Acclaimed Australian author Tara June Winch now lives in the French countryside, but never wants to forget her roots as "a kid from Woonona East" near Wollongong, south of Sydney.
Winch has won a slew of awards over the past 15 years, the most recent being the prestigious Miles Franklin Literary Award for her novel The Yield.
She's just one of many award-winners who are part of the Wollongong Writers Festival online panel program this week.
Winch would have loved to have been a part of the annual event in person, but a pandemic got in the way.
Read more: Tara June Winch wins Miles Franklin award
The Wiradjuri author will take part in a discussion tackling death (with fellow writers Penny Hueston, Dervla McTiernan and Jackie Bailey) on Wednesday, and "feels qualified" to be on the panel.
Her brother Billy Martin, a State Emergency Service volunteer from Albion Park who died on the job two years ago in December, has featured in her writings.
"Death is the topic of life really, they're inseparable from each other," Winch said.
"You can't tell a story without paying attention to the weight of one's life which includes death."
Many of her family still live on the Coal Coast, so being stuck inside foreign borders has been challenging.
"It's hard to be away from family and identity, like your true self - and that person still lives in Wollongong," she said.
Winch has spent years wandering the globe, eventually settling in the Loire-Atlantique region of France, where she is now based with her teenage daughter and partner. But home will always be the Illawarra.
She still loves to watch Australian television shows, and still has an authentic accent that gives no hints the writer lives in Europe.
"I don't want to lose myself in the distance," Winch said. "I'm just a kid from Woonona East, playing on the beach with my brothers.
"The sound of that ocean - I still dream of the ocean - you take it for granted don't you, to see the horizon like that."
Once international borders reopen Winch will visit again for warm hugs from family, to be engaged in the local community, and to stay grounded and "not get too big for my boots".
It is great being a best-selling author, but all the accolades and awards can be a "distraction" - just like a global pandemic - she said.
But December 3 is the date she'll return to "the cave" - a metaphorical place of solitude, where the "deep, dark recesses" of a novel are finally nutted out.
Her next book will be set in France and Switzerland but "not a departure" from her usual writing.
"Even though its set in Europe, it's still part of what i'm trying to say as a writer and those socio-political topics that I touch on," she said.
Winch admits it can be a lonely life being a writer, always stuck at a computer or notepad, but she has something to say and uses words to really "have a conversation" with her readers.
Tickets are still available for the WWF session with Tara June Winch. For details, and the full program of the festival, visit: https://wollongongwritersfestival.com