Monthly Archives: December 2014

Australian Women Writers Challenge—2014 wrap-up

awwbadge_2014It’s the end of the year and what a wonderful year it’s been for reading Australian women writers. There have been new books from some of my favourites, and I’ve been introduced to writers who I’m sure will be on my future lists of favourites.

But this is a wrap-up post for the 2014 Australian Women Writers Challenge—my second challenge year—and I have to confess that, while I have handsomely exceeded my AWWC commitment to read at least ten books by Australian women writers, I have fallen short of my goal to review at least six. But I’m recklessly going to call it challenge completed, anyway!

Here are the challenge books it’s been my pleasure to read in 2014, with links to my reviews and to new books by Australian women writers featured on the blog this year in my 2, 2 and 2 series.

Debra Adelaide, Letters to George Clooney (Picador, 2013)
Andrea Goldsmith, The Memory Trap (Fourth Estate, 2013) *reviewed here
Andrea Goldsmith, Reunion (Fourth Estate, 2009)
Catherine Jinks, A Very Unusual Pursuit: Book 1: City of Orphans (Allen & Unwin, 2013) *reviewed here
Tracy Farr, The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt (Fremantle Press, 2013)
Carmel Macdonald Grahame, Personal Effects (UWA Publishing, 2014) *reviewed here
Felicity Young, The Scent of Murder (HarperCollins, 2014)
Moira McKinnon, Cicada (Allen & Unwin, 2014)
Brooke Davis, Lost & Found (Hachette, 2014) *featured here
Dawn Barker, Let Her Go (Hachette, 2014) *featured here
Simone Lazaroo, Lost River: Four Albums (UWA Publishing, 2014)
Evie Wyld, All the Birds, Singing (Vintage, 2013)
Fiona McFarlane, The Night Guest (Penguin, 2013)
Inga Simpson, Mr Wigg (Hachette, 2013)
Deb Fitzpatrick, The Break (Fremantle Press, 2014) *featured here
Joan London, The Golden Age (Vintage, 2014)
Danielle Wood, Mothers Grimm (Allen & Unwin, 2014)
S.A. Jones, Isabelle of the Moon & Stars (UWA Publishing, 2014) *featured here
Annabel Smith, The Ark (self-published, 2014) *featured here
Paddy O’Reilly, The Factory (Affirm Press, 2014 edn)
Michelle de Kretser, Springtime: A Ghost Story (Allen & Unwin, 2014)

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This year I also introduced eight Western Australian women writers with manuscripts that I hope we will have an opportunity to review, as books, in the future: Rashida Murphy and Kristen Levitzke, Amanda Gardiner and Emily Paull, Karen Overman and Kim Coull, and Michelle Michau-Crawford and Louise Allan.

I do intend to sign up for the 2015 challenge and already have a pile of books ready to go.

And as this is the last post from me this year, I’d like to acknowledge the AWWC bloggers who chose to review my own books in 2014. I really appreciate it—thank you!

Elemental
Sonja Porter, Sonja’s Bookshelf
Angela Savage
Monique Mulligan, Write Note Reviews
Danielle Burns
Bernadette, Reactions to Reading
Natalia Clara

The Sinkings
Karen Has Things to Say

Inherited
Karen Has Things to Say

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Happy New Year, everyone!

 

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A December photo-reminder…

to look down, and watch for reindeer prints…

Wishing you all a safe and happy festive season!

 

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The next wave: exciting news!

This morning I attended the announcement of the 2014 City of Fremantle TAG Hungerford Award shortlist, a biennial award given to a manuscript by a Western Australian author previously unpublished in book form. The winner will receive a cash prize of $12,000 and a publishing contract with Fremantle Press.

The award has launched the writing careers of eleven previous recipients, some of whom have gone on to receive national and international recognition with their published work. The previous winners are: Brenda Walker (1990), Gail Jones (1991), Simone Lazaroo (1993), Bruce Russell (1995), Christopher Murray (2000), Nathan Hobby (2002), Donna Mazza (2004), Alice Nelson (2006), Natasha Lester (2008), Jacqueline Wright (2010) and Robert Edeson (2012).

