2021 Fogarty Literary Award winner…

Congratulations to Brooke Dunnell, who tonight won the 2021 Fogarty Literary Award, receiving a $20,000 cash prize and a publishing contract with Fremantle Press for her novel The Glass House.

The Fogarty Literary Award is open to Western Australian writers aged 18 to 35, and Brooke only narrowly scraped in, turning 35 a week after the award deadline. She is widely published in the short fiction genre, and her collection Female(s and) Dogs was a finalist in the 2020 Carmel Bird Digital Literary Award. She lives in Perth and has worked as a creative writing mentor and workshop facilitator.

The judges described The Glass House as

an assured work of fiction, full of well-drawn characters, an involving plot and an ultimately affirming message…36-year-old Julia presses pause on a fractured relationship with her husband Rowan in Melbourne in order to fly to Perth to begin the difficult task of cleaning up her father’s house and helping him to move into an aged-care facility. From the childhood friend Julia runs into in the supermarket, to the dog that she finds her father suddenly minding, to the recurring bad dreams she begins to have about her stepdaughter, this novel is full of tension, complex emotion and surprises.

Being shortlisted for any award is a mark of great achievement, so congratulations also to the other shortlisted authors, Patrick Marlborough for A Horse Held at Gun Point (novel) and Georgia Tree for Old Boy (narrative non-fiction). Both will be working with Fremantle Press editor Georgia Richter on further developing their manuscript, which is a wonderful opportunity in itself.

And I want to mention the five authors whose manuscripts the judging panel chose to recognise as highly commended. Huge congratulations to Alex Dook, Daniel Juckes, Emily Paull, Luke Winter and Alice Woodland—I hope their manuscripts also find the right publishing home.

It’s heartening to see so many talented young writers hitting their stride.

The goal of the award sponsors the Fogarty Foundation is to ‘support and provide educational and leadership opportunities for young people across the spectrum of the Western Australian community’, and how good it is to see literature recognised as a vehicle for that.

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More new releases from WA writers…

Elfie Shiosaki
Homecoming
Magabala Books
$24.99

I’ve heard wonderful things about this debut hybrid work (poetry/prose) from Noongar and Yawuru writer Elfie Shiosaki, who lectures in Indigenous Rights at the University of Western Australia.

Homecoming pieces together fragments of stories about four generations of Noongar women and explores how they navigated the changing landscapes of colonisation, protectionism, and assimilation to hold their families together.

This seminal collection of poetry, prose and historical colonial archives, tells First Nations truths of unending love for children—those that were present, those taken, those hidden and those that ultimately stood in the light.

Homecoming speaks to the intergenerational dialogue about Country, kin and culture. This elegant and extraordinary form of restorative story work amplifies Aboriginal women’s voices, and enables four generations of women to speak for themselves. This sublime debut highlights the tenacity of family as well as First Nation’s agency to resist, survive and renew.

Elfie Shiosaki has restored humanity and power to her family in this beautifully articulated collection and has given voice to those silenced by our brutal past.

Listen to an interview with Elfie Shiosaki on ABC Radio Perth here.

Mel Hall
The Little Boat on Trusting Lane
Fremantle Press
$29.99

Some of my favourite writers (Simone Lazaroo, Rashida Murphy, Laurie Steed) have been talking up this newly released novel from Fremantle Press. Mel Hall has previously published a novella (The Choir of Gravediggers, Ginninderra Press, 2016), and was shortlisted for the Fogarty Literary Award in 2019.

Richard runs his alternative healing centre from an old houseboat in a scrapyard on Trusting Lane. The Little Mother Earth Ship provides spiritual sustenance at regular meetings of the Circle of IEWA. While Richard plies his new-age wisdom, disciples Finn and August help to run the centre. But warning letters from the council are piling up down the side of the fridge and the arrival of a new mystic, Celestiaa Davinaa, is about to rock their world. How many alternative healers can one small boat hold before the enterprise capsizes?

Read a review by Books + Publishing here.

