The Secret Life of Writers is a series of rambling conversations with some of the world’s most interesting, visionary writers and creative icons about what they’re working on now, and how they balance their art with everyday life.
The series is hosted by Jemma Birrell, formerly of the Sydney Writers' Festival and Shakespeare & Company in Paris, and now the Creative Director at Tablo. Subscribe to hear a new episode every second Thursday.
Emily St John Mandel on the writing life, imagining a flu pandemic in Station Eleven vs the reality, The Glass Hotel and finding moral grey areas
Featuring: deciding to write professionally, dealing with rejection, finding an agent and getting published for the first time, the good and bad of 2020, living in New York during the pandemic, the terrifying mystery of illness, the conversation between Emily’s novels, Ponzi schemes, ghosts and the counterlife. The discussion weaves between Emily’s various books from her first novel Last Night in Montreal to Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel.
Alison Bell on writing and acting for TV, the joys of collaborating, her Netflix hit ‘The Letdown’ and what’s coming next
Featuring: Giving up your darlings, getting a TV show up, portraying authentic women on screen, adapting Melanie Cheng's 'Australia Day', working on an interactive romcom, reading recommendations and the difference between working in America and Australia.
Inua Ellams on poetry as freedom, theatre for the human spirit, the oral storytelling tradition in Nigeria and themes of immigration, displacement and destiny
Featuring: memories of childhood, the international hit 'The Barber Shop Chronicles', the pleasure of writing for television, the huge impact of the pandemic on artists, The National Theatre’s 'Three Sisters', adapting 'The Little Prince' into an Afro-futurist world facing ecological disaster, the process of drafting, The Midnight Run, 'The Half-God of Rainfall', a reading from the new book of poetry 'The Actual' and the audio documentary 'Nuskka Is Burning' on Nigeria’s first indigenous university that’s produced formidable voices like Chinua Achebe and Chimamanda Adichie.
Sylvia Whitman on running Shakespeare and Company bookshop in Paris, the famous history, how books get you through testing times and the joys of matchmaking people and books.
Featuring: the beauty and mysticism of Paris, witnessing the fire at Notre Dame, what Sylvia Beach and Adrienne Monnier did for France and publishing, the illustrious writers who’ve been associated with the shop, Sylvia's father George Whitman, taking in strangers and the tumbleweed tradition, the man who stayed seven years in the rare books room, buying book collections across Paris, finding an unpublished novel by Gregory Corso stuffed behind the loo, wonderful reading recommendations and a poem in the morning like a shot of espresso.
Sylvia Whitman started running the iconic Parisian bookshop Shakespeare and Company in 2004 when she was 23 years old and now co-manages it with her partner David Delannet. She took up the reins from her father, George Whitman, who founded the bookshop in 1951. Sylvia breathed freshness, energy and new life into the shop while also continuing its most loved traditions such as having writers, called tumbleweeds sleeping amongst the shelves. She’s had many creative ventures over the years – she’s launched a festival, opened a café, grown the bookshop and created a contest for unpublished novellas – but the beating heart of everything is, of course, the beautiful bookshop itself. Since it first opened it has been a haven for everyone who’s walked through its doors. There’s been many descriptions of it over the years: Henry Miller called it ‘a wonderland of books’, James Baldwin described it as ‘The old curiosity shop’ and Anaïs Nin wrote it was ‘a house of gentle warmth, with walls of books and tea ceremonies’.
Daniel Morden on why ancient myths are still relevant today, 30 years as a traditional storyteller and the sleeping giants beneath Wales
Featuring: when stories shapeshift, separation of the beloved, the Cassandra myth in #metoo, performance as a test of character and ecstatic poetry.
Daniel Morden is one of the world’s most popular tellers of traditional stories. He’s been telling stories to adults and children for over thirty years, in venues great and small from palaces to prisons, from The National Theatre, to the Barbican and Broadway. Daniel’s repertoire ranges from fairytales and myths of love and loss to classics like 'The Odyssey'. He’s written or co-written eleven books, and is also part of a longstanding storytelling and musical collaboration called 'The Devil’s Violin'. Daniel has been awarded the Hay Festival medal and a Welsh Books Council award and is currently a visiting fellow at the University of South Wales. As BBC radio has said ‘To experience Daniel Morden in full flight is an amazing thing’.
Pip Williams on The Dictionary of Lost Words, a room of one’s own and searching for a life worth living
Featuring: the history of language, living in Italy, getting published for the first time, the role of mentors, and the joy of writing 'The Dictionary of Lost Words'.
Pip Williams was born in the UK, grew up in Sydney and now calls the Adelaide Hills home. She has written the memoir 'One Italian Summer' and 'The Dictionary of Lost Words' a novel that’s only recently come out in Australia and has already sold over 50,000 copies in just a few months. Later this year it will be released in many other territories throughout the world. The novel is a beautiful, all-engrossing tale, imagining another story behind the Oxford English Dictionary. It’s also the story of a young woman growing into herself and a story about finding and pursuing your life’s work and passion. If you haven't yet read it, order it immediately at your local independent bookshop.