Tag Archives: Emily Paull

2, 2 and 2: Emily Paull talks about Well-Behaved Women

Emily Paull
Well-Behaved Women
(Margaret River Press)
Short story collection

Processed With Darkroom

Photograph by Charlotte Guest

What a pleasure it is to introduce Emily Paull—one of the most delightfully bookish people I know (and I know a lot of bookish people).

I first met Emily when she was working as bookseller/book buyer at the now-closed (and very much missed) Bookcaffe in Swanbourne, but she was already writing then and it was clear it would not be long before she was experiencing the publishing world from a writer’s perspective. She is now undertaking postgraduate studies and calls herself a future librarian.

Emily writes short stories, and her work has appeared in numerous anthologies as well as Westerly journal. She also writes historical fiction, with more than one novel currently in progress.

Unsurprisingly, she says that when she’s not writing, she can often be found with her nose in a book. Someone after my own heart!

In this post, Emily talks about her first book, the newly released collection Well-Behaved Women. Here is the blurb:

A woman grapples with survivor’s guilt after a body is found in her garden bed; an ageing beauty queen contemplates her past; a world champion free-diver disappears during routine training…

In moments disquieting or quietly inspiring, this collection considers the complexity of the connections we make—with our family, friends and neighbours, and with those met briefly or never at all.

In her timely debut, Emily Paull voices a chorus of characters that reveal and re-evaluate the expectations of women in Australia today—after all, well-behaved women rarely make history.

Over, now, to Emily…

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2 inspirations for stories within the collection

I remember very clearly the inspiration for one of the stories, ‘The Sea also Waits’, which is the first story in the collection. I was reading an article online, either in the New York Times or The Guardian, about the disappearance of Natalia Molchanova. Something about the situation the article set up spoke to me. How can a woman, argued to be one of the best free-divers in the world, simply disappear during a practice dive? The article went into all sorts of details about free-diving and how long these people could stay underwater, and something just clicked in my imagination. I wrote the first line of the story down on a scrap of paper, and later that night I wrote the whole story out in one sitting. It’s barely changed since then. I have always felt like that story arrived fully formed.

As a West Australian, I’ve always been fascinated with the ocean, because it’s beautiful and it’s also dangerous. There’s so much of it. The things that it hides, the secrets it’s been entrusted with. I think that’s why this collection features a second story about a character disappearing into the sea. ‘Picnic at Green’s Pool’ is a kind of homage to Joan Lindsay’s classic work of Australian Gothic, Picnic at Hanging Rock, but I chose to set the story in Denmark, near Albany on Western Australia’s south coast, rather than in the more traditional setting of the bush, because bushland and forest have never really played as important a role in my life. I grew up visiting the ocean, going to our beach house in Falcon Bay, and while I swim in the ocean, I’m definitely a little scared of the vastness of it (and of the sharks that might be lurking in it!). I wrote the story on a trip to Albany after a visit to Green’s Pool and a lot of the imagery that my main character sees when she and her companion visit the beach—such as the father and son trying to lug a kayak up a narrow set of stairs—are things that I saw too. I like to imagine my characters might have been there that day, somewhere near me on the beach.

2 places featured in the collection

Most of the stories are set in Western Australia, but there’s one—‘Font de Gracia’—that is set in Barcelona. I wrote it while I was still doing my undergraduate degree in Creative Writing and History at Murdoch University. Right before my final year, my family went to Spain to visit my mother’s brother and his family. I was struck by the architecture of the place, and the customs of the people, like the way that they eat dinner late at night. We were staying in an apartment near La Rambla and I would go to bed at ten pm and be able to hear the people in the apartment above serving up their meals! It was an eye-opening trip for me, and I gave that sense of the world opening up to my character, Grace, who runs the risk of turning herself into a cliché if she continues with the way she is behaving at the beginning of the story. The crux of the story takes place at this incredible fountain in the centre of Parc de la Ciutadella. It’s full of gilded statues and griffins and horses and I think there’s even a statue of Venus in the middle.

The other story that is set outside Australia is called ‘A Movable Farce’, and it takes place in Paris after the terrorist attacks at the Bataclan Theatre a few years ago. I’ve actually never been to France (it’s on the list), but what I wanted to explore in the piece was the idea that most people who have never been to Paris still have some version of it that exists in their imaginations. It’s a place that has been the setting for so much art, so much literature, so many films. I found myself wondering if the real version of Paris could ever live up to the one that I have created in my imagination. A few months ago, when I woke up to the news that Notre Dame de Paris had caught fire, I was struck by the outpourings of grief for the building—the symbol, really—that were coming from all over the world, and I thought to myself, yes, I was right. The symbol of Paris, the idea of Paris, is a very important one to many people. This is something that my character, Michael, has to come to terms with, because he’s gone to Paris expecting that it will be the making of him and that he’ll be so inspired that he’ll write and write and write, and he finds that his life is pretty much the same as it always has been. I also tried to equate the romanticism he projects onto the women in his life with his feelings about the city. In the aftermath of the attacks, he has this moment of clarity where he realises he has to see things and people as they really are if he’s going to get anywhere at all.

