Joanita Wibowo


5 minutes with author Robyn Cadwallader

5 minutes with author Robyn Cadwallader

In 5 minutes with authorOver 60 asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Robyn Cadwallader, editor and writer based outside of Canberra. Her 2015 debut novel, The Anchoress won the ACT Book of the Year People’s Choice Award and a Canberra Critics’ Circle Award for fiction. Her second book, Book of Colours was released in April 2018. In addition to these two titles, Cadwallader has also written poetry, reviews, and non-fiction book Three Readings of the Thirteenth-Century Seinte Marherete. Over 60 spoke with Cadwallader about writing routine, soothing poetry, and the task of juggling between different projects. 

Over 60: What is your best writing tip?

Robyn Cadwallader: Back yourself. While it’s vital to read and be ready to learn from others, remember that only you can write with your voice and vision; don’t weaken it by trying to be someone else. That’s a certain way for doubt to creep in. Trust yourself, put down your words in your way.

What book(s) are you reading right now?

I’m reading Nigel Featherstone’s Bodies of Men, a beautiful love story set in World War II and I’m about to begin reading Melissa Lucashenko’s Too Much Lip. I’m also reading lots of books for my research about thirteenth-century England for the next novel.

What is your favourite literary quote?

Don’t just write what you know; write what you don’t know about what you know.

What book do you think more people should read?

I think people would be less anxious and would learn to be kinder to themselves and others and the natural world if they read Mary Oliver’s poetry. It’s easy to read and understand, but so full of gentle wisdom and love for the natural world.

Paperback, e-book or audiobook?

All three! I love the feel of a physical book in my hand. But when I’m travelling, my kindle lets me take with me whatever books I want. And on long car journeys, we always immerse ourselves in audiobooks.

What is your writing routine like?

I don’t plan my stories, so I usually begin the day writing in a kind of diary / notebook about anything and everything because it stops me being scared of the next unknown part of the story. I jot down where I’m at in the story, any questions or worries I have about a character or plot development; sometimes a conversation with myself about how the work is going. That usually loosens me up to start writing. Then it’s about six hours of writing, hopefully.

Which trope grinds your gears?

The neat, everything resolved, happy ever after ending that leaves no room for the reader to take the story further in their own mind.

How many projects do you do at a time?

One major project at a time. Beyond that, I’m also writing blog posts, newsletters and interviews, editing reviews for the online journal, Verity La, and keeping up with social media, so there is some juggling and learning to prioritise.