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Little Jock’s bag…

Earlier this year, Albany visual artist Annette Davis told me about her proposed entry in the 2021 Bunbury Biennale, and it was an honour to hear that she was taking as her inspiration an image from my novel The Sinkings.

The Biennale’s curator, Caroline Lunel, describes the theme of this year’s Biennale, He She They, as springing from

the belief that gender continues to be a much relevant and current topic, particularly within the visual arts. Our culture is becoming increasingly more diverse, as we progress beyond the social idea that gender only comes in two forms, thus exposing the complexity of gender related issues.

A selection of 37 cis gender, queer, and nonbinary artists have been invited to explore and interpret this extensive theme…

I recently had the pleasure of visiting the exhibition at the Bunbury Regional Art Gallery. Here are Annette Davis’s artist statement and her fascinating work, Carrier Bags

I am interested in the item of a bag as the carrier of identity.

I’ve been inspired by the novel The Sinkings by Western Australian author Amanda Curtin, which starts with a real event from 1882—a brutal murder at the Sinkings, a well near Albany. The victim is Little Jock, who has lived most of his life as a male, though at the autopsy the body remains are described as female. In today’s terms, Little Jock would have been known as intersex.

The basic known facts of Little Jock are the starting point for this story. In the novel Little Jock becomes the subject of research by a contemporary woman, Willa, whose own child was born with ambiguous genitalia. Following medical advice, the child was operated on and grew up as a girl. In her teens she discovered the truth of the medical procedures done to her, and leaves home distraught and angry. The novel weaves Little Jock’s story with Willa’s research, and her feelings of longing for her child.

Little Jock has a bushel bag in which he keeps some women’s clothes, including an embroidered vest. This tightly woven bag hides its contents, just as Little Jock hid his identity. The other suspended bags carry the stories of contemporary intersex people on the paper from which they have been woven. The weaving style of the bags reflects the loosening of society’s attitudes and a growing acceptance of gender diversity.

Annette Davis, Carrier Bags, 2021

He She They is at the Bunbury Regional Art Gallery until 6 June 2021.

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Windows into war…

Perth is about to begin a snap three-day Covid lockdown, which means that Anzac Day this Sunday will be our second in lockdown. Services have been cancelled and driveway remembrances encouraged.

As I wrote in a blog last year, I’m always conflicted in my thoughts about Anzac Day. I turn to novels not to resolve those ambivalences but to explore them further—something that good fiction does so well.

Here are five wonderful Australian novels that give us windows into war, encouraging empathy and compassion, and it’s perhaps not surprising that they are all also stories of love…

World War I

Where the Line Breaks by Michael Burrows (Fremantle Press, 2021): my interview with Michael here

Matthew Denton, a starry-eyed Australian completing his PhD in London, is determined to prove that the Unknown Digger—Australia’s answer to England’s Soldier Poets—is none other than war hero Lieutenant Alan Lewis VC of the 10th Light Horse.

Like Lieutenant Lewis, Matthew is in love, and fighting for what he believes in—but the footnotes to Matt’s thesis come to reveal that all is not fair in love and war.

One hundred years and a lifetime’s experience apart, it becomes more and more difficult to say what makes a hero, especially if that hero is supposed to be you.

Traitor by Stephen Daisley (Text, 2011): review by Lisa, ANZLitLovers, here

What would make a soldier betray his country?

In the battle-smoke and chaos of Gallipoli, a young New Zealand soldier helps a Turkish doctor fighting to save a boy’s life. Then a shell bursts nearby; the blast that should have killed them both consigns them instead to the same military hospital.

Mahmoud is a Sufi. A whirling dervish, he says, of the Mevlevi order. He tells David stories. Of arriving in London with a pocketful of dried apricots. Of Majnun, the man mad for love, and of the saint who flew to paradise on a lion skin. You are God, we are all gods, Mahmoud tells David; and a bond grows between them.

A bond so strong that David will betray his country for his friend.

Stephen Daisley’s astonishing debut novel is a story of war and of love—how each changes everything, forever. Traitor is that rarest of things: a work of fiction that will transport the reader, heart and soul, into another realm.

