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Through discussions and interviews with writers, artists and health professionals, author friends James McKenzie Watson and Ashley Kalagian Blunt explore the big questions: how do books get written? How do people navigate life with chronic illness? And just what are you reading?

Ashley Kalagian Blunt is the author of Dark Mode, an internationally published psychological thriller. Her earlier books are How to Be Australian, a memoir, and My Name Is Revenge, collected fiction and essays. Her writing appears in the Sydney Morning Herald, Overland, Griffith Review, Sydney Review of Books, and more. Ashley is an enthusiastic teacher of writing and creativity. Originally from Canada, she has lived and worked in South Korea, Peru and Mexico. Find her on Twitter and Instagram or visit her website.

James McKenzie Watson won the 2021 Penguin Literary Prize for his novel Denizen, which was published by Penguin Random House in 2022. Denizen also received a 2021 Varuna Residential Fellowship and a 2021 KSP Residential Fellowship. James' short stories have been recognised in Australian and international competitions. His writing has appeared in The GuardianMeanjinKill Your Darlings and the Newtown Review of Books. He works as a nurse. Find him on Twitter and Instagram or visit his website.

May 25, 2021

Ashley interviews a mystery guest from the Varuna Writer's House in Katoomba, NSW, where he's midway through a residential fellowship (hint: it's James). An episode for both those who've never been on a residential writing retreat and those who want to reminisce about their time at Varuna!

You can learn more about Varuna and the incredible work it does supporting Australian authors here

Books discussed in this episode:

  • 'Shadowchild' by P.F. Thomése
  • 'The Devil in the White City' by Erik Larson

Find out more about WestWords and their wonderful podcasts here:

Get in touch!

Ashley's Website:

Ashley's Twitter: @AKalagianBlunt

James' Website:

James' Twitter: @JamesMcWatson