Judith Lanagan, Hula Hoop virtuosa and author.

Hula Hoop virtuosa, Judith Lanigan

Did you know the hula hoop was first sold in Australia?

Hula Hoop virtuosa and ASA Mentorship Award recipient, Judith Lanigan, writes for and about circus, and will be attending her first Byron Bay Writers Festival this year to discuss her forthcoming book A True History of the Hula Hoop. I recovered from my flu/school holidays double whammy sufficiently to catch up with Judith, to find out her top tips for festival fun, and how her unique book came into being…

MV: What is it you look forward to most about BBWF 09?

The release of my first novel, and also talking on a panel with Louis Nowra about historical research for historical fiction, having read his book Ice, about a man’s attempt to bring an iceberg to Sydney before refrigeration, towed behind a ship. It was fascinating and the thorough research he so obviously did into the time made it a very evocative story.

MV: I will be chairing that session (Sunday 12.15pm SCU Marquee) – can’t wait! Did attending writers festivals help develop your writing craft/career when you were a developing writer?

I found that listening to writers talk about their development process informed me as to opportunities to take advantage of, like the Australian Society of Authors mentorship award, which led to me being published by Picador, and the Varuna Award, in the early stages of the book, which allowed me to have a consultation with Peter Bishop, who gave me very valuable advice.

MV: What are your Top Tips for making the most of Byron Bay Writers Festival?

The Writers Cabaret!

MV: What other sessions are you doing at BBWF ’09?

I will be speaking on a panel about transitions from the stage to the page. For me, as a performer you learn (eventually) that the state the audience is in is the responsibility of the performer. There is no such thing as a bad audience. The performer should be able to take them to the mood or emotion, where the audience is then open to being taken where the performer wants them to go, and I think that is the same for a book. If I get the chance I would also like to disucss the theories of modern clown as it applies to constructing characters for story. The way the essential vulnerability of the character is essential to the story arc, and the emotional involvement of the audience/reader. And I am interested in hearing what Denise Scott and Tristan Bancks have to say about their experience. 

MV: Your book sounds like an amazing project – part personal experience, part history, part fiction. How did you develop the idea for your book?

A True History of the Hula Hoop is a bit of a documentation in fiction, of the work I have been doing during the past ten years. I originally started it as three separate stories, and after discussing them with Peter Bishop of Varuna, I mentioned that I usually lied to people about what I did because it was hard to answer all the questions – for example from taxi drivers etc. He suggested that a combination of my stories could answer all those questions, in a fictional novel.

I had become fascinated at one point with the origin of the hula hoop, not believing that it was "invented" in America in the late 50’s, so I set out to trace its development, and found that it was actually first sold in Australia.

At the same time I was researching the history of female clown, and found the first mentions of a company of clowns that were kidnapped on their way to do a gig for the KIng of France in 1572. And in writing my own personal history of the hula hoop in a fiction form, I found what ties those stories together.

MV: Thank you so much, Judtih, for sharing your thoughts with our Speakeasy readers. I look forward to chatting with you more at BBWF’09!


A quick reminder that the Writing Race is on again tonight for AWMonline subscribers. Log in at 7.45pm to let us know your writing goals, then Race to get as much as you can done between 8-9pm. Last week, John Birmingham joined us to provide inspiration and motivation – he gave some great feedback to our beginner writers to help them move forward through their writing projects. Thanks, John!

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2 Responses to “Hula Hoops, clowns, and fiction…”

  1. Natalie Hatch,

    I personally fell in love with hooping at the end of last year. It’s such fun and you forget you’re exercising because you’re laughing.
    Can’t wait for Judith’s book.

  2. Meg,

    Laughter + exercise = a double dose of endorphins! I’m excited to read Judith’s book; it should arrive in tomorrow’s post. I don’t know if it’ll improve my hula hooping skills, but it’ll definitely enhance my appreciation of circus in Australia!

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