Clare Strahan is an emerging Melbourne writer who has banged out a novel on a manual typewriter by candlelight and is sure that must count for something. She has published a few poems and a couple of short stories, is a freelance editor and flies about the twittersphere as 9fragments. Clare chats with Overland about her story ‘Finders Keepers’ published in Overland 202.
Tell us a little about your journey as a writer
I’ve been writing for a long time. In 1984, I went off to a professional writing course at Swinburne and dropped out in the first year. But I kept writing (fiction, short story, poetry, children’s) and identified myself as a writer, even claiming it as my occupation on my daughter’s birth certificate in 1993. I had written my first novel manuscript by the time I was 24, the second by 28, along with a few folios of poetry. Far too sensitive (egotistic?) to accept constructive criticism or rejection, my few attempts at being published put me off the idea forever.
Forever turned out to be longer than I thought. In 2008, browsing for a course to finish my teaching degree, I came across RMIT’s professional writing & editing course. My heart sang. The great lecturers and cohort of talented writers and editors I met there, my development as an editor and meeting my mentor, Cath Crowley, shifted my thinking: I became ambitious again to be published. Workshopping, editing the work of others, writing for the Overland blog and blogging my short fiction, I’ve learned to manage feedback and understand its gift.
What led you to write ‘Finders Keepers’?
‘Finders Keepers’ was originally written as a commitment to my Short Story II class with Ania Walwicz at RMIT. I had just read Margaret Atwood’s Oryx & Crake and it rubbed off on me. I read a rambling diatribe I’d written long ago in an old notebook – with a feather dipped in ink, no less. In desperation to at least ‘begin’, I typed it up and went from there. A fraction of that ink-and-feather poetry has made it to the printed page.
As soon as I had the character names, I knew them and could see the derelict shopping complex rising from the landscape – and I knew they didn’t want to go in there. I was intrigued by the world of ‘Finders Keepers’, modestly pleased with the draft I sent in as a submission and very glad that Overland’s fiction editor, Jane Gleeson White, asked me the essential questions that solved the riddles the story had set me.