Your book Six Bedrooms is an anthology of coming-of-age short stories. Was much of this drawn from your own experience, or was it mostly research?
I don’t do any research at all for my fiction! All of my stories come from the seed of something that has happened – or better still, not quite happened – in my life, and I grow it from there.
In your online course, you’ll be giving regular feedback on participants’ short fiction. How vital has feedback been in your own career?
I have a few trusted readers of my work before it goes to agents, journals or publishers. Feedback at its best is like a mirror – it shows you what you’ve done, which is sometimes hard to see without it. The feedback I receive – and give – is about finding out what the author wants, rather than what the teacher/critic wants, and finding the best way to achieve that. You begin by being accurate about what you see on the page. The thing I most value in my chosen readers is the ability to tell the truth – and I try to stick to that rule when I am reading and providing feedback for someone else.
Why were you first drawn to the short story form?
Reading Alice Munro was the thing that made me most want to write the short story. It took me years to figure out why she was so good – and why I never tired of rereading her. Her bold compressions and leaps through time, her insistence on the most shaming of truths, and her astounding maturity are all the things that make her remarkable. And what I mean by maturity is not age: it’s a command of one’s own psyche and its flaws – the kind of command that means her readers always feel confident, never duped or flattered. I once read an article in which Kurt Cobain said that Nirvana were really ‘just a Pixies tribute band’. I love the modesty and warmth and respect in this statement. I’m really just an Alice Munro tribute band.
Tegan Bennett Daylight taught writing at the University of Technology Sydney for more than 15 years, and runs writing workshops and mentoring programs at all levels. Her recent collection of short stories, Six Bedrooms, was shortlisted for the Stella Award, the ALS Gold Medal, and the Steele Rudd Award.
Online Feedback: Short Stories with Tegan Bennett Daylight will take place online over five months from 7 April to 4 August. Book your spot here >