Killing it with passion

Kathleen Loxton catches up with crime writer and lecturer, Meg Vann

“Well, I like to introduce myself in meetings by saying, ‘Hi, I’m Meg and I like to murder people in my imagination.’ So, that often serves as a good icebreaker, a good way for people to get to know me. Of course, this is because I’m a crime writer, and I’ve always been fascinated with crime and thriller stories. From even before I could read and write, I was making up crime and thriller stories…”

A woman of many talents, Meg grew up in a family of lawyers, spending hours reading the likes of Agatha Christie. One thing her favourite books had in common, was that they included female protagonists who used their intellect and physical strength, as well as their emotional and relationship insights, to solve crimes and achieve justice. Carrying this with her, Meg forged her own path and was the first woman in her family to attend university.

Today, Meg’s career unites her passion for community development through storytelling, education and experimentation. On top of publishing novels, short stories and research papers, Meg co-founded Corella Press, headed up Queensland Writers Centre as CEO and continues to lecture at The University of Queensland. She has also been a part of the Australian Council for the Arts, Arts Queensland and Varuna, the National Writers’ House.

Talking of work, conversation turned to Stephen King’s notion that inspiration doesn’t come visit you ‘like a magical fairy’. Instead, Meg takes a practical approach: “Inspiration tends to happen to those who show up. It’s very hard for the muse to find us if we’re off watching Netflix — it’s a lot easier for the muse to find me if I’m sitting in front of the computer or sitting with my notebook writing, so the muse knows where I am. I love Stephen King’s notion too of perseverance. As a young writer he received many, many, many rejections and he would proudly spike them on his old-fashioned writing desk.”

It is clear through her work that Meg advocates art which represents equity, fairness and inclusion. As Meg put it, “Stories are made richer when we have an inclusive array of voices in our story telling and work in different formats.”

Mentoring is also something that Meg feels passionate about, and helping emerging voices into creative careers, wherever they are from, is key, “so that everyone gets the great privilege and pleasure of seeing themselves reflected through stories.”

Creating opportunities for the future of creative Queensland is high priority. Of Corella Press, Meg said, “Associate Professor Kim Wilkins and I established Corella Press two years ago, because we felt that in Queensland there wasn’t enough opportunities for our students to have hands-on experience with all the business of publishing, from acquiring stories, to editing them and putting them through a publication workflow to produce a beautiful work of fiction.”

Growing up on our sun-kissed shores plays an integral role in inspiration for Meg too, as she described, “It’s just wonderful to see there’s a real love of physical adventure and love of nature on the Gold Coast, and I think that’s visible in my stories, and in the stories I publish — that sense of wildness. I’d like to think of having that part of my Gold Coast experience with me.”

Imagination and marketplace, however, create a complicated balancing act, Meg noted, saying, “I think for any person called to a creative life it can be tricky, because there’s no clear pathway… It’s a very demanding profession or passion in terms of constantly believing in ourselves, putting in the practical steps and engaging.”

What’s her next steps then? Meg’s 2020 is shaping up to be a thrilling year, with her starting her PHD in creative writing and completing her first-ever ghost story (due out in an anthology later this year). Not to mention, Corella Press will be publishing its next work, Man or Devil: Tales of the Australian Gothic.

Meg’s final piece of advice is a touching one: “Storytelling is a craft; anyone can learn to do it well if they have the dedication to practice it and if they have good teachers. So, I would encourage people interested in telling their story to get involved in communities where they have good teachers and role models, where they are encouraged to develop their talent.”

Websites: megvann.com and austlit.edu.au/corellapress Keep up with Meg via Facebook (@megvannwriter) and twitter (@meg_vann).

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