The Wing of Night by Brenda Walker (Penguin, 2006): review in Sydney Morning Herald here

In 1915 a troopship of Light Horsemen sails from Fremantle for the Great War. Two women farewell their men: Elizabeth, with her background of careless wealth, and Bonnie, who is marked by the anxieties of poverty. Neither can predict how the effects of the most brutal fighting at Gallipoli will devastate their lives in the long aftermath of the war.

The Wing of Night is a novel about the strength and failure of faith and memory, about returned soldiers who become exiles in their own country, about how people may become the very opposite of what they imagined themselves to be. Brenda Walker writes with a terrible grandeur of the grime and drudge of the battlefield, and of how neither men nor women can be consoled for the wreckage caused by a foreign war.

World War II

Bodies of Men by Nigel Featherstone (Hachette, 2019): guest 2, 2 and 2 blog here

Egypt, 1941. Only hours after disembarking in Alexandria, William Marsh, an Australian corporal at twenty-one, is face down in the sand, caught in a stoush with the Italian enemy. He is saved by James Kelly, a childhood friend from Sydney and the last person he expected to see. But where William escapes unharmed, not all are so fortunate. William is sent to supervise an army depot in the Western Desert, with a private directive to find an AWOL soldier: James Kelly. When the two are reunited, James is recovering from an accident, hidden away in the home of an unusual family—a family with secrets. Together they will risk it all to find answers. Soon William and James are thrust headlong into territory more dangerous than either could have imagined.

Vietnam War

Seeing the Elephant by Portland Jones (Margaret River Press, 2016): review by Lisa, ANZLitLovers, here

Seeing the Elephant is the poignant story of a remarkable relationship between Frank Stevens, an Australian soldier sent to the Vietnamese Highlands to recruit and train the local hill tribes during the Vietnam War, and his Vietnamese translator, Minh.

The story is told through letters from Frank to his grandfather. Seconded by the CIA, Frank has been sent to the Vietnamese Highlands to recruit and train the local mountain tribes to resist the North Vietnamese. Once Frank returns home the letters document his struggle to cope with life in Australia after the war.

Nearly fifty years later, Minh, now living in Australia and seriously ill, reads through Frank’s letters and remembers the experiences that he shared with Frank, and discovers that even amongst his traumatic memories, there is consolation and joy.

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Coming up: Margaret River Readers & Writers Festival

At the moment, with so many places locked down around the world, it seems a great privilege to be able to attend a writers festival in person. I always look forward to the Margaret River Readers & Writers Festival, in our beautiful South West wine region, but this year more than ever.

The festival will run from Friday 14 to Sunday 16 May, in venues in and around Margaret River but primarily at Margaret River HEART, the region’s new entertainment hub in the centre of town.

Congratulations to new festival director Sian Baker, who has put together an ambitious program of events. Among the many authors taking part are Julia Baird, Kate Mildenhall, Pip Williams, Karen Wyld, Chris Flynn, Bob Brown, Craig Silvey, Donna Mazza, Elizabeth Tan, Brigid Lowry, David Whish-Wilson, Natasha Lester and Emily Sun. The full program is here.

If you’re keen to ‘attend’ from afar, there’s also a Three-Day Virtual Pass available.

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Two new releases from WA writers…

Brigid Lowry
A Year of Loving Kindness to Myself: and other essays
Fremantle Press
$29.99

A book high on my ‘to buy list’ is a new book of essays by Brigid Lowry, A Year of Loving Kindness to Myself. Brigid is a wonderful writer and a lovely person, wise and funny, and I would read pretty much anything she wrote. This one sounds like a perfect Mother’s Day release, and a collection of and for these crazy times we are living through…

A beautifully presented and uplifting book of contemplative, wry, sometimes funny essays about living thoughtfully and with care amidst life’s challenges. If you’re struggling to maintain grace and good humour amidst daily potholes and pitfalls, Brigid Lowry may be just the warm, wise and witty companion you need. Informed by contemporary psychology and Buddhist philosophy, Brigid’s essays offer reflections on everything from friendship to grief, and from gratitude to self-care. Give this book to a friend or gift it to yourself. A Year of Loving Kindness to Myself is all the encouragement you’ll need to nurture you and those around you.