2 favourite well-behaved women of history

 I have two time periods that I’ve been fascinated with for a very long time, and one of those is the early twentieth century with the two world wars, as anyone who knows about my other writing may be aware of. But the other is one I’ve not really tried to write about before—the Tudor period. In particular, I am fascinated with the stories of Henry the Eighth’s six wives. (I devour historical fiction set in the period, and my interest was kicked off by reading The Other Boleyn Girl as a teenager. I’m an unashamed Philippa Gregory fan, even though in some circles she’s viewed as too commercial.) I’d have to say that Katherine of Aragon is one of my favourite women of history. There is something about her story that speaks to me of great strength and resilience. The daughter of two powerful sovereigns (her mother a fearsome warrior), Katherine was betrothed to the son of the English King when she was just a child. She was first married to Arthur, the Prince of Wales, but he died, and Katherine struggled for a long time to fulfil her destiny to become Queen of England by marrying the new heir, Henry. Many sources claim that Henry and Katherine were very much in love, yet when Katherine repeatedly failed to produce a live male heir, she was put through all sorts of very public trials that must have been extremely humiliating for such a proud Catholic woman, and her virtue was questioned repeatedly. Eventually she was put aside and lived out the rest of her days in various dingy castles and estates, eventually dying in Kimbolton Castle. But despite the way her husband treated her, she maintained until the day she died that she was his lawful wife and continued to embroider his shirts for him. There’s something very compelling about this story, and it appeals to me as having a kind of universality for the experience of women throughout time.

The other woman I’ve been fascinated with lately is May Gibbs, the author of the Snugglepot and Cuddlepie stories. I’ve been writing a new book about the experience of women during the time of the First World War, and my character is a kind of imagined contemporary of May Gibbs’. I’ve loved the Gumnut Babies stories since I was a little girl and now I am really enjoying learning about their creator.

Well-Behaved Women is in bookshops now
Find out more at Margaret River Press
Follow Emily via her blog

Events coming up:
Cambridge Library, 26 November,10.30am (bookings 9383 8999)
Beaufort Street Books, 29 November, 6.15pm (bookings here)
Rabble Books and Games, 1 December, 6.00pm (bookings here)
Bassendean Library, 4 December, 6.00pm (bookings here)

 

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The next wave updated (part 1): Michelle Michau-Crawford and Emily Paull

Two years ago, looking up/looking down presented a series on Western Australian women writers to watch out for. As I wrote then:

There’s so much creative energy among writers on the western edge—some of it being nurtured in university writing programs, some finding inspiration and support through writers centres, some brewing entirely independently. This four-part series features eight WA women who are part of that creative flurry. All of them have a manuscript ready, or nearly ready, to submit to agents and publishers, and I hope we’ll be hearing a lot more from them in the future.

It’s a true pleasure to observe the evolution of a creative life, and I’m delighted to present an update on what some of them have been doing. Here’s how Michelle Michau-Crawford and Emily Paull responded to an invitation to review their last two years of writing…

Michelle Michau-Crawford

MichelleLR-2

When I was invited in November 2014 to be one of the featured writers on The Next Wave series, I had just returned from one month in Paris. While there I worked on a manuscript with a working title I had completely forgotten existed until revisiting Amanda’s blog series earlier this week. I spent much of the summer of 2014–15 locked away, further developing that manuscript, and in the early months of 2015, while it wasn’t quite complete, I felt ready to commit to signing a contract with my preferred publishing house, UWA Publishing.

12218707_10153761607677079_2142340854_o (1)Leaving Elvis and Other Stories was published just under twelve months later, in February 2016, in time for the Perth Writers Festival. That introduction to the reality of being a published author in contemporary times was far removed from my imagined writing life: living on a secluded island, quietly sending my writing out via boat or seaplane.

I decided early that I would be open to all the experiences that arose as a result of my first full-length publication. After all, as I noted when the fabulous Julia Lawrinson launched my book, I had served a 20-plus-years writing apprenticeship before I felt ready to share my stories. The six-month period post-publication whirled by, challenging and invigorating me.

As well as participating on the two panels at the Perth Writers Festival, I spoke at a literary high tea, at writers’ centres and in various bookshops and libraries. I travelled to several country writers’ festivals, facilitated workshops and was interviewed in those venues, and for various newspaper and online features. I had an on-camera interview in a television studio, something that I never envisioned as I worked at writing, but after the first few awkward minutes (where I forgot what my book was about), I managed to almost enjoy the experience.

