Click on the arrow above to listen to Siobhan’s reading.
Varuna has been funded by the Australia Council to produce a Varuna Writer-a-Day “app”. We will begin posting the writers who have recorded with us over the coming month. 365 of these will then be compiled as an “app” with a writer for every day of the year – available via the international iTunes store and able to be played on mobile devices like iPhones, Android phones, iPads etc – you need never be without inspiration. If you subscribe to this blog, you can already receive a daily reading via your email and even directed to your mobile phone. Contact Varuna if you’d like to be included.
Each app will include a photograph, a recording of the writer reading from their work, the text of their reading and a bio with live links.
Congratulations to those writers who’ve leapt in to get this exciting project started – we hope you enjoy our first writer Siobhan McHugh:
“Hi, I’m Siobhan McHugh and I write about real people, because I think hearing first-hand about meaningful moments and authentic experiences basically connects us, no matter where we come from.
One of my books, Minefields and Miniskirts, is about Australian women who were in Vietnam during the war. Like Elizabeth Burton, who at 20, abandoned her job as a hairdresser’s apprentice to become a go-go dancer for the troops. This is what she told me her new routine was like.
Excerpt Minefields and Miniskirts p.37
‘We went up in helicopters one time… You worked different places. We arrived where there was a bald hill, a steel girder and a tent. The boys set up the equipment and we went in the tent and got changed – fringe bikinis, that sort of thing. When we came out, there were thousands of guys, on tanks and trucks, the bald hill was a mass of people. They said that w stopped the war – that the Viet Cong were watching at the bottom of the hill, in the trees!’
I think that’s pretty surreal – who’d have thought a hairdresser’s apprentice from Wollongong could stop the war.
But the lack of Western females and the fraught atmosphere of a war zone had a tragic side. Elizabeth was gang raped, by eight American soldiers. Elizabeth had taken a stand against the racism so endemic at the time – this was 1968 at the height of the civil rights movement – and she’d disobeyed orders to mix only with whites. This got her into a lot of trouble, and even though she nearly died in the assault, she decided she couldn’t report the rape – that she wouldn’t be believed. It took years, and a fierce battle with herself, but she eventually came through it, a proud and passionate woman, true to what she believes in.
Real life is messy; the best of us are flawed and the worst of us are still part of humanity. But I’ve learned that adversity, malevolence and pain can bring insight and understanding, to help us make sense of what life’s about. That’s why I write non-fiction.”
ABOUT SIOBHAN McHUGH:
Siobhan is an award-winning author, broadcaster and oral historian. Her book, ‘The Snowy’, won the NSW Premier’s award for non-fiction, while ‘Cottoning On’ was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s History Prize. The stage adaptation of ‘Minefields and Miniskirts’ has played to over 50,000 people around Australia and is studied for the HSC. Siobhan’s radio work won a gold and bronze medal at the New York Radio Festival 2010. See www.mchugh.org
“Won a Varuna Writer’s Fellowship c.2004 and have been back to Varuna several times since. Nutted out the script for ‘Marrying Out’ in Eleanor’s studio one cold June – this radio documentary/feature about religious bigotry and family fatwas won a gold medal at the New York Radio Festival 2010. Have enjoyed many warm and stimulating conversations with other writers at Varuna – what a haven. As soon as I am unpacked, my productivity increases ten-fold!” – Siobhan McHugh
The Snowy – The People behind the Power, 1995, 1989
Minefields and Miniskirts, 2005, 1993
Cottoning On, 1996
Shelter from the Storm, 1999
My Story: Snowy: the Diary of Eva Fischer, 2003
My Story: Nick Scali, 2003
Wee Girls, women writing from an Irish perspective, 1996
Many Voices: reflections on Indigenous Child Separation, 2003,
Asimov’s Elephant, 2003