Emma Young
The Last Bookshop
Fremantle Press
$32.99

Another new autumn release is Emma Young’s The Last Bookshop. I’ve already bought a copy of this for a friend, who loved it, and it sounds like another good one for Mother’s Day. Emma has worked as a bookseller and a journalist, and The Last Bookshop, in its manuscript form, was shortlisted for the 2019 Fogarty Literary Award…

Cait Copper’s best friends have always been books—along with the rare souls who love them as much as she does, like the grandmotherly June. When Cait set up her shop, Book Fiend, right in the heart of the city, she thought she’d skipped straight to ‘happily ever after’. But things are changing, and fast. June’s sudden interest in Cait’s lacklustre love life and the appearance of the handsome ‘Mystery Shopper’ force her to concede there might be more to happiness than her shop and her cat. The city is transforming, with luxury chain stores circling Book Fiend’s prime location. And meanwhile, a far more personal tragedy is brewing. Soon Cait is questioning not only the viability of the shop, but the life she’s shaped around it. An unlikely band of allies is determined she won’t face these questions alone; but is a love of books enough to halt the march of progress and time?


In case you missed it, I also recently interviewed another WA writer (currently living in London), Michael Burrows, about his original and deeply moving novel about war, love and heroism, Where the Line Breaks.

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Talking (new) fiction: Michael Burrows’ Where the Line Breaks

I was intrigued from the moment I heard about Michael Burrows’ debut novel, Where the Line Breaks, and so I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to talk to him about it and to be bringing you that interview today.

Michael was born and raised in Perth, but currently lives in London, where he first travelled to work at the 2012 Olympics. He says that after he backpacked through Europe for a year, the great British weather persuaded him to settle in the UK.

He completed his MA in 2017 at City, University of London, where he wrote the first draft of this novel. Where the Line Breaks was shortlisted for the 2019 Fogarty Literary Award.

Matthew Denton, a starry-eyed Australian completing his PhD in London, is determined to prove that the Unknown Digger—Australia’s answer to England’s Soldier Poets—is none other than war hero Lieutenant Alan Lewis VC of the 10th Light Horse.

Like Lieutenant Lewis, Matthew is in love, and fighting for what he believes in—but the footnotes to Matt’s thesis come to reveal that all is not fair in love and war.

One hundred years and a lifetime’s experience apart, it becomes more and more difficult to say what makes a hero, especially if that hero is supposed to be you.

When two strands become three

AC: Michael, I’m always fascinated with the architecture of a novel, so I’d like to begin with that. The structure of Where the Line Breaks is one of the most inventive I’ve come across. On the face of it, a reader approaches the novel very much aware (because of the book’s internal design) that they are about to read a dual narrative. One narrative is presented in the form of a PhD thesis written by the present-day protagonist, student Matthew Denton; the second tells the story of the subject of Matthew’s thesis, Australian war hero Alan Lewis of the 10th Light Horse. But the reader is in for a surprise: this dual-narrative novel quickly evolves into a triple narrative. Without giving away any spoilers, could you please talk about this third strand and how it operates in the novel?

MB: From very early on in the writing process I knew that I needed some way of laying out the established historical timeline, that is, the story that the world has come to know, so that I could reveal the truth behind those events in the Alan Lewis storyline. I also wanted a way to comment on the major themes of the book directly—the ideas of heroism and romance and patriotism—and the thesis allowed me to do that in a fun, slightly different way.

What complicated it was that I also needed a way to tell Matt’s own story, and you can’t really do that in the thesis while maintaining the academic language. My solution was for Matt to reveal his own story through the footnotes to the thesis, occasionally dropping in personal thoughts and relating the historical timeline to his own life in a way that felt realistic. I really tried to make his narrative emerge organically; his story is triggered by related things in the thesis itself, as much as possible. As the thesis goes on, Matt’s story starts to take on a life of its own and grows bigger and more complicated, and the footnotes expand accordingly.

