Robert Verhagen is a graduate student in the Master of Creative Writing, Publishing and Editing at the University of Melbourne. He is the author of Murder at the Mountain Rush and In the Company of Madness. He is chair of a community not-for-profit magazine cooperative in Kinglake, and Managing Editor of the AMS Zine. Robert also spends time teaching creative writing in Victorian schools and tutoring privately.
What is your writing process?
An important part of my writing journey has been disenchanting the process. I get the words down whenever I can, regardless of where I am or what time it is or what I’ve had for breakfast. One condition is that I always think about my writing, which keeps the flow of ideas alive; I am always reading and reworking old ground to improve. So really, living is very much the process.
Tell us about your story for the anthology. ‘Gaffer Tape’ organises itself around the particularities and play of cricket, but also the gravitas of war and immediate communication with the Taliban – how did you go about rendering the gulf between the two?
In March I facilitated a book launch for Harry Moffitt’s memoir Eleven Bats: A story of combat, cricket and the SAS. It is a great book, and Harry is a genuine operator. He said most of the time, between engagements in Afghanistan, the soldiers played cricket. In one anecdote, he said theTaliban fighters actually started commentating a match over the high-frequency radio – from hiding of course. I was amazed by this – it adds a human face to the conflict that reminded me of World War I’s “last twitch of humanity”, when combatants shared in a game of football during a truce. But pretty soon the realities hit home – Harry jokingly offered to play them. The stakes? That the loser of the match leave the valley. Harry said the Taliban soldier took a long time to respond, and when he did, he said: If we come down from here, you’ll bomb us.
That pause inspired my story – in Harry’s words: I thought, they can’t be considering it. I wanted to emphasise that pause as a moment of consideration. Behind the ideology of every war there are people, and unfortunately people do the fighting and the dying for ideology, when in other circumstances, they might have chosen a cricket match instead.
Seven months later, Kabul has fallen, and we have to learn the same lessons all over again.
Tell us about your favourite reads. What do you like about them?
I enjoy non-fiction. Science or travel writing. I like to learn, and never feel like criticising them. I do feel like criticising fiction, though, and as a result my favourite novels are the ones that I aspire to. Broadly speaking: Irish writers, South American writers, and Ernest Hemingway. (There are so many more though: Han Kang, Walter Kirn, Christopher Hitchens etc. etc.)
How did you hear about GSP?
I am a Masters student of Creative Writing, Publishing and Editing. Pretty soon I learned GSP is the place to be, and it’s a thrill to share an anthology with so many emerging voices.