1 August 2016

Meet the Scribe Nonfiction Prize Shortlist: Bert Spinks

In the lead up to announcing the winner of The 2016 Scribe Nonfiction Prize for Young Writers, we’re introducing you to every talented young writer on our shortlist.  Read on for more information on their work, writing journeys, and all their tips, tricks and advice for budding young non-fic creators.

Bert Spinks

Bert Spinks – On a hasty journey across Iceland

Age: 27


How did you begin writing? I learned early on that it is fun to play with words. Highlights of my recreational writing from childhood include a rewriting of the Faraway Tree, and a saga about a fictional lacrosse league, written for my brother.


What’s your favourite work of nonfiction? The books from Patrick Leigh Fermor’s walk across Europe in the 1930s, A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water, have given me a lot of joy. Claudio Magris’s Microcosms and Danube are delightful books about place. And I return to W.G. Sebald again and again.


Why do you write nonfiction? I find places awfully fascinating. Their rocks and soil, their vegetation types, their water sources, the creatures that have adapted to them, and the variety of things those creatures do to survive there – and of course that includes humans. I go some place and ask questions. This is a good life.


Tell us a bit about your submission to the Scribe Prize: Last year I walked across Iceland in the footsteps of Jørgen Jørgensen, who tried to stage a revolution on that island in 1809. This stroll is the basis for On a hasty journey across Iceland, which is part-travelogue, part-biography, but more so, a gentle enquiry into the meaning of a person’s passage through a landscape.


Why did you choose to write it? I’m from Tasmania, and Jørgensen spent his last two decades here after being transported as a convict. Not only did his life embrace both Iceland and Tasmania – two rather distant islands – but he was involved in a huge variety of major historical events, one way or another. He was also a garrulous boozer and gambler. On top of that: what an excuse to go for a long walk in Iceland!


What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received? And the worst?
As a young man I fell under the influence of Alexis Zorba (Zorba the Greek). I’m not yet sure if it’s ruined me or made me, but it has kept me going as a freelance writer. “Life is trouble,” he says. “To live – do you know what that means? To undo your belt and look for trouble!’


What piece of work, published or unpublished, are you most proud of? My life is more or less comprised of bushwalking, writing and drinking. Being able to write an article combining these three, for esteemed beer journal Crafty Pint no less, is probably going to be the zenith of my career. You can read it here: http://craftypint.com/news/1131/Beer_Travel_Bushwalking_with_Beer


You can find out more about Bert Spinks and their work at www.storytellerspinks.com and on Facebook.