kona Sutra joke I could think of, which funnily enough was 27, who’s been a role model or mentor to you?
A. How far back do you want to go? In high school, I studied the Australian poet Bruce Dawe. His work still resonates. Lately, I’ve been re-reading Garrison Keillor: Radio Romance, Liberty, The Book Of Guys.
Q. (The Book of Guys was my intro to Keillor – timeless insights and humour.) And what’s your advice to others?
A. Look left, right and left again before crossing the road. (I have a part-time job as a school crossing supervisor.) Oh, in terms of writing? Put the right words in the right places. Get the rhythm right. And if you’re sending a story to an editor send it to the right person at the right time.
Q. (Speaking of timeless insights and humour, well said!) What are you currently working on?
A. The next Stereo Stories concert will be at the Bendigo Writers Festival in May, so I’ve been working with half a dozen guest writers on turning their stories about their favourite songs into performance pieces, and then working with the band on the cues within the stories. It’s all about creating audience anticipation because when I’m MC-ing I never tell the audience the name of each song. And contributions are still trickling into the Stereo Stories website after all these years: we’re nearly up to 600 stories.
Q. (I love that engagement with your audiences, and kudos on the success of Stereo Stories.) And for a radical shift, tell us, what are your favourite: book, album/s, and food dish?
A. Book? Along with those by Garrison Keillor and Bruce Dawe? Australian author Steven Carroll is terrific. And I’ve only just read My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. Crikey! What a writer.
Album/s? How much time have you got, Bill? The latest Bob Dylan album. Any Rickie Lee Jones album. Jackson Browne, The Blackeyed Susans, The Mercurials, Paul Kelly, Springsteen, Goanna, Garland Jeffreys, kd lang, The Gotan Project …
Food dish? Middle eastern: falafel.
Q. (Ah yes, the album question may’ve been unfair.) So let’s leap to a trademark Quirky Question. Make a choice: Finding Nemo or Finding Dory?
A. I prefer finding stingrays when I go snorkelling though it can sometimes be a case of “Careful what you pray for.”
(Bill) Crikey indeed! Thank you, Vin, this has been great fun. Wishing you a safe and successful festival event in May and many more Stereo Stories for the rest of us to enjoy around the globe.
Find Vin at stereostories.com and on YouTube. And thanks again for joining our Showcase and supporting writers and creativity!
Bill Arnott is the bestselling author of the Gone Viking travel memoirs (Gone Viking: A Travel Saga, Gone Viking II: Beyond Boundaries, Gone Viking III: The Holy Grail) and A Season on Vancouver Island. He’s won numerous book awards and received a Fellowship at London’s Royal Geographical Society for his expeditions. When not trekking with a small pack and journal, Bill can be found on Canada’s west coast, where he lives near the sea on Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh land.