I was thrilled to see Louise Allan on the shortlist, for her novel Ida’s Children, recently featured in the looking up/looking down series The next wave: you can read the post here. Congratulations, Louise!

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Of course, my congratulations extend to all five shortlisted authors. It’s a significant, meaningful achievement, and I look forward to picking up all these titles off a bookshop shelf in the future.

2014 shortlisted authors and manuscripts

Louise Allan, Ida’s Children
Madelaine Dickie, Troppo
Portland Jones, Seeing the Elephant
Mihaela Nicolescu, Other Place
Nicole Sinclair, All That’s Gone Before

Portland Jones, Mihaela Nicolescu, Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt, Louise Allan, Nicole Sinclair, Fremantle Press fiction publisher Georgia Richter

Portland Jones, Mihaela Nicolescu, Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt, Louise Allan, Nicole Sinclair, Fremantle Press fiction publisher Georgia Richter

The winner will be announced early in 2015. Good luck to you all!

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The next wave (part 4): WA women writers to look out for

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The next wave is a four-part series featuring exciting Western Australian women writers with manuscripts ready for submission or nearly there. I hope you’ll remember their names and watch out for their published work.

My final two guests are Michelle Michau-Crawford and Louise Allan.

 

MichelleLR-2Michelle Michau-Crawford

Michelle and I share a love of short stories—and Paris. Michelle recently spent a month there, collects French literature and is currently attempting to learn French so she can read her collection. ‘Despite it being the so-called City of Love,’ she says, ‘it is my favourite place to visit alone.’ Her love affair with the city began by accident on a trip in 2008. Having been a huge Leonard Cohen fan all her life, she discovered he was performing in Lyon two weeks after a conference she was attending in Dublin. ‘I extended my trip, bought a scalped ticket and went to Lyon via Paris. I was thinking I was just going to Paris to kill time, but I fell for the city.’

Her current writing focus is short fiction, although she has also written and published poetry, articles, scripts and plays. Her story ‘Leaving Elvis’ won the prestigious ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize in 2013, and ‘Happy Haven Holiday Park’ has just been published in the current issue of Westerly. She has also won the Fortescue Poetry Prize, been commended or shortlisted for fiction and poetry in several national competitions, and been awarded an ASA mentorship.

Michelle’s manuscript—working title Elvis, and Other Losses—is ‘a collection of linked stories exploring, in part, how the the secrets and unspoken experiences that shape the lives of individuals can have intergenerational impact on family members. The stories focus on three generations from the one Australian family. By unpeeling some of the layers of various family secrets, and delving into characters’ memories, in particular, the stories make visible some of that which is often largely hidden, and explore ways in which some people, when faced with adversity, develop the capacity to cope and grow stronger, while others—at least on the surface—are apparently not so successful.’

Here is a brief extract from one story:

‘I said, what do you dream about?’

He’s still thinking of her mother when she asks that. Had him wrapped around her little finger from the outset. He sort of knew back then that he’d always take her side, even though he loved her mum more than life itself.

She shifts from foot to foot. Scraggly yellow hair tumbling free from its ribbons. Hands on bony hips. Chin jutted forwards. Just like her mum used to.

He doesn’t know what he’s supposed to say. Feed her a lie? Spin something sugar and spice? Tell her the truth, that something that he thought was fixed has broken again? Confess that he’s as weak as piss?

In the nick of time Evie saves him. Comes to the door and calls the kid out of the bedroom. Looks at him. Disappointment all over her face. Like he’s the one thing standing between her and happiness.

Website here

 

DSC_7041 - Version 3Louise Allan

Louise has been working on her first novel for some time, with the kind of commitment she devoted to her former profession—medicine—and continues to devote to her role as the mother of four children. She says that at sixteen ‘if anyone had told me I would be a writer when I grew up, I would have choked on my Pepsi. At that time, I was very Maths/Science orientated, and although I loved reading and enjoyed English, I found it the most difficult of all my subjects.’

