inga simpson_23Inga is an Australian novelist and nature writer.

UNDERSTORY: a life with trees (2017), about her decade spent living inside a south east Queensland forest, was shortlisted for the Adelaide Writers Week Award for Nonfiction.

WHERE THE TREES WERE (2016) was shortlisted for an Indie Book Award, and longlisted for the 2017 Miles Franklin Literary Award, the Australian Book Industry Awards, and the Green Carnation Prize.

NEST (2014) was shortlisted for the Courier Mail People’s Choice Award, the ALS Gold Medal, and longlisted for the 2015 Miles Franklin Literary Award and the Stella Prize.

Inga’s first novel, MR WIGG (2013), was published following her participation in the 2011 QWC/Hachette Manuscript Development Program. It was shortlisted for the Indie Debut Book Award.

She is also the winner of the (final) Eric Rolls Nature Essay Prize.

Inga has PhDs in creative writing and English literature. Her work has been published in Review of Australian Fiction, Griffith Review, Clues, Writing Queensland, and the Dictionary of Literary Biography.

Her first career was as a professional writer and researcher, including for federal Parliament and the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

Inga grew up in central west NSW, and has lived in Canberra, Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast hinterland. She now lives on the far south coast of NSW.

She leads writing retreats, workshops and mentorships through Olvar Wood.

Inga’s first picture book will be released in 2019. She is currently working on her next novel – Willowman.

46 Responses to Bio

  1. martin says:

    Hi Inga
    Just read Where the Trees Were [got it from library for $1.00 in book sale] one of best buys ever, is [ In 2015, Inga was awarded a QLD Literary Fellowship to research and develop her next novel, Willowman.] going to happen. Just got MR WIGG out
    Keep on writing

  2. Eilla says:

    Hi Inga, I just finished reading Mr Wigg and it was rejuvenating and a complete joy. As I finished the last page I didn’t want it to end. Thank you so much. Keep up the good work.

  3. inga says:

    Thanks, Eilla!

  4. Mary says:

    Eagerly awaiting Understory as I’ve adored all of your books Inga.

  5. inga says:

    Thanks, Mary!

  6. Graeme Breadmore says:

    Hello Inga, I discovered Mr Wigg at our library and was touched so much by it I read parts of it to our children and grandchildren. We all love the outdoors,vegie gardens so related to it well. I was deeply touched by the descriptions and challenges Mr Wigg had with him being a widower and growing older. My father who only passed away this week at 96 although not a gardener reminded me of the similar path they took in maintaining their independence. It brought me to tears a few times when reading this the others.
    We also loved Where the trees where and Nest. I look forward to Understory. Thanks for your beautiful writing. Graeme and Carolyn Victoria

  7. inga says:

    Thanks, Graeme. Glad you enjoyed Mr Wigg. Hope it brought you and your family some comfort at this time.

  8. martin says:

    Just read understory realy truly beautreeful and treetastic how is possible that the best is yet to come?
    If your ever in Woolongong pop in there’s lots of great surf spots here
    Have you ever been to Margaret River ? you’d love it heaps of surf spots either side with in 30 minuets and cape leeuwin lighthouse where you can watch the sun come up and go down in the ocean [not really, the sun doesn’t move the earth does] and the land full of Jarrah and Karri trees [not really as most of the planet has been destroyed] but still a beautiful spot combine it with a journey with maps. org and and you have at least 2 great books

  9. Pamela Mason says:

    Hi Inga, Have just read Understory. Loved it so much. Borrowed from library but intend to buy my own copy so I can dip into it frequently. Lived on the Sunshine Coast before the frantic development which continues unabated so related so much to the destruction around your home. I love trees and would be very proud to be, like you, a treewoman. Looking forward to reading your other books. Thank you. Pamela

  10. inga says:

    Thanks, Pamela! Glad you appreciated a familiar tree-story.

  11. inga says:

    Thanks, Martin. 🙂 I love Margaret River, and the proximity of trees (and wine) to the beach – though the surf was a bit fierce for me!

  12. Michael C says:

    I absolutely loved “Where The Trees Were”, and currently am thoroughly immersed in “Understory”. Loving the trees, the natural environment and the insights into the lives of you, N, R and B. Living in a totally developed city environment, I find it inspirational to experience the various species in their natural habitat.

  13. Katie Mills says:

    Dear Inga,
    Your book ‘Under Story’ deeply resonated with me, with its description of restoring the ecology of your property (and the complex power of nature to recover left to its own devices); fascinating stories about the trees most of us would walk past without a second glance; as well as the importance of both leaving a legacy and embracing change. Additionally, I too have had to return to the Federal Public Service as a contractor part-time to prop up our two-person IT company (, which specialises in domains which make no money whatsoever – heritage and environmental software.
    Anyway, we have developed and maintain a ‘TreeStories’ Website: We have received no financial support for this and do it out of our passion for trees to capture people’s stories about special trees in their lives. If you have a few stories to contribute, we’d be honoured. Any suggestions for improvements would be welcome too.
    Kindest regards and looking forward to your next book,
    Katie Mills