It’s a structure that I find really intriguing, and I hope people enjoy reading, because it gave me a lot of levels on which to play with the truth, to comment on things, and to echo relevant beats in the other storylines.

I’m not sure that this thesis would be marked particularly well as a proper PhD thesis, but I think it’s a lot more fun to read than a real PhD.

Fabricating authenticity

AC: Matthew’s academic argument is that Lewis is the (fictional) ‘Unknown Digger’ of the First World War, the previously anonymous poet responsible for a collection of poems that have become iconic artefacts in Australian literature since their discovery in the 1990s. I imagine it must have been great fun to create the various conceits at work here—the literary and cultural landscape in which the poems have achieved almost mythic status; the academic quest to counter existing beliefs about the identity of the Unknown Digger and to definitively prove an alternative; the ‘Unknown Digger industry’ and those texts and specialists who are part of it. I’m also wondering how demanding it was. How did you keep track of all your fabrications, and was it difficult to keep yourself separate from this parallel world of your own creation?

MB: I had a little too much fun constructing Matt’s arguments, inventing relevant sources, and creating the various historians and cultural icons he references. When it came time to sort the fact from the fiction for acknowledgement in the finished book, I had forgotten which sections I made up and which were real. Or, I found I had somehow placed a fictional quote into a very real reference book, or vice versa, which I then had to remedy.

There was a lot of fun had in creating titles and publishers for books—there may be a few puns in there that were purely for my own pleasure. I was also very lucky that Fremantle Press appreciated the fact that I had added a few of my fictional titles to their backlist—before I ever dreamed I would be lucky enough to get published by them—and allowed them to stay.

Like for any good thesis, I kept a bibliography (and even thought about adding it to the book at one stage) in order to keep tabs on all the various sources. I definitely enjoyed it—that freedom to create the perfect quote for whatever section of Matt’s thesis needed it was dangerous! If I‘d been able to do that in my own academic writing at university I might never have left.

Imperfect heroes

AC: The Alan Lewis narrative is woven around Matthew’s thesis, telling a story that is sometimes consonant with the thesis and sometimes a counter to it (and to the arguments of other theorists). In doing so, it unpicks truths and shows up hagiography for the way it renders individuals one-dimensional, denying them full humanity. Did you intend this to be the novel’s moral centre?

MB: It’s tough as a writer, and you will know this, because you fall in love with your characters and want them to be loved and quoted and maybe even looked up to, while still wanting them to be imperfect, rounded, fully-dimensional people. So, yes, sometimes they have to do less than perfect things in service of the story. I was definitely looking to question the way we mythologise war heroes and plaster them with these unattainable levels of perfection, but my real intention was just to muddy the area a little, and to examine why we feel the need to create these unattainable ideals in the first place. If the novel has a moral centre then it’s probably a bit of an unstable quagmire—my characters are not perfect, they don’t necessarily do the right things, but I think they are more realistic that way.

Would you trust this man?

AC: How reliable as the narrator of his own story is Matthew Denton?

MB: Matt is trying to prove that Alan Lewis is the Unknown Digger, and he is willing to do that by manhandling the facts in whatever way he can to support his argument, so I wouldn’t call him a paradigm of reliability. The fun of writing Matt’s thesis was finding the right level of control Matt had—in a way he’s writing the footnotes almost automatically, but at the same time he’s very aware he’s writing the footnotes and telling a story and he wants to be the hero in his own life, so how far can we trust him?

But, at the end of the day, he’s an academic, and interested in finding the truth, so while there is fun to be had in deciphering what’s real, I don’t think he’s malicious. If anything, there are points when he is too honest!

Accumulating research, letting it go

AC: Many times I caught my breath at the sensory qualities of the prose. One example (of many):

…powder dry on his lips, the limestone taste of zinc cream. The powdery residue is in his eyelashes, and tears spring from the corners of his eyes, attempting to wash away the dirt, but with each blink it grows worse. He closes his eyes but no matter which direction they roll the tiny grains push into the soft wet whites, caught beneath the thin skin of his eyelids, pricking and tearing.

