A Creative Hero: Carmel Bird

Hero is a term that is easily thrown about these days. Skilled sporting stars are named heroes, as are people who complete an extraordinary act in an otherwise ordinary life. It is a badge that I’m a little bit wary of, yet I like the idea of a creative hero.

For me a creative hero is someone who is versatile in their field, passionate not only about the act of writing but the craft of it – being willing and generous in their sharing of knowledge. They would be able to write in various styles and genres, from poetry to prose, non-fiction to fantasy, offering a breadth of approaches and worlds for their readers to enjoy.

A creative hero would have an impact on readers and writers alike, perhaps have a wider profile than many writers, and be advocates for the power of creativity.

There are many eligible candidates out there, both living and otherwise, but if I was put on the spot I would have to say Carmel Bird is an Australian contender for my creative hero. I came across Bird’s fiction years ago with a mystery novel Open for Inspection, and have read many of her short stories in various compilations.

Her contribution to the craft of writing is extensive, through workshops, classes, and author talks. My introduction to the world of writing via Bird’s viewpoint was through a chance finding of a second-hand copy of Dear Writer. I found it in the wonderful book town of Clunes in Victoria, and enjoyed reading through the correspondence between an aspiring writer and their patient and wise tutor. The warmth and humour made it stand apart from many of the books that I’ve scoured over the years, and I was pleased when it was re-released a couple of years ago with some updates as Dear Writer Revisited. There is a review on the NSW Writers Centre site here.

There is an extensive interview with Bird on the Sydney Review of Books site written by Rachel Morley. This provides insights into Bird’s creative process and practice, including travelling with a small paper notebook and capturing three good things from each day, from simple moments to more complex events. Bird also outlines the importance of observation for a writer, of how the act of writing is a way of making sense of aspects of life.

For me a creative hero is someone who I admire, with work I respect and enjoy, who is prolific and inventive and has an evident joy in the act and art of creation.

Who is your creative hero?

[Photo: detail from stained glass door in Hydro Majestic Hotel, Medlow Bath]

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10 thoughts on “A Creative Hero: Carmel Bird

  1. JML297 – It was pretty nice and quite astonishing to be greeted by your post this morning. Thank you for your kind words. I loved the image of the window, and its provenance.

  2. I’m going through an E.M. Forster phase. He not only wrote outstanding novels, but I read a collection of radio broadcast scripts he did for BBC radio. Some people are not only prolific, but their talent reaches beyond books. I’m a little envious of that!

    • What a creative inspiration, Michelle! And I can relate to envy at the output and scope of this creativity. May it continue to inspire us in our own work 😊

  3. Lovely post. Have you ever read ‘Steal Like an Artist’ by Austin Kleon? One of his ideas is creating a kind of hierarchy/family tree of your creative influences. Thanks for sharing, really enjoyed reading.

    • Hi Joe, thank you for your comments and for recommending Kleon. I’ll have to track down the book and I’m just about to watch his TED talk – thanks for the tip!

  4. You’ve tantalized me by introducing me to an author I was unfamiliar with. I immediately went to our local library website and they don’t have any of her books. What a disappointment. The only mention I could find of Carmel Bird was in a 2016 book called “Crime Scenes,” which appears to be an anthology of “short crime fiction stories from some of Australia’s best known crime writers.” Ah, well . . . I’ll keep looking. She sounds wonderful!

    • Thanks for your kind comments, Donna, and what a shame there aren’t any of her books in your immediate orbit. But keep an eye out – I’ve gathered quite a collection over the years this way. It’s funny how some books seem to gravitate into your life at times!

  5. Great post, JML297. I’d agree with your assessment of Carmel Bird. She is so versatile as you say, and so open to new ideas. She’s cheeky, but intelligently so – so much that you sometimes wonder if you’ve kept up properly.

    I’m not going to answer your question because there are several candidates, but Carmel Bird would certainly be up there.

    • Thank you for your comments, and for pointing out the cheeky intelligence that is a trademark of Bird’s work. I’m glad that she is also one of your creative heroes.

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