She has had two short stories published in the anthology Jukebox (Out of the Asylum Writing Group, 2013), and two short memoir pieces are forthcoming in another anthology. She observes: ‘Part of the reason for my lean pickings on the publishing side is that I don’t send anything out until I’ve sat on it for a couple of years’—which strikes me as a cautious, but wise, approach.

This year she won a Varuna Writing Fellowship—‘a magical two weeks’—to work on her manuscript, working title Ida’s Children, which is in the commercial literary genre and aimed primarily at women readers. ‘The novel is about two sisters growing up in rural Tasmania in the 1920s, and follows them through to the present day. They each have dreams, but life doesn’t give either of them what they yearn for. It’s about unfulfilled dreams and the beauty of children and music, and what happens when beauty is crushed.’

Here is a short sequence from Ida’s Children:

When I first opened the door and saw her standing there, I thought she was from a charity and collecting money. ‘Hold on a minute,’ I said. ‘I’ll get my purse.’

Before I could turn, she stepped closer, under the shade of the verandah, and slipped the sunglasses from her eyes. ‘My name is Penny Archer. I … um …’

I held the doorframe and took a few deep breaths. Settle down, Ida. I looked at her. Those eyes. A warm green. The colour of the bush, they were. So familiar it hurt. A few creases crept from the edges, but the rest of her face was smooth. She held her sunglasses in her hand, tall and elegant in a black dress that tied at the waist and fell loose about her calves.

‘Are you all right?’ she said.

I nodded, let go of the frame and stepped outside, then pulled the door behind me—I didn’t want Grace to hear.

Website here

 

You can also read
Part 1: Rashida Murphy and Kristen Levitzke
Part 2: Amanda Gardiner and Emily Paull
Part 3: Karen Overman and Kim Coull

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The next wave (part 3): WA women writers to look out for

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This is the third of a four-part series featuring Western Australian women writers who have a manuscript either ready, or almost ready, to submit. I’m sure you’re going to be hearing more from them in the future.

In this post, I welcome Karen Overman and Kim Coull.

 

Kav 4-9-14 041_2Karen Overman

Karen has published a collection of short stories, Night Flight from Marabar (1999), and her 2009 novel, The Avenue of Eternal Tranquillity (a favourite of mine), won a Nautilus Award for Visionary Fiction, announced at the New York Book Fair in 2010. As a short story writer, she has won the Irish Famine Literary Award and the Australian-Irish Heritage Association Award, and as a playwright, the SWY Theatre Company Young Playwrights Award. Her plays have been performed at the Festival of Perth and the Octagon Theatre.

Karen’s manuscript—working title The Blue Moment—is a work of literary fiction in the crime/mystery pocket of that genre. The synopsis reads: ‘A murderer is on the loose in a fast food restaurant. But, given the fact she is a middle-aged cleaner, she is almost invisible as she goes about her deadly tidying. Kate is descending into the deeper darkness of her troubled world. Will she grasp the life-buoy thrown by Detective Inspector Knight? Or will they go under together—the killer and the sleuth made deadweight by the coils of an unlikely friendship?’

I asked Karen about the inspiration for this manuscript: ‘For years I’ve had the character Kate lurking in my mind. A middle-aged person, mentally fragile, working in a “service industry” position, a cleaner or waitress perhaps—all the markers that often represent unwarranted invisibility. But I wanted this individual to have a remarkable mind—not necessarily good or bad, but certainly remarkable. I wanted her to go about her terrible business unnoticed, unremarked-upon. I wanted all the behaviours that usually render someone in a lower paid job, and no longer young, invisible (or perhaps, more accurately, seen to be beneath notice) to be a force. I wanted this character to be able to use the way in which they are smudged or blurred out of view to their advantage. I also wanted the darkness that could have consumed this character to be shot through with some sort of redemptive light.’

