Jarrah's 'small town' language resonates in 'big town'
MOVING back to 'small town' and working in 'big town' was the right decision for Jarrah Dundler as a writer.
It has enabled him to bring up two young children, work part-time as a mental health peer worker and get him chosen to part of the Byron Writers Festival residency program.
He is now publicising his debut novel, Hey Brother, and about to be a panellist at the festival next week.
Hey Brother is a coming-of-age story of a tough kid from the bush, based on his upbringing in Kyogle ('small town'), whose world comes crashing down on his shoulders.
Critics have described the book as a "devastating portrait of youth, rage and tenderness” , and Dundler as "a writer to watch”.
Dundler says moving back to the Northern Rivers and also reconnecting with Lismore ('big town'), has helped with his writing.
"The stuff from closer to home seems to be resonating with people,” he says.
Having workshopped his novel at the residency program, it also attracted a book deal with Allen & Unwin.
The book touches on themes around alienation, anxiety and depression, which Dundler has drawn from his own professional and personal experience.
"Writing gives me something to focus on and in order to write I need to look after my own mental health,” he said.
"I cannot write if I am anxious or depressed. I get so much out of it and want to keep going with it.
"It has become a management thing.”
Dundler, who was shortlisted for the Australian/Vogel's Literary Award (2017), said he now has the confidence to "follow through and cope with the rejections” while he works on two more books in the pipeline.
Hey Brother is ultimately about how families get through hard times, he said.
While the events are fictional, the characters are a confluence of all those personalities who made up his childhood in Kyogle and "how they would react to the circumstances”.
At the festival, Dundler will be taking part in two sessions on Saturday, August 4: Anxiety: Is it Just Me? and The First Time: Debut Fiction.
He will also be doing a book signing at The Book Warehouse in Lismore on Thursday, August 16 from 6pm.