  14. Lyn Lea says:

    Hello Inga,
    I have just finished Under story and loved your honesty, determination and caring for the creation. Inga as a dabbling artist I thought it would be lovely to have a little sketch at the beginning of the chapter of the tree described. Maybe you thought it better that the reader research the particular tree for a visual prompt? (I will do so for the trees that I do not know.)
    I have friends from Melbourne visiting the Grampians region this week looking for native orchids (e.g. spider orchids) to photograph. They have a mighty collection of photos…
    It is an honour to have read your story.
    Very best wishes,

  15. inga says:

    Thanks Lyn,
    So glad you enjoyed the book.
    Well, I’m not a visual artist myself (though a keen photographer) but a nature writer. This is my version of a sketch, describing the trees with words and images to allow the reader to imagine them – or appreciate them in more detail next time they see them. Whether a book is illustrated or not is also largely the publisher’s decision. 🙂

  16. Ian Parkyn says:

    Dear Inga, I have just finished reading your Mr Wigg that I borrowed from my local library. I enjoyed it very much and lived alongside him through much of the story. My lovely wife of over 40 years died only a few years ago and I identified with Alneaus’ feelings and recollections. I look forward to reading your other works. Although never really living on a farm, you made the life come alive for me.
    Many thanks again,

  17. Sarah says:

    Hi Inga, I read Mr Wigg several years ago and loved it so much. I raced out to buy Nest and then put it aside – waiting for a special time to read it. I just found that time, on a holiday in Victoria’s high country surrounded by so many birds that I wouldn’t see at home, and so many species from the book. So perfect and serendipitous!! Thank you, Sarah.

  18. Timothy Brown says:

    Greetings from Denver, Colorado, USA. In July, I spent two days hiking at Lamington, and it was a truly amazing and centering experience. At the airport in Sydney awaiting my return flight to the US, I happened upon your book, “Understory,” and have parceled out reading it since then so that I could continue to feel connected to the rainforest. I have just finished reading it. Thank you for the gift! I have since done some hiking in Colorado, where we have ancient bristlecone pine trees – up to 2,600 years old, with California specimens up to 5,000 years old. Perhaps a musical composition is in order with the theme of ancient brush box and bristlecone trees.

  19. Glenda Pares says:

    Hello Inga
    I am in the middle of Understory and love it so much I thought I’d leave a message. Your language is so lovely describing the trees and travails of your life amongst the trees . Olvar Wood sounds like a fantastic project for you and your partner. I hope it proves very successful, in the book and in reality. I grew up on the Sunshine Coast at Caloundra and so have a vested interest in reading your book. Such a shame there is so much development in the area and wish you well in your place. I have read Where the Trees Were too and enjoyed it very much. My next project is reading Mr Wigg and Nest. All the best for your writing future.

  20. Glenda Pares says:

    Hello again Inga
    I was so sad in your book when you had such trouble with Olvar Wood, but was glad you kept on going. I loved the book, i loved the trees, and have been inspired by your descriptions of them. Best wishes for your next piece of writing.

  21. Sallianne says:

    Hello Inga, I’ve just finished Understory, thankyou. When you talked of the trees and their conversations with each other, it reminded me of the final book in the Ender series by Orson Scott Card and the ‘talking’ trees and their relationship with each other.

  22. Jen Ribolli says:

    Hi Inga. A friend sent me Under story and I have just finished reading it; I loved it! I was wondering if you ever thought of placing a conservation covenant on those 10 acres to protect it from any future development in perpetuity? It would be such a shame if this crucial example of remnant forest with critically endangered species should be threatened by clearing in the future.
    Cheers, Jen

  23. Di Powell says:

    I first read Nest after hearing an interview with Richard Glover, then Mr Wigg, Where the Trees Were and now my Christmas present, Understory. So refreshing to have an Australian nature writer Inga, who writes with deep feeling for the trees and natural world with such reverential respect. Conveys the message of Deep Ecology for the nature that gives us life. Thank you I have loved them all.

  24. inga says:

    Thanks, Di! 🙂

  25. inga says:

    Thanks, Sallianne. I’ll have to look up that series!

  26. inga says:

    Thanks, Glenda!

  27. inga says:

    Hi Timothy, I’m glad the book found you. That’s a lovely story. I look forward to doing some more walks in your part of the world one day.

  28. inga says:

    Hi Sarah – I’m glad you saved it for such lovely bird country. 🙂

  29. inga says:

    Thanks so much, Ian. Glad the book resonated for you. 🙂

  30. Mary Besemeres says:

    Dear Inga,

    I finished Understory yesterday and just wanted to thank you for writing such a wonderful book. I feel as though for the past few days I’ve been living among the brush boxes and rose gums, observing the wallabies and goannas, seeing the yellow robins, leaning out of the cottage windows. I know your book will stay with me for a long time. I hope the bunyas keep sprouting where you planted them.
    With best wishes, Mary

  31. inga says:

    Thanks, Mary. I’m glad you enjoyed the book. I couldn’t help but notice your surname. I worked with John Besemeres many years ago. Inga

  32. Mary Besemeres says:

    Hello Inga,

    Yes, John Besemeres is my Dad 🙂 Not too many of us around.

