Spotlight on Dr. Anita Heiss

BWRC shines the spotlight on four-time workshop facilitator, Dr. Anita Heiss. Dr. Heiss will be presenting Writing Faction at the 2012 Black Writers Reunion & Conference in Fort Lauderdale. Her workshop is designed for those who want to understand both the benefits of weaving real life stories and characters into their novels, using an ethical and creative approach while protecting themselves legally.

Dr. Anita Heiss

What would you like attendees to know about you, your background, strengths, or interests that is not included in your bio?

I am passionate about social justice for Aboriginal Australians; I do a lot of volunteering related to literacy and youth organisations in terms of governance and role modelling. I am highly self-motivated and have been running my researching and writing consultancy – Curringa Communications – since 1994. I also love Lindt chocolate.

How did you get started writing?

My first job out of university (in 1992) was researching and writing comic scripts for a company called Streetwize Comics. We produced informational  / educational comics for young people with low-literacy, and covered issues that would help them in life: their legal rights, health information, access to education, employment and training and so on.

What advice would you give to someone who has never attended a writers’ conference?

Go to the sessions you think might best assist your current stage of writing. Swap notes with a colleague who attends a session you can’t be at. Be sure and use time outside of sessions to talk books and writing with other writers. But note: don’t force yourself or your book onto someone else. Be grateful for every conversation.

Who is your session particularly suited for, i.e., what interests, experience, skill level should they have to benefit most from your session?

My session on writing faction is designed for those who want to understand both the benefits of weaving real life stories and characters into their novels, using an ethical and creative approach while protecting themselves legally. Skill level: emerging to established.

If 2012 will not be your first, what was your first experience with BWRC?

I first attended the BWRC in Tampa, Florida in 2008 and was in awe of the coordination, programming and the level of enthusiasm of those who had travelled across the country (and some internationally) to participate. I blogged some of the advice from the presenters after the conference. You can read about it here I returned in 2009 for the BWRC in Las Vegas and I blogged about it for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. In 2010, I attended the very memorable conference in Atlanta, Georgia and blogged about it here

Why do you keep coming back to BWRC?

I travel across the oceans to attend the BWRC because it provides me with professional development and networking opportunities. As writing and publishing is my career, it’s important to participate in the industry on an international level.

What do you believe separates BWRC from other writers’ conferences?

The collegiate level between writers is extraordinary. It’s a wonderfully supportive atmosphere especially for emerging writers seeking some sense of place in an otherwise competitive industry.

How did you master the topic you’ll be presenting at BWRC?

Am I Black Enough For You?I live what I teach. I have written four adults novels and three children’s novels (published by Random House, ABC Books, Scholastic and Oxford University Press) using the methodology I will share at the Black Writers’ Reunion and conference.

If you were to describe your upcoming session/presentation in one word, what would it be?


At what other writers’ conferences have you presented a session?

I travel around Australia running creative writing workshops in schools, participating on panels at writers’ festivals and presenting keynote addresses at conferences. I have been on the program of the Sydney Writers’ Festival the last 15 years straight, and it is the third largest in the world (80,000+ visitors per year).

What are some of the projects you have in the works? Are there any in particular you’d like us to look out for in the near future

I am currently writing my fifth adult novel, which will be released through Simon & Schuster in 2014. Right now, I am still doing a lot of promotional work for my latest book, Am I Black Enough For You?, which has been surrounded by controversy in the media following a national court case against Australia’s most widely-read columnist who was found guilty of breaching racial discrimination laws in Australia in relation to articles in which he discussed myself and other high profile Aboriginal Australians.

Who is one author that you look up to and why?

I really admire the work of Alex Miller, an Australian author who writes stories about the Australian land with characters that matter (or should matter). These stories although in novels are real in that they deal with some of our most challenging aspects of history and social issues.

What is one piece of advice that you’d give all aspiring authors?

To read! I meet too many people who say they want to be writers, but don’t understand that reading is their training. You must read across genres, geography, genders, and cultures to get an idea of voice, style, and structure. You also need to read to see what you’re competing with in the marketplace. For my tips on being a writer, click here: So You Want To Be A Writer.

What is something you wish someone would have told you about being an author?

That it really is a lot of hard work! Most people think the life of the author is one of glory and glamour. Let’s not get confused: I am glamorous. The life itself is HARD WORK!

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2 Replies to “Spotlight on Dr. Anita Heiss”

  1. “don’t force yourself or your book onto someone else. Be grateful for every conversation.” that is good advice that pays dividends.

    I too am often surprised by the amount of authors (mostly screenplays for me) that do not read! If you write you must read! That is homework, training, and market research all in one simple task – read.

    Looking forward to “Am I black Enough For You”. Best of luck.

  2. Writing is my dream life. But many writers will tell you, in the modern era our job seems to demand everything but writing. In a typical week I spend hours or days on non-writing chores: fielding interviews, reviewing reprint requests and copy, updating websites, responding to particularly crucial requests, administering the Bellwether Prize, answering queries from translators, reviewing archives before they’re moved off-site, bookkeeping, giving at least a glance to the ten or twenty books sent to me by their authors or editors that week, puzzling over foreign-rights contracts, and supporting other writers and worthy organizations as best I can. When I release a new book, the “fielding interviews” portion of that list blows up into a full-time job. That and traveling for a book tour remove me from writing life for months, and I miss it, with an ache similar to missing my husband or children when they’re far away. I tend to choke up when someone asks me on book tour, “What are you writing now?” Nothing, would be the honest answer, but I wish I were! Still, I understand that meeting readers is an important part of my job, so I go willingly. The hard part is calling it off. The same book will be released in other countries as the translations come out; the requests don’t ever stop. I have to walk away, with firm resolve, from well-intentioned pressures that would keep me talking about the last book and its topics forevermore. It is painful for me to disappoint people, but Ido it to save the life of my next book.

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