by Lydia Roberts
Yumna Kassab's words of encouragement to budding authors
IT COULD take just 15 minutes a day to turn your dreams into tomorrow's bestseller.
That's the advice from writer Yumna Kassab, a past-winner of the Thunderbolt Prize for Crime Writing (Poetry).
Kassab, from Western Sydney, wrote her Australiana stories while living and working in Tamworth.
Her first book of short stories, The House of Youssef, was listed for prizes including the NSW Premier's Literary Award and The Stella Prize, so Kassab understands the process behind writing.
"Write for 15 minutes a day," she says.
"Don’t throw the writing out. Don’t tear it up. The writing will add up and when you come back to it later, even if it seems average, you’ll start to notice a progression.
It comes down to two words: trust and writing
"Writing is very much about trust: trusting your own experiences, your own voice, trusting that maybe you have a slightly different angle to everyone else, trusting that if you are patient, your range will improve and that this is going to take time.
"So it comes down to two words: trust and writing."
Kassab branched out into writing after studying medical science at Macquarie University and neuroscience at Sydney University.
But it was during her time living and working in the New England, having taken up a job in Tamworth in 2018, she drew inspiration for her book Australiana. That will be published in March next year by Ultimo Press, as part of a three-book deal in which her third novel, The Lovers, will be published in 2023.
"There are so many towns that I love [in the New England] and then there are places that are smaller than towns," Kassab says.
"Uralla is an obvious one and Nundle is another. I like Murrurundi. There are places that I found very special; Gostwyk, Dangar’s Gorge, Glen Innes, Sawn Rocks and Warrumbungle.
"The view at the top of Flagstaff Mountain in the hills behind Tamworth is a particular favourite."
Much of Kassab's stay in the area was during the drought, something she found hard to ignore.
"The drought was a subject the way the weather is discussed in most other places," Kassab says.
"What struck me also was how little the drought registered in Sydney news. Also, it is fair to say that everyone was affected by the drought to various degrees. And the effect wasn’t necessarily as obvious as low rainfall and empty dams.
"The effects of the drought seeped deeply into communities. It affected mental health, it affected how many stores there were on the main street, it affected how easily people could pay their mortgages."
Kassab is mulling whether to launch Australiana in Tamworth.
"I'm hoping that by the time release rolls around, things are more normal in terms of gatherings," she says.
"It would be lovely to celebrate this with the Tamworth crew."