We consider ourselves very lucky to collaborate with and work alongside talented and dynamic interns at the Centre for Stories. In 2021 we’ll be welcoming several interns through our doors who will each, in their own way, make their mark at the Centre and we, in turn, will celebrate them!
So meet Henry Farnan. Henry always comes to the Centre with the biggest smile and can-do attitude, which makes it a true joy to have him around because he brightens up every room he walks into and he’s been a huge help. Henry is a Perth local studying creative writing at Curtin University, he almost exclusively listens to queer artists, and he always looks for the silver lining (even when he’s falling off cliffs – and he probably does this with a big smile and a can-do attitude too!). Henry isn’t sure where he’s going yet but he’s looking forward to the journey, and we’re looking forward to seeing where it leads him. Read on to learn more about Henry.
Tell us a bit about yourself, Henry! Where have you come from, where are you going, and which people and what experiences have shaped you between?
Hi there! My name’s Henry Farnan. I was born and raised here in Perth with a small immediate family but a huge extended family. In the free moments of our Catholic education and upbringing, my only brother and I spent most of our lives between Perth’s suburbia and exploring the South West of WA with our parents.
I still get down there as often as I can but right now I’m finishing an undergraduate degree in Creative Writing at Curtin University. To say that I’m unsure of the future outside of that would be a gross understatement. All I know is that I want to always be writing in some capacity.
In all the time between those two, I think I’ve been shaped a lot by my friends and family, as most people are. I really started to find myself in my first year of uni when I rediscovered my love of reading and started immersing myself in diverse literature — specifically queer literature — with books like Naamah by Sarah Blake and Invisible Boys by Holden Sheppard.
So, what brought you to the Centre for Stories?
I’d always seen the Centre for Stories around, be it running events or just in passing on social media, and I was always intrigued. Likewise, for the past few years, I’ve been interested in the literature and publishing industry of Perth. The Centre for Stories, at least to me, seems like the crucible of a lot of that industry in Perth and wider WA so I was interested in getting involved and learning more.
You’ve been coming in once a week to give us a hand with our social media (which we’re very grateful for!), how have you found it so far?
I’ve been absolutely loving it so far. The Centre and everyone here have been very lovely and welcoming. The vibes are so chill and friendly, and the Centre as a whole has a very warm and approachable atmosphere. Working on the Centre’s social media feels particularly special as we’re responsible for promoting people and their stories. We’re in charge of how we use them, how people receive them and how people interpret them.
Lots of people compare Perth to other cities saying that it’s boring by comparison because they think there’s less culture here (whatever that even means) but it’s been amazing to get to be even a small part of a place where literature and the creative arts are so valued and appreciated.
Like many of our other wonderful interns you’re also a writer, Henry. Can you tell us more about your writing practice?
I never like answering this question, not necessarily because I’m embarrassed or anything like that. I once told a Jehovah’s Witness door-knocker that I was studying writing and she told me I should never write science fiction or fantasy, so I decided not to tell her that that’s exactly the kind of stuff I do write.
I’m a genre fiction writer which is stuff like fantasy, sci-fi, historical, horror, etc.
I’ve personally found that a lot of people don’t think that sort of fiction is a viable option in Australia. So, whenever I answer this question, it’s always followed by a surprised, high-handed, “Oh, wow! How… interesting…”.
But I think genre fiction has a lot to offer writers with marginalised identities and I find a lot of power and comfort in weaving my experiences of queerness into tropes and conventions of genre fiction. Otherwise, I really enjoy writing poetry and I actually find that it’s a form that comes easier to me than writing prose does.
Can you share a short story about an experience that has stayed with you for us?
This was back in 2019 when I was still in my post-private school phase of bad facial hair as well as ridiculously long hair for someone so tame. According to my friend, my facial hair and longer hair was going a bit ginger at the time, but I could never see what they meant, or maybe I just didn’t want to.
Anyway, that same friend and I were travelling in Scotland during the summer, and we stayed for a few days with my uncle who owns a hostel about an hour outside Fort William. All the locals had been complaining as it was the first time it had been over thirty degrees celsius in that area for years. They blamed us and said we’d brought the weather with us.
My uncle took us out into the forest one day and I’d say we were walking for a solid two hours, which is no issue for me as I’m always up for an adventure. Eventually, we came to a piece of land which we probably weren’t supposed to go on but according to my uncle there was “an amazing waterfall just down these treacherous rocky slopes”.
Luckily the dirt was dry, so we didn’t slip and fall (much). We made it to the bottom after much inching our way down and, past a couple of trees, we were met by this beautiful, trickling waterfall and a stream that we actually hadn’t realised we were walking over until we looked down and saw that our socks were filling up with water.
The stream was forcing its way over rocks and boulders and blocked our immediate access to a deep freshwater pool.
For some reason, I decided it would be a great idea to take off my shoes and climb up these boulders to get a better look at the pool. I’ll be honest, what happened once I was up there, I don’t quite remember so well. But according to my friend, when I tumbled over the boulder I looked like a bowling ball had been gently nudged off a table’s edge.
All I can actually remember is the water feeling serenely cool. I remember the dirt being rich and brown, like I was seeing prehistoric, untainted earth. When I surfaced, I took a deep breath and tried to shake the unnecessary shock out of my joints. I couldn’t see. My hair was clinging to my face like an almost-ginger curtain and hid my smile. I could hear, though. I remember my friend and uncles’ yelling voices and the sound of them trying to scramble up some of the rocks to see if I was okay. Meanwhile, I was quietly wading over to find a spot where I could pop up and say hello. When I looked down at them, they gasped, asking if I was okay. Apparently, when I pushed my hair to the side, some of the ginger strands stuck to my face and it looked like I’d cracked my head open, with ginger blood streaming down my face. So I slipped back down to solid ground and my clothes dried on the long walk home. When we got back, I changed into some clean clothes and I’d had such a good time, we ended up going back later that day.
I always think about how it felt to fall into that waterfall and how, even though I was in a turbulent situation, I wasn’t scared and found the fun in a unique experience. It reminds me that it doesn’t really matter what happens, as long as I’m having fun along the way.
What are you reading at the moment?
Well of course I’m reading the Centre for Stories anthology, To Hold the Clouds — it’s real good!
Otherwise, I’ve been making my way through the Broken Earth trilogy by NK Jemisin which is one of the most intelligent, intriguing and empowering fantasy stories I’ve ever read. When I can, I’ve been attending some queer theory seminars at Curtin, but I’ve always had a hard time connecting to academia so seeing what we’d discussed in the seminars play out through NK Jemisin’s words was so powerful and meaningful, to me. Highly recommend!
What are you listening to?
I’m not a huge podcast person because I have trouble concentrating on information if there’s little visual aid, but I absolutely adore the music I’ve been listening to recently. I listen — almost exclusively — to music from queer artists like King Princess, Bronze Avery, Cry Club and Vetta Borne.
Earlier, I mentioned that I enjoy writing poetry and I find that get a lot of inspiration from the music that I listen to. Whenever I’m in the mood to write poetry I’ll have on repeat any albums by MUNA, Of Monsters and Men, and Arlo Parks.
What are you looking forward to in the coming months, or in 2022?
Well, this year is the final year of my undergraduate degree, so I suppose I’m looking forward to finishing my degree. Granted, I’m not 100 per cent certain what the future holds outside that degree, but I suppose that’s part of the fun!
Otherwise, I’m really looking forward to finishing some of the writing projects I’ve had to put on hold for the semester and, of course, getting to escape to the South West more.