I was also drawn to the minute experiential details:

Red spent four hours last week picking [lice] from his shirt and throwing them on the fire. They make a little pop as they burn.

Did research play a role in your ability to project yourself so convincingly into the brutal physical world of the novel, and also to occupy that emotional landscape? And did this take a toll on you?

MB: I love the research period on a project—losing yourself in the minutiae of a topic and finding these wonderful little morsels of information that you’ll probably never even use. I did a lot of research for this novel, but I found that once I’d done enough, I was able to put the research aside and immerse myself in the landscape without the need to constantly be looking at notes and checking accuracy. I was only able to get to that place because I had done the research.

I wouldn’t say it took a toll on me, but it would sometimes take a while to get into that space again, especially if I’d spent a bit of time working on the thesis storyline and was coming back to the Alan Lewis storyline. Often I would find it easier to write by playing a specific song on repeat, sometimes for hours on end, to stay in the right tone. Whatever works, right?

Multiple obsessions

AC: Writing a PhD requires many things, and obsession surely has to be one of them. That can be seen very clearly in Matthew’s work, but the more I read, the more I began to feel that this is actually a novel of obsession. Is it possible for you to talk about the other obsessions at work here without giving too much away?

MB: I’m glad you felt it wasn’t just Matt obsessing over the PhD, because I think Matt and Alan are both grappling with their own obsessions, based around their ideas of heroism and bravery and, on another level, masculinity. What the dual narratives allowed me to do was to tackle those themes from opposite sides, almost, so that Alan’s obsessions lead him, eventually, to a certain crucial point. Then Matt, with the weight of history, and the benefit of hindsight, moving away from it in time, is obsessed in his own way with living up to that point. I also wanted the book to explore this modern day obsession I think we all have with defining everything, breaking everything down to right or wrong, good or bad, black or white. Focusing on the various obsessions in the novel, and the tunnel vision it gives both Matt and Alan, was a really great way of confronting those ideas.

Aspects of the self

AC: Where the Line Breaks is your first novel, and it’s been said of first novels that many, if not most, contain autobiographical threads. In fact, Kerryn Goldsworthy put forward the idea that in this respect, the debut novel is a little sub-genre of its own. I firmly believed that mine had no autobiographical element whatsoever until others pointed out that one of my main characters, like me, is a book editor, lives in an old house, has a cat, etc.—minor details, but still! I noticed a few such correlations between your life and Matthew Denton’s. Was this a conscious decision on your part?

MB: There is definitely some correlation between my life and Matt’s. I think in a very early draft he was even named Matt Burroughs, because I figured that if people were going to draw comparisons then I might as well state it plainly—the difference between us being the lengths we are willing to go to in order to prove ourselves correct. I certainly drew on my own experiences of moving away from Perth, finding somewhere to live in London, and studying at university, but then I had to start making things up because my life in London was and is quite normal and uneventful, and as you and I both know, things need to happen in a book.

Likewise, though, there is something of me in Alan Lewis too. Both these characters started with something of me (that old adage of ‘write what you know’), in Alan’s case it was that need to prove himself, and that fear that he won’t be able to when the time comes, which I think we all grapple with. The joy of being a writer is that you can then explore those aspects of yourself by pushing your characters to extremes.

Those damn footnotes!
(said every editor, ever)

AC: I alluded earlier to the internal design of the book, which incorporates, as one strand, the full text of Matthew’s thesis complete with the apparatus of title page, abstract, contents page, acknowledgments and, critically, footnotes. I couldn’t help wondering just how unpopular this made you with your editor and graphic designer!

MB: On the night of the Fogarty Literary Award presentation, when Fremantle Press announced that they would be offering all three shortlisted novels publication,* my editor Georgia Richter approached me and the first thing she said was that the footnotes were going to be interesting to work with! I’m so thankful for Georgia and the designers who persevered with it, making sure everything worked on the page, because it was hard! The problem is that if you take out a chunk of thesis when you’re editing, then the footnotes move position too, so then you have to go back over every page to make sure it hasn’t messed up the formatting a few pages later. We got there eventually, though, and the finished book looks incredible, and that is all thanks to them!

