On Goulburn St, nestled between Chinatown and the Spanish quarter, the old Trades Hall building was once the nexus of the New South Wales labour movement. Now, it feels more like a museum: giant banners from the early twentieth century, hung in the central courtyard, extol the eight-hour day, the rights of women at work, and the unions of various trades: stonemasons, ‘liquor trades employees’, tile-layers and shop assistants. Many of the offices are now rented out to companies and organisations that feel incongruous: law firms, consultancies – and the Sydney Writers’ Room. The Room is a good place to write: high ceilings, spacious desks, and most importantly silence, except for the tapping of keyboards and scratching of pens on paper. I’ve been a member for about six months.
The Sydney Writers’ Room has now produced Chinese Whispers, an anthology of its members work. It’s a curious experiment: each piece is written by one of the Room’s members, about another of the Room’s members, chosen randomly from a hat. The resulting book is quite odd: diverse, certainly, both in style and in quality. Some of the pieces are rather slight, and at least one is in very poor taste. But there are also some delightful pieces in there: hilarious, affecting and occasionally eerie. I particularly enjoyed Stephen Lacey‘s whimsical short story ‘Limbos’.
My subject was the theatre director and librettist Sarah Carradine. I have neither the aptitude nor the inclination to write biographically, so I wrote ‘The Determinist’s Tale’, a choose-your-own adventure in the style of those 1980s second-person kids’ books. It relates to Sarah in a very nebulous way; I’m still not sure if it really works, but it was certainly fun writing it. A nostalgia trip, if nothing else.