I was fortunate enough to have my work reviewed favourably locally and nationally in the mainstream media, judged a writing competition, and overall had a hectic but stimulating publication year. I met many readers and connected with a number of writers I hadn’t known prior to publication, and discovered that no matter how established Australian writers are, they are by and large incredibly generous and supportive of fellow authors.

My biggest thrill throughout the year came after receiving the first letter penned (or typed, in this case) by a reader: a man who’d driven a long way to hear me talk, had bought the book and read it and then taken time to send me a personal letter saying the book had resonated deeply with him. It affirmed what I already knew: that as satisfying as the other attention and experiences may be, I write to communicate via the written word with readers, not to be known as a public figure. Talking to people who’ve taken the time to engage with my writing remains the most rewarding gift to flow from publication of my first book.

In August I organised an event-free month and took the opportunity to refocus on writing. I had been chipping away at some other writing while completing and promoting my book but hadn’t felt I had sufficient headspace to truly engage with it. So I waved goodbye to Elvis and went away for two weeks to Varuna, the National Writers’ House, in the Blue Mountains, where I managed to make significant progress towards my next project. On my return I had several more public events culminating in a brilliant weekend at the inaugural Australian Short Story Festival held in Perth in October. I am now back at work on my current writing project, one I cannot speak about at this stage for fear of jinxing further development!

Other than that, some of the things I spoke of in that initial Next Wave feature remain the same. I had hoped to return about now to spend time in Paris, for I choose to believe that regular time in Paris helps me write more effectively. However, life’s circumstances conspired to keep me closer to home. If I’d been there at the time I had intended, then Leonard Cohen—the great artist I’ve adored since childhood; the man who’d unknowingly led me to Paris in the first place—would have died while I was far from home. Between dealing with that and processing the result of the long and ugly US election, curled up at home under a blanket was really the only place to be last week. On a brighter note, I have resumed attempting to learn to speak and read French, and stubbornly refuse to concede defeat. One day I will read more, though probably not all, of those French texts I have collected over the years!

Michelle’s website
Facebook page

Emily Paull

iphone-july-2016-108

What a difference two years makes.

iphone-july-2016-086Since I was featured as one of Amanda’s WA women writers to watch out for, a lot of things have changed. Some of them were good changes—such as, for example, having short stories published in two anthologies. My story ‘A Thousand Words’ was published in the UK in a collection called [Re]Sisters, and I was lucky enough to have a story called ‘The Sea Also Waits’ selected by editor Laurie Steed to be a part of the Margaret River Press anthology Shibboleth and Other Stories.

When I last wrote for this blog, I was about to begin my time as one of three Young Writers in Residence at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre—those ten days were probably some of the most productive of my life, and I managed to revise a whopping 40,000 words of Between the Sleepers, a historical novel set in Fremantle between 1937 and 1945. Part of this residency was a consultation with Amanda Curtin on the first 50 pages of my book, and her guidance on some of the early issues in the novel has really helped me clarify its direction as a whole.

In early 2016 I began sending the novel to agents, and started work on another project: finishing my Graduate Diploma in Professional Writing and Publishing, which I took online at Deakin University.

I currently have two writing projects on the go. One is another historical novel, which I have tentatively titled The Turing Project. It is the story of Clementine, a university student who throws herself into researching the wartime cryptanalyst Alan Turing after the suicide of her childhood best friend. The novel alternates between Clementine’s story, set in the early 2000s, and Alan Turing’s story, which many people may be familiar with now due to the film The Imitation Game. This novel began its life as a NaNoWriMo project back in 2009 (National Novel Writing Month, where you challenge yourself to write 50,000 words in 30 days). Writing about people who existed and whose stories are well known presents a challenge in itself, but I am enjoying throwing myself into this world and learning about my new characters.

iphone-july-2016-144My other writing project is a collection of short stories, which is currently titled Well-Behaved Women. It so far consists of ‘The Sea Also Waits’ (from Shibboleth and Other Stories), ‘Dora’ (Highly Commended in the 2016 Hadow/Stuart Award for Fiction) and ‘Miss Lovegrove’, which was shortlisted for the John Marsden/Hachette Australia Award for Young Writers at the end of 2015. I’ve been a fan of short story collections for a long time, and I hope that my collection can find a place in the incredibly high standard of collections currently being published in Australia.

I mentioned that while some of the changes were good, some were not so good. For those readers who live in Perth, you may already know that my beloved Bookcaffe closed its doors at the end of June 2016. While we’ve been seeing for a long time that the bookselling industry is changing, and that people are tending to buy more and more of their books at cheap online retailers, I never wanted to experience this downturn firsthand…but there I was, clearing shelves and adopting as many of the unsold books as I could so that I knew they would be going to a home where they would be read (eventually) and loved. I still work in a bookish job—I am a sales representative at Westbooks, where I visit public libraries and make sure they have all the best new releases, and I am also doing freelance work such as teaching seminars at this year’s All Saints College Storylines Festival.

