Modern Australian writing is not like the days of Henry Lawson "where we were all chopping down trees left, right and centre", says Dr Marg Hickey.
The Beechworth-based author, playwright and university lecturer explains that while Australian literature has a long tradition of being inspired by landscape, the writing is often steeped in legend with "the noble bushman" as its central character.
It's a "myth" that is problematic on many levels, says Hickey who happens to also hold a PhD in Australian literature.
"It was essentially British in character and mostly ignored the female population, it overlooked the fact the 'bushman' was intent on refashioning the land rather than embracing it, and it ignored too, the glaring fact that Australia was already populated by a resilient and resourceful population," she writes.
"For hundreds of years, artists, poets and writers have used the pastoral mode as a means to reveal what humans at that time aspired to and valued (namely European farming practices and economic gain).
"In this regard, the early pastoral in Australia was largely depicted in an anti-pastoral sense - the white man battling a difficult land."
Hickey, who will be among the presenters at the Earth Canvas Writers' Festival on March 13-14, says there has been a necessary cultural shift in contemporary Australian writing.
In these works there is the sense that "the Australian landscape requires respect and due recognition".
We are no longer carving a living out of the land, rather working more co-operatively in our landscape.
"New writing is beginning to focus on farmers who are conscious of their impact on the land and acknowledge the previous land owners before them," she says.
Fittingly, regenerative cattle property 'Bibbaringa', at Bowna, is the setting for the writers' festival, featuring internationally recognised authors Patti Miller (The Joy of High Places), Kim Mahood (Craft for a Dry Lake), Karen Viggers (The Orchadist's Daughter), Richard Anderson (Small Mercies), Alison Pouliot (Wild Mushrooming: A Guide for Foragers) and Dr Hickey (Rural Dreams).
The two-day Writers at the Woolshed event is an extension of the expansive Earth Canvas project, linking farmers with leading contemporary artists to create a greater understanding of the farming landscape.
The resulting exhibition of more than 70 artworks, which premiered at Albury Library Museum in January, will tour seven museums and galleries in the next year.
Earth Canvas founder Gillian Sanbrook says the project began in response to public concern about losing contact with the production of food.
"We want to open our gates and show people what we are doing on regenerative farms, says Ms Sanbrook, who has spent the past 10 years transforming the once-barren landscape of the 950-hectare property.
"All writers involved in the festival have been selected because of their deep connection to the landscape and the way this inspires their work."
On Saturday, authors will discuss their latest books and how they draw from the landscape in their writing.
Additionally, emerging writers Lynette Ainsworth, Teresa Benetos and Michelle Tom will be in a panel conversation talking about how they came to writing.
Benetos, for example, is writing her memoir, The Accidental Hostage, of how she became a hostage while working as a nurse in Iraq in 1990.
A Paddock to Plate dinner on Saturday night will feature Pouliot's fascinating insight into all things fungi with her talk, 'Writing in Place - A Thousand Days in the Forest'.
The photographer, ecologist and author spent 1000 days in the forests of 12 countries, interacting with all sorts of "fungal folk".
She recorded her findings - in 100,000 words - in situ, with a notebook and pencil, and her work was published in The Allure of Fungi.
Pouliot argues that in an increasingly virtual and less sensorial world, writing in place enables one to tune to the seasons, rhythms and nuances of the surrounds.
"It nurtures the imagination and offers the chance to roam uncharted territory, both literally and allegorically," she writes.
... "Most importantly, writing in place provide(s) the opportunity to foster the 'ecologies of creativity' necessary for an ecologically resilient and socially just future."
Day two of the festival aims to tap into those philosophies with workshops dotted about the property designed to encourage participants to "draw deeply on the surrounding landscape".
Hickey, who will compere Saturday's author "conversations", says the festival is an opportunity for anyone who "loves reading, discussion and landscape".
"I don't consider myself a writer; I'm a really wide reader who writes," says the author of soon-to-be-released crime novel Cutters End.
Hickey's work is drawn from "the landscapes I know and have memories of".
"I'm a product of rural Victoria; my dad was a teacher at little bush schools," she explains.
In praising Hickey's "lively" and "authentic" stories, journalist Martin Flanagan remarks that "rural Australia is a dangerously neglected part of our national consciousness".
It is through grass-roots initiatives such as this writers' festival that Hickey sees the narrative changing.
A lot of it, she says, is being driven by public consciousness: "Population growth, unsustainable land practices, climate change and a series of devastating droughts, floods and fires have meant that for many Australians, a change in how land is managed is imperative for the health and wealth of the nation."
Whether our collective conscience is changing rapidly enough is another matter entirely.
Hickey reminds us it was nearly 20 years ago that noted author and scientist Tim Flannery decreed Australians could only become a "true people" by developing "deep, sustaining roots in the land".
Let's hope we are all helping to write the next chapters for that future.
Writers at the Woolshed details:
A festival for writers and readers at "Bibbaringa", Wymah Rd, Bowna.
- Guest authors: Patti Miller, Alison Pouliot, Kim Mahood, Karen Viggers, Margaret Hickey and Richard Anderson
- Saturday, March 13: 9:30am-4:30pm Writers in Conversation, 6pm -10pm Paddock to Plate dinner.
- Sunday, March 14: 10am- 2:30pm Farm Landscape Writing Workshops & Drawing from the Landscape.
- Details: earthcanvas.com.au/writers-festival/ or phone Lynne 0408 244 016