In conversation with Mark Henshaw

Words by Jenni Curry, ACTWC Blogger in Residence

I met with a very interesting Canberra based author, Mark Henshaw, for a coffee and a chat. He has recently published his second book, The Snow Kimono, and taken on the new role as Creative Producer for Literature at Gorman Arts Centre.

The influence of living in other countries on his writingThe Snow Kimono

Mark has lived in a number of different countries throughout the years, which included studying in Germany at Heidlberg University. As The Snow Kimono is set in a few countries, I asked Mark if his previous travel experiences have impacted on his writing. His response was to state that ‘it was the other way around.’

He is a curious person, a key element to being a writer. He believes that his curiosity and the Australian habit of looking out into the world influenced his decision to travel in the first place. Whilst studying in Germany, he often went on day or short trips to other German cities and further afield. He found that this experience expanded his understanding of other cultures, and exposed him to a wide variety of people. This helped him to develop his understanding of the world and, to write this particular book.

Writing The Snow Kimono

Mark wrote the first chapter of The Snow Kimono in 1994 and was fortunate to have this section published in a collection of stories, edited by Helen Daniel and Robert Dessaix. The opening in the original print has changed little with the full publication, except that it is now shorter.

He left the National Gallery, and the workforce in 2011 with the intention to write full-time. This was prompted by a fear that if he left it much longer, he may eventually, run out of time to complete the book. In the following year, he began to write his manuscript. He would write each morning, and work until around 1pm when he would no longer be productive, but ensured he always left enough of a thought trail to pick up the next day. He said that at first, the words were slow to come to him each morning. But with practice, he would begin writing within minutes of sitting down at his desk. This was helped by thinking about the book whilst getting ready in the morning.

Mark initially signed with another publishing house, but felt that perhaps The Snow Kimono and publisher were not suited to each other. He withdrew from this contract and was pleased to find Text Publishing. He believes this has been a very fortunate move. The book has since been pushed into international markets and received prestigious awards such as the NSW Premier’s Literary Award Christina Stead Prize for Fiction.

Shifting back to work, and working at Gorman House

Gorman House was lucky to snatch Mark from the jaws of full-time writing, and has since brought him into the new role of Creative Producer for Literature.

After a career at the National Gallery of Australia, Mark was eager to sample something in the literature field. He said that during his career in the visual arts, he would often peer over the fence towards literature. He is, however, someone who is interested in making a job work for him. Which is why he was pleased to discover that Joseph Falsone, a respected Arts Manager, was the director of Ainslie and Gorman Arts Centres.

He still writes, but wanted to work as well because, ‘writing isn’t everything. It’s about everything, but it is not everything.’

A future book

Mark currently works around 3 hours a day on his new novel. He believes the manuscript has an idea which is as strong as the idea he had for The Snow Kimono. It may take him 2 years, but he is content to write regularly and trust that over time, a book will emerge. His philosophy is this; ‘Good things have happened, so more good things must happen—but you must be at your desk.’

Jenni CurryJenni Curry has a Masters in Creative Writing and is a 2014 HARDCOPY alumni. She writes fiction novels and short stories, many of which have been seen in Australian and UK anthologies including Time to Write and How Higher Education Feels. She finds fiction simpler than reality and continues to search for the perfect world to live in.

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