Leanne Barrett: Book Launch: Understory by Inga Simpson

Wednesday 7 June 2017

Book Launch: Understory by Inga Simpson

Last night Inga Simpson's fourth book, Understory, was launched at the bookshop Muse Canberra. Rather than speeches, the audience listened to a conversation about the book between Inga and author, Kim Mahood. 

Inga spoke in a relaxed manner but showed that she is a passionate and thought provoking woman. 

To date Inga has experienced many journeys. She told the audience about growing up on a farm and how this influenced her beliefs, Inga said, 'failure is not an option, you never give up.'

The audience learned that Inga is a resilient woman. One of these examples was her choice to make a tree change and establish a 'writers retreat shortly before the Global Financial Crisis hit.' Inga said that she 'didn't have any regrets about her move to the forest, to be closer to nature.'

The forest became Inga's creative space. She learned to respect her position in the landscape. Last night she reflected on 'making amends for what farming has done to the country.' Inga, like other tree changers, has planted trees to help correct the mistakes of the past.

The conversation between Kim and Inga explored the theme of trees in Understory; the title, the chapters, the characters and the story structure. 

Inga's tales resonated with the Canberra region audience, as they too have a shared experience of nature, the urban rural fringe or rural residential living. Like Inga, at times we too don't notice the trees in our landscape. Inga says, 'There is not a hard line between nature and humans. Trees are sentient, trees have a spirit.' 

Inga read a section from her book's prologue, giving the audience a taste of her words, 'English comes easily to me; I'm a word-woman, too. But English was born from landscapes far from here. My imagination, though language and literature, symbolism and myth, is rooted in Europe.' (p. xv) JRR Tolkien's words influenced Inga's imagination, 'The Lord of the Rings, was one of the texts that made me become a writer,' said Inga. 

Other stories and authors that influenced Inga's nature writing were; 

  • Walden; Or, Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau
  • A Million Wild Acres: 200 years of Man and an Australian Forest by Eric Rolls
  • Wildwood: A Journey though Trees by Roger Deakin
  • The Blue Plateau: A Landscape Memoir by Mark Tredinnick
  • and author Rick Bass
Inga expressed a hope that her writing would influence others. She told the audience that she felt writing was a better use of her skills, than on the ground activism,  'I can contribute more through books. I hope that I can win hearts and minds through my writing,' said Inga.

I have yet to read Understory but the themes of Inga's story excite me, as I once was a tree changer but now I reside in a city apartment. I look forward to finding a warm sunny spot to read Understory, where I can see the trees of Black Mountain and the Botanical Gardens.

To find out more about Inga Simpson, visit her website or see Hachette Australia for more information about Understory

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