Here is a taste:

I stand taut and alive in the empty car park, letting this moment wash over me, a moment that will never be repeated again in this format, in the entire history of time. I stand, a small figure looking up at the heavens. These stars, these planets, these constellations and clouds will never again assume this particular configuration. And, for one brief moment, I am epicentre. It is me that acknowledges this scene, my mind that records this series of patterns in the sky. My will, my longing, my effort that keeps these constellations nailed to these fragments of space. I’m keeping the trees about me at full stretch, the clouds in this state of buoyancy, the breeze at this gentle speed. My will is throwing out comets and asteroids and petals from the very flowers that surround me.

For one brief, aching moment I fly out and disappear in it all. A moment, held. Then, immediate contraction, it is done. I am spent.

And, once again, I am a figure standing solitary in a suburban car park, alone with my vastness tightly packed into a small frame, cloaked in a fast food uniform.

I am now feeling calmer, and I return to the dining area, to clean tables.

Website: hvalsang

 

FINAL Kim Coull STB Pic smallKim Coull

Kim is an artist, poet, and Late Discovery Adoptee and lives in the foothills of Perth. She teaches a self-development course that involves facilitating the formation of therapeutic personal narratives from Jungian archetypal and pictorial symbology, and also records oral histories as a consultant for SpillingtheBeans Pty Ltd. She used to busk for a living ‘a long time ago, in another city, in another life, pre-children, pre-discovery, and sometimes, in the quiet of my own space, I still sing some of the old songs, only in earshot of the birds, the constantly wind-worried trees, and the chirruping crickets…’

Kim’s poetry has been published in Blue Dog, Poetrix and Famous Reporter, and in 2005 she won the Talus Prize for Poetry and was runner-up in the prose section. She has a BA in Psychology and has just completed a PhD in Writing.

Her manuscript, a literary novel (fictionalised memoir) with the working title The Womb Artist, explores the psychological aftermath of relinquishment in the closed record adoption system. The synopsis reads: ‘Weena is a strange and anxious child. As she stumbles into adulthood, she doesn’t understand why the world constantly snakes up inside her head and heart to forever keep her sense of self distorted and disabled. Why she speaks in inconsolable tongues after love making and paints strange and disturbing pictures of vaginas and umbilicals. When she finally finds out, at the age of 42, that she was declared dead at birth and subsequently adopted, she must try to make sense of a life lived incarcerated in silence, grief and lies. The novel, set in Australia, India and New Zealand, paints Weena’s life-long struggle with the unconscious reverberations of her lost mother and the sublimated, ever-present “dead baby” within; how her life and art unknowingly record her haunting pre-verbal memories; how she eventually finds out and survives the truth.’

Here is a brief sample:

Mani and Weena take a taxi from Jagraon. The road is straight and the land flat and green in every direction. Soon she sees low walls and flat roofed houses the colour of dirt and sand, the colour of pale mud, faded and caked in the sun, hand hewn and rubbed smooth, as if the earth created the village itself, pushing it up from its loamy womb to sit low and still, almost camouflaged by the irregular line of trees around the outskirts. Black and grey house crows sit in ownership on roofs and walls. Later she learns that these birds are really spirits who are lost, who wander from house to house in pursuit of a soul. Guru Nanak, she learns, prefers swans and bids them gone…

I remember them packing the sky at dusk or sitting on the roof tops, cocking their heads arrogant and unafraid. Of course, they are invisible now as I look at the satellite picture. I can’t make out the buildings in Mani’s village either or the new room built for us back then. The satellite resolution does not permit such a fine perspective. I wonder what else has changed, how many times the Sutlej has flooded, how many rains came early and ruined the spring crops in these intervening years…Manjit’s house is one of only three labelled with the name of their owners, the father’s name, and rank—Subaltern. The focus is shot now. The blur increasingly watery. There is a river rising somewhere—perhaps I feel the start of the rains—the draught to be drunk…

Website here

 

You can also read
Part 1: Rashida Murphy and Kristen Levitzke
Part 2: Amanda Gardiner and Emily Paull
Coming up
Part 4: Michelle Michau-Crawford and Louise Allan

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