Released this week: Our Inside Voices, with one of the largest assemblage of Queensland writers and poets published in single volume, reflects on the COVID-19 experience. ‘We are not quite sure what is real, anymore. Have you heard the birds singing?’ Mona Ryder, Fractured
Published in July 2020 by AndAlso Books & Paradigm Print Media, Our Inside Voices is a collection of creative writing that looks beyond quick journalism or abstract statistics to offer deeper reflection on the cultural and social dimensions of the pandemic. Our Inside Voices features essays, memoirs, poems, and short stories by more than 50 writers, including Andrea Baldwin, Nick Earls, Raymond Evans, Pat Hoffie, Angelina Hurley, Toni Risson, Murad Talukdar, Warren Ward, Samuel Wagan Watson, and Jessica White.
All contributors have an association with Queensland, most still residing here, and at more than 50 writers and poets this is possibly the largest number of Queensland writers ever published in a single volume. Edited by Caroline Gardam, Louise Martin-Chew, Edwina Shaw, and Nathan Shepherdson, the compilation was put together over a three-month period, and documents a unique creative moment in Australia’s cultural history.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused severe and sudden changes that many people could never have imagined. In Our Inside Voices, writers reflect on themes ranging from the life-changing to the everyday, examining perspectives that zoom from global to domestic. As well as this diversity in style, the book encompasses a broad sweep of genre, including essays, memoirs, poems, and short stories.
Where some authors describe a literal, lived COVID-19 experience, others use this moment as a starting point for creative non-fiction, deep reflection, or fresh fiction. What links these stories, apart from the authors’ geography, is the immediacy of the moment, generating a collection that documents a slice of time: a clutch of three months in 2020, to be exact.
Commissioning editor Matthew Wengert is no stranger to pandemic stories, having published City in Masks: How Brisbane Fought the Spanish Flu in 2019. “I spent many months researching Queensland’s experience of the ‘Spanish Flu’ pandemic, and what was most obviously missing from the written history were the personal stories in people’s own words,” says Wengert. “There are mountains of newspaper articles, government reports, and medical statistics –– but where are the stories, the narratives, the deeper reflections on what they went through?”
Wengert believes that Our Inside Voices will join other works to ensure that future generations hear our stories of how we faced up to COVID-19. Wengert conceived of the concept in late March, as Australians were being rocked by global shockwaves (economic and health) – even as our own COVID-19 epidemic trajectory remained unclear. In this book, Wengert and publishing partner Ben Aitchison of Paradigm Print Media sought to provide creative, as well as financial, benefits for contributors: delivering a destination for creative work, a job for a printer, and a product for bookstores.
Our Inside Voices is available at Brisbane’s leading bookstores: Avid Reader – Books @ Stones – Dymocks (Indooroopilly) – Folio Books – Mary Ryan’s (Milton & New Farm) – Museum of Brisbane Shop – QAGOMA Store – Queensland Museum Shop – Riverbend Books – State Library of Queensland Shop. It is also available to purchase online at www.andalsobooks.com/ourinsidevoices.
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