Where the Line Breaks is published by Fremantle Press
You can follow Michael on Twitter and via his website

*The other two shortlisted titles were The History of Mischief by Rebecca Higgie (published in 2020), and The Last Bookshop by Emma Young (published this year). The award was won by Rebecca Higgie.

Image credit: author photo by Rosalind Alcazar

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Missing Ireland…

It was St Patrick’s Day during the week, and as I happen to have been writing about Ireland for the last few months, I thought I’d share a few photos from my last visit.

But for Covid, I’d be there again in May for a residency and research. Ah, well…

Lá Fhéile Pádraig sona duit!

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Remembering…

This week marked the anniversary of the death of Western Australia’s celebrated Engineer-in-Chief, C.Y. O’Connor, on 10 March 1902. O’Connor, exhausted and suffering intolerable stress—much of it caused by vitriolic personal attacks on him in the press—rode his horse into the sea in the early morning and shot himself.

On Wednesday morning, I joined O’Connor’s descendants at the beach that bears his name, as I do every year. It is always an uplifting gathering, in spite of the sadness at the core of the memorial. Flowers are cast onto the water and members of the family carry them out to adorn the bronze horse-and-rider statue (the work of sculptor Tony Jones) anchored to the sea bed 100 metres offshore.

I always bring sunflowers, to honour C.Y.’s artist daughter Kathleen (Kate) O’Connor and the close relationship she had with her father. Brilliant sunflowers worked in oil are among Kate’s most famous paintings, and she painted them obsessively late in life.

This year’s commemoration was made more special, and more poignant, by the presence of four beautiful horses among the swimmers.

As I watched Kate’s sunflowers float away, I also remembered standing in the same place a year ago, on the day the World Health Organisation declared Covid-19 a global pandemic. I think it was only just dawning on me that I wouldn’t be going to Europe in April, as planned, but I had no sense that the world was about to change so dramatically. That people would lose their livelihoods, their homes, their sense of security, their loved ones. That families would be separated, people would be stranded, and the world would become infinitely more uncertain. That well over two million people would die in the next twelve months.

I feel immensely grateful to be here, grateful and hopeful. I hope that ‘this’ is not forever. That the incredible effort put into developing vaccines will bring relief the world over. That what we’ve learned over the past year—new ways of working and communicating, new ways of experiencing the world from afar and looking more closely at our own backyards—will have lasting benefits. And hopeful that we have come far enough in our attitudes towards mental health, over the past one hundred and nineteen years, that people suffering intolerable stress will feel more able to reach out for help.

Lifeline Australia is available 24/7 on 13 11 14

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Coming up: masterclass series at Centre for Stories

If you’re an emerging or established writer in the Perth metropolitan area, you might be interested in a series of six masterclasses being presented over April and May at the Centre for Stories in Northbridge. The series consists of the following three-hour masterclasses presented by six award-winning writers:

17 April  The Narrative Landscape with Portland Jones

24 April  The Hybrid (Decolonised) Narrative with Rashida Murphy

1 May Science in Story and Imagination with Vivienne Glance

8 May Politics and Creative Writing with Susan Midalia

22 May The Researched Imagination with Annamaria Weldon

29 May Editing Your Own Work with Amanda Curtin

You can book individual sessions, but there is a great offer available for those interested in attending all six.

I’m delighted to be taking part in this series alongside writers whose work I love and respect, and I might even book a few sessions myself.

The editing masterclass I’m presenting is designed to assist writers look at their manuscript objectively, examine the prose, architecture and effects of the work, and polish it to the highest level within their capability prior to submission. If that sounds like something for you, there are more details on the link above.

I’d love to see you there!

The Centre for Stories is located at 100 Aberdeen Street, Northbridge,
and each masterclass is run on a Saturday afternoon, 1–4pm.

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