    I’m looking forward to reading your novels now.



  33. Mary Besemeres says:

    Hi Inga,

    Just wanted to recommend another remarkable ‘life with trees’ book in case you don’t know it:

    Xylotheque, by Yelizaveta Renfro:


  34. Lindy Jurd says:

    Hello to you Inga,
    Just the words “Thank you” seem so insignificant to describe my emotions when reading such beautifully written words of descriptive & heartfelt passion. Your love of our Australian flora & fauna is felt in sentence of every chapter in all of your 4 exquisite novels. I wait with such anticipation for your new Willowman. We are so blessed to also live on the stunning South Coast of NSW which has many natural treasures hidden in its midst.
    As we soon shall be departing for a hol in Tasmania’s epic Tarkine, I will relive your words of the beauty of our native birds & trees & carry them with me & hold onto the sheer magic of your visions. Kindest regards, Lindy Jurd.

  35. Jord Edmeades says:

    Hi Inga,

    At 36, I have never stayed up all night reading a book, Understory is the first, and an experience I’ll never forget. I nestled in for the night on that Kabi Kabi spur, tucked up in the loft that Noel built. I figured I’d read a few pages and then nod off… not to be.

    My fist clenched when you stepped on that black snake, my throat tightened when you dropped the firewood and my chortle woke my wife when the neighbourly child called you a child.

    As I turned the final pages the sun began to rise and I was drawn to my left out the diamond window, then out the small triangle in the corner and then the big sky window up above. I closed the book and observed the canopy, swaying wide as it does, with a whole new perspective – on my life – and on this ten acres I now live on.

    That is the power of a great storyteller, and it’s bold what you do. That fundamental human ability to lead, teach and bestow meaning and experience through words.

    Knowledge of country, knowledge of place, knowledge of self – you earnt these powerful perspectives and were kind enough to share them with us. I felt your loneliness and your courage, and as I closed the final page I made myself a coffee on that beautiful cream ‘semi-electric’ stove and waited on the deck for the treecreepers and little red robins to arrive for their morning swim.

    Thanks for the hard work and honesty that went into this memoir, it will have pride of place with the two special bricks on the mantel piece. I wish you all the best for your future endeavors/novels and know that while we’re here, the trees have right of way.

  36. inga says:

    I thought so. Do say hello to him from me. 🙂

  37. inga says:

    Thanks, Mary. Looks great. I’ll check it out.

  38. inga says:

    Thanks Lindy! 🙂

  39. Robyn says:

    Hi Inga
    Loved Understory. I may be able to get to the Newcastle WF but in the meantime have you read the new book by Ross Brownscombe. It’s called In Search Of Space and is a collection of mostly short [and some long!!] pieces he wrote while he was researching his previous books Blue Rivers and On Suspect Terrain. He covers different terrain to you – no pun intended – his stories being about his encounters with wild country, but the detail and ideas that glow and resonate on every page are astounding. Check it out.

  40. inga says:

    Thanks Robyn. I haven’t read Brownscombe – thanks for the lead!

  41. Angela Herbert says:

    Hi Inga, I took out your book “Mr WIGG” from our local library yesterday lunchtime and I have read it all in one day. It is the most beautiful book I have ever read ( Over my 71 years!) and when I reached the end I wanted some magic to extend the story so I didn’t have to take it back so soon. With authors like you the written word will never disappear and I have made a note of all your other writing so I can continue to enjoy your literary gifts. Thank you for such a wonderous story. You have made me take up my pen and write some more poetry. God bless.

  42. Jeanette says:

    Loved your book Understory and your description of the trees. The land teaches us so much about ourselves. Thanks

  43. Ginny says:

    Hello, I have just read Nest, my first taste of your work. It was beautiful. When I stay in the countryside in NE Vic at my mum’s home, there are bird baths and creepers along her verandah and I spend a lot of time listening to and watching the red necked finches bathing; the wrens hop about the grasses which are left long for their seed heads at the edges of the lawn. There are leuwin honeyeaters and silvery eyes. Out in the space over the river are white cockatoos, ibis and the ocassional pelican. Spiralling above the hills are wedgetails and at night the moepokes call or you hear a lone plover spearing the night with its cry. Magpie families strut the lawn when it has rained; up the ridge line are cuckoo shrikes and kookaburras, and below mum’s house, in my sister’s japonica, are bower birds. Finally she is visited by mountain lowries and king parrots especially in winter. Because it is riverland there are also herons, spoonbills and moorhens, kingfishers and bee-eaters. Many many years ago, when we first moved into the area, there used to be brolgas in the paddocks.
    So reading Nest took me home. Thank you for a lyrically told story.

  44. inga says:

    Thanks, Angela!

  45. inga says:

    Thanks, Jeanette. That is so true.

  46. inga says:

    Thanks, Ginny. Sounds like you have an eye for birds. 🙂

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