This essay was originally written circa 2011 as part of the Truthful Fictions set of eighteen OZLIT essays. Turning it into one of the mini-mags series came about like this. Midway through 2014 I was contacted by Deb Foskey, of Cabanandra, in the far north-east of Victoria, to ask if I would choose and read something about Gippsland at a meeting in Bairnsdale to which she planned to invite the many Gippslanders who were interested in forming a writers' group or network. I was very attracted to this idea because my own early days in the region had often been lonely, with few kindred spirits to encourage me to do the writing which was so important to me. I'd written an historical column for the Bairnsdale Advertiser while I lived in the town, and on leaving it I wrote my first published book, a description of Gippsland as I'd found it. Gippsland, however, didn't let me go, and many years later I wrote Wainwrights' Mountain. After another long gap I wrote a third Gippsland book, The Pilgrims. I liked the idea of Gippsland as a place where writers might flourish. The mountains and the lowlands, the rivers and lakes, all seemed to need eloquence as a human response, and indeed, as Patrick Morgan makes clear in his book Foothill Farmers, Gippsland has long counted a variety of writers among its residents. Many of these writers had not been known to me but I'd been strongly affected by my contact with Hal Porter and he, as he makes clear in his third autobiographical book, The Extra, was an admirer of Eve Langley's The Pea Pickers. I wanted the writers of Gippsland, scattered far and wide as they might be, and of all types of character, to be conscious of the writing tradition that had already formed in their region, so I dug out the Eve Langley essay (which mentions Hal also) in Truthful Fictions, and had it printed, with the intention that when the meeting was held to form the Writers Network, I would have something to give those who'd shown enough interest to come.
The etching on the cover was done by David Armfield in 1970 on commission from William Heinemann P/L, the publishers who were preparing to bring out my first ever book, Hail & Farewell! An Evocation of Gippsland.
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