Translating the language of animals

Author Laura Jean McKay looks at the way we write about the environment as a way of understanding it while changing ourselves.
A sea lion dives down into blue water

‘Human breath is about all we’ll be left with if we’re not careful. Why not try to breath alongside others? Why not try to make the stories that matter?’ asked keynote speaker Laura Jean McKay in a keynote at this year’s Small Press Network’s Independent Publishing Conference.

McKay is the author of a prize-winning novel, The Animals in That Country, that canvasses a virus with the uncanny ability for humans and animals to communicate with one another. To illustrate the importance of other species, McKay opened her address with a list of all the animals she has seen recently (about 100 birds and 1000 insects) and a request for viewers to think about a significant animal encounter they’ve had themselves.

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Thuy On is Reviews Editor of ArtsHub and an arts journalist, critic and poet who’s written for a range of publications including The Guardian, The Saturday Paper, Sydney Review of Books, The Australian, The Age/SMH and Australian Book Review. She's the outgoing books editor of The Big issue. Her first book, a collection of poetry called Turbulence, came out in 2020 and was published by University of Western Australia Press. Her next collection, Decadence, will be published in July 2022. Twitter: @thuy_on