The Stella Interview: Margo Lanagan

The Stella Prize chats with Margo Lanagan, author of Sea Hearts.

“I admire feminist writers for not caving under the weight of the issues they face.”

Have you ever received a grant, residency or fellowship to write?

 I have. I’ve received several from the Literature Board (including a residency in the Nancy Keesing Studio on Paris, and a spell at AFTRS) and one from Arts NSW. Grants are wonderful for when you get exhausted trying to fit the writing in around everything else; they let you take a slab of time off day-job work, or go part-time, and focus on a novel. They’re also very heartening; it’s wonderful when an official body agrees that writing is what you’re good at, and buys you some time for it.

How do you know when a story is finished?

You test it. It’s best to have put it aside for a while, but sometimes a deadline means that you can only leave it overnight. Then you read it through with your full attention, preferably without interruption, preferably aloud. If you only have to pause and fix up a few verbal glitches, on the way to the end, it’s done. If you realise that there’s a wobbly paragraph here and there, you have to mark those as you go, then go back and fix them. If one or more whole sections (or the absence of sections) gives you a sick or troubled feeling, you need to admit it and gather your resources to fully immerse yourself again.

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