Your Writers Journey Guide


Jan (right) with Margo Lanagan at the launch of Sea Hearts.

Jan began her career in 1969 as an actor at La Mama in Melbourne with the experimental theatre group Tribe and later with The Australian Performing Group at the Pram Factory.

In 1974 she travelled to the USA and Europe as a musician and solo performer, writing songs and performing them with the all girl latin jazz band, Baba Yaga in Oregon. They recorded an album before Jan returned to Australia in 1979, to become Writer In Residence at the Pram Factory, writing and performing in the acclaimed musical Failing In Love Again.

As a leader of the comedy/cabaret revival of the early eighties, Jan gained popularity as a comedienne, performing at a number of venues including: The Gap in Sydney with Wendy Harmer and Gretel Killeen, Kinselas with Gary MacDonald, Comedy Pub in Melbourne with Denise Scott and on tour with Jeannie Lewis and Margaret Roadnight. She toured the festival circuit with musical partner Elizabeth Drake, in Failing In Love Again, Worse Than Perverse, and alone in her solo show Standing Up Bent.

In 1986 after receiving a New Writers Fellowship from the Australia Council for the Arts, Jan concentrated on writing for a number of different areas; main stage and fringe theatre, musicals, children’s theatre, worksite theatre, script editing and screen writing.

Her play Escape From A Better Place has been produced by several theatre companies in Australia and adapted for ABC Radio Drama. Her screenplay Talk, directed by Susan Lambert was screened in the USA and Australia.

Jan has written two plays for Women On A Shoestring Theatre Company; At the Crossroads, a play about women working on the land, and Girls of The Reel about Australian women in the silent film industry. Both plays have toured extensively in regional and rural Australia.

Jan’s play Hanging Onto The Tail Of A Goat, written in workshop with performer Tenzing Tsewang, director Brian Joyce and performed at the Sydney Opera House Studio, is the story of Tenzing’s journey out of Chinese occupied Tibet, becoming a refugee in Nepal, a monk in the Dalai Lama’s monastery in Dharamsala and a factory worker in Australia.

Jan has taught extensively at community colleges, writers centres and universities. In 2003-5 she taught Writing for Performance at The University Of Technology, Sydney and in 2006 – 13: Writing For Performance, Creative Non Fiction and Fiction, at the University of Western Sydney. In 2006 and 2008 she was guest lecturer in Creative Writing at Dipponegoro University, Semarang, Java. She has led probono workshops for young people in Cambodia, Indonesia and Myanmar. Jan also mentors writers and runs international retreats and workshops with her company Writers Journey. A number of writers working with Jan have gone on to publish with major publishing houses.

Jan’s corporate and community clients have included  Stocklands, Hawkesbury City Council, Upper Hunter Arts, Newcastle Workers Cultural Action Committee, Newcastle Community Arts Centre. She has written and performed a number of events for the workplace and factory floor.

From 2002 – 2010 Jan regularly visited Indonesia, leading writing retreats and collaborating with Indonesian writers, artists and musicians. During her Asialink Residency in Indonesia in 2006, she wrote a novel and composed and recorded a jazz poetry CD with

In recent years Jan has taken part in festivals including; St Kilda Writers Festival, Reality Bites Non Fiction Festival, Braidwood Two Fires, Darwin Wordstorm, Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, 04,05,06,09, 13 (Bali) and Utan Kayu Literary Biennale (Java/Sumatra 05,09),  Perfurbance#2, #3. #4  (Yogjakarta 2006,07,08), Oz Indo Gang Festival, (Sydney 2008), OzAsia Festival (Adelaide, 2008), Mata Air, Salatiga Festival (Java 2009),  Women’s Playwrights International Conference in Mumbai (2009), Open Art Festival ( Beijing 2010), Hong Kong International Literary Festival (2010), Northern Kingdoms Poetry Festival (Cambodia 2012), Irrawaddy Literary Festival (Myanmar 2013, 2015), Mountain Echoes Literary Festival (Bhutan, 2016).

Jan is co-editor of On Nothing –Selected Poems by Sitok Srengenge, pub. Kata Kita, Jakarta. and Gang re:Publik, Australia Indonesia Creative Adventures. Her novel –Take Me To Paradise, written during her Asia Link Residency in 2006 at Teater Utan Kayu in Jakarta, was launched in at the Ubud Writers Festival in Bali in October 2006 with her new jazz poetry CD, Jan Cornall – Singing Srengenge. Jan’s stage production of Take Me To Paradise was performed at OzAsia Festival Adelaide in 2008.

Jan’s collection of poems, songs and stories, Archipelagogo (Saritaksu 2013) is also set in Indonesia. She is currently working on a travel memoir called My Mother, Duras, based on a trip she took in Vietnam following the footsteps of the French writer Marguerite Duras.