Monthly Archives: January 2015

Snapshot: The Minnow

My January reading has been focused on the sessions I’m chairing or participating in at the 2015 Perth Writers Festival. Among the books I’ve loved is Diana Sweeney’s novel for young adults, The Minnow (Text Publishing, 2014).

Here is a brief taste, in the voice of the novel’s protagonist, pregnant teen Tom (Holly):

9781922182012There is a commotion outside. I love the word ‘commotion’. I have a notebook that I carry with me everywhere. I try to write a new word in it everyday. Commotion was Thursday’s word. Anyway, it seems Nana has caused the commotion by falling into the pond. Papa and I stay put. We both know she dived in. We have seen her do it more than once. There are nurses and orderlies running about and making a fuss. Nana will be lapping it up.



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3, 3 and 3: Patricia Kennan, artist

pat3, 3 and 3 is an occasional series featuring creative people and the things that inspire them. My first guest of 2015 is artist Patricia Kennan. I met Pat in 2011, when we were both in residence at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Ireland. She is well known among her many friends there—not only for her exquisite work but for her habit of plunging into the lake early every morning come rain, shine, sleet or snow! Alas, she could not convince me to join her. Pat was born in Dublin but has lived for much of her adult life in the United States, and her accent is a delightful melding of both ‘homes’. While she loves her adopted country, she says she feels ‘mostly Irish’, and this is evident in her work as an artist. When I visited her studio at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, she was working on a series of paintings drawn from her memories of Donegal, and I was deeply moved by the sense of longing and belonging I sensed in them. Pat has Masters degrees (Fine Arts and Art) from the University of Iowa, and has taught in a private school in Spain. She has been exhibiting solo and in group shows at galleries in the US and Ireland since 1979, and her many residencies have included Cill Rialaigh (Ireland), the Julia and David White Colony for Artists (Costa Rica), Pouch Cove (Canada), and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (US). Over to Pat…

3 things I love about what I do

1. When I was four, I stumbled across the colour green by overlapping blue and yellow. It seemed like magic to me, surprising, exciting. Colour and the power of paint to get me back to that place of wonder are what I love about being a painter.

I would be nowhere else

I would be nowhere else

2. I love having the time to look at and feel landscape before I try to put it down on paper, which is freeing. I work from memory on any image until I recognise it.

The road

The road

3. I love reading poetry and fiction and listening to music, and using these as vehicles to take me to that place where process and image come together suddenly in the work. And I love the solitude of working in the studio, not having to deal with people, just the image and the quiet.

3 places I’d like to visit or revisit

1. Donegal, Ireland—wild, wonderful, full of childhood memories. When I’m there, I’m haunted by its history, the weight and beauty of the sea and sky and the ancient land.

Sunset, Donegal

Sunset, Donegal

2. Annaghmakerrig in Newbliss, Ireland—a place that gives me the time and solitude and affirmation and protection to create. 3. Vinalhaven, Maine, an island in Penobscot Bay—the place I have lived longest anywhere in North America, an island where people take care of each other. It has a great library run by two women who love books, and the New Era Gallery, run by Elaine Crossman, where I show work.

3 favourite things

1. Arriving in Maine, seeing the sea come right up to the house in a 10-feet high tide—and jumping in.


Vinalhaven, my jumping off point

2. Spending the day at the Art Institute in Chicago alone and feeling I’m among friends. 3. Finding a book that will take me to a different land, culture or time and filling my heart with images.

Manly beach

Manly beach

You can view more of Patricia’s work at the New Era Gallery’s website


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A January photo-reminder…

to look up, and imagine…



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It’s sign-up time for the 2015 Australian Women Writers Challenge

Every year I hope, in vain, that statistics about book reviewing (e.g. Vida Count, Stella Count) will show there is no longer a gender imbalance in favour of male writers—although I was delighted to see that the 2013 Stella Count listed the daily newspaper of my own state, The West Australian, as one of only two exceptions among major Australian publications (the other being the industry-based Books+Publishing). A big shout-out to the West’s Books Editor, William Yeoman!

It was, in part, because of statistics like these that Elizabeth Lhuede established the Australian Women Writers Challenge in 2012 (you can read more about that here), and I am signing up for my third year as a challenge participant. This year I’m nominating my own terms for the challenge—that is, rather than sign up for set minimum numbers of books to read and books to review, I’m committing myself to improving my 2014 result (21 read and 3 reviewed).

At the top of my to-be-read pile are books associated with sessions I’ll be chairing at the Perth Writers Festival next month, and the one I’m currently reading is Diana Sweeney’s brilliant debut, The Minnow, which won the 2013 Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing.

aww-badge-2015-200x300If you’re interested in supporting Australian women writers by joining the 2015 challenge, it’s easy: details here. You can participate as a reader/reviewer or just as a reader—and even if you don’t have a blog, you can take part by linking your Goodreads reviews to the challenge.

Happy 2015 reading, everyone!


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