In general, despite some of the bizarre and depressing things that have happened this year, it seems like 2016 has been a year of progress for me, and one in which I have learned a lot about myself as a writer. I think the most important thing is that I have finally taken on board a piece of advice that was given to me by Craig Silvey a number of years ago, something which has taken this long to become innate. When I asked Craig what advice he had for someone who wanted to become a writer, his answer was something like this: You don’t become a writer, you are a writer, every day, and in everything that you do. That feels truer to me now than it ever has before, and I am just grateful to be putting my words on pages, never knowing if anyone will ever read them or not.

Emily’s blog: The Incredible Rambling Elimy

 

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The next wave (part 2): WA women writers to look out for

picisto-20141127082720-542876Welcome to part 2 of this four-part series featuring emerging Western Australian women writers with manuscripts ready—or almost ready—to submit to agents and publishers. In this post my guests are Amanda Gardiner and Emily Paull.

Photo on 2014-08-05 at 15.49 #3_2Amanda Gardiner

If a wide range of life experiences gives a writer great source material, Amanda already has a store that should last her forever. ‘I have been an au pair, a FIFO at a gold mine, a shelf stacker, and a lecturer, tutor and researcher at university.  I have worn tiny shorts and a too-small t-shirt and served food and drinks to rich people on a luxury yacht. I have been an apprentice painter and decorator and an actor. I have edited a journal and a book. I house-sat for three and a half years and moved over 30 times. I have sold antique jewellery, presented my research at conferences, organised symposia, and worked in admin, as an interviewer and oral historian, a production assistant in a film company, a caterer, a mystery shopper and a waitress. I am not sure that my varied employment history will help future job applications…’

She also has a collector’s eye for the unique and a writer’s alertness to the uncanny: ‘I recently visited the new markets that are filling the old Myer space in Fremantle and saw a beautiful pair of crystal and silver perfume bottles. As I knew that I must not, under any circumstances, purchase them, I carried them over to the saleswoman to ask if she could tell me their story. She did not know much, other than they were turn of the last century and wasn’t the engraving wonderful? I resolutely returned the bottles to their shelf, but as I walked away I thought, it wouldn’t hurt to have a closer look at the engraving. I held them up near the window and as the metal glinted in the light I realised the bottles were elaborately monogrammed with the letters “AG”. So now I own two very practical cut crystal perfume bottles that had my initials etched into them over a hundred years ago.’

Amanda’s short fiction has been published in an anthology by the 2013 Peter Cowan Advanced Writers’ cohort, and she has published various academic articles. Here is how Amanda describes her manuscript—working title Unearthing Mary Summerland: ‘On the 4th of September 1832, the body of a newborn baby boy was found washed up on the shore at the port town of Fremantle, Western Australia. As the result of an inquest into the child’s suspicious death, a 20-year-old unmarried domestic servant named Mary Summerland was accused of murdering him. Unearthing Mary Summerland is a work of literary fiction that blends history and imagination to explore what may have happened to Mary and her son.’

And here is a brief extract from the novel:

Despite the cold, the smell is very strong. It unfurls from the remains on the table to push rotten meat into Susannah Summerland’s face. Susannah begins to take thin breaths through her mouth, sealing off the end of each inhalation with the pink press of tongue to palate before exhaling through her nose. The other people in the room, the three men and Mary, do not speak, and Susannah continues breathing in this way, listening to the ocean moving back and forth across the rocks at the cliff-base of Bather’s Bay, until the Rev. looks up from his chair and asks again,

‘Do you recognise the child?’

Susannah is standing. Rev. Wittenoom and Mary’s master Mr. Leake are seated across from her, on the other side of the table. To her left the doctor Harrison guards the inner doorway. To her right her daughter sits waiting on a low stool. The dead baby lies in the centre of all of them.

emily paull with giant teacupEmily Paull

If you asked a room full of writers what their dream job would be—if they weren’t writing, of course—there’s sure to be a few who would say ‘working in a bookshop’. Emily has one of those enviable day jobs. ‘I’m very lucky to work as an independent bookseller, for two reasons,’ she says. ‘The first is that I have an outlet for doing my bit to advance the profile of Western Australian writing, which is a passion of mine. The second is that every day when I come to work, I am confronted by visual reminders of why I am doing what I am doing. Every day I see, read and talk about great books, and I am reminded of where I want to go in life, and why it’s worth all the hard work.’

When she’s not collecting books, Emily is collecting ‘coffee and tea mugs, and the assorted paraphernalia that goes with them.’ But writing occupies much of the rest of her time. Emily was regularly published in the Murdoch University magazine METIOR 2009–11, and in 2010 had her own fiction column, ‘Life with the dull parts taken out’.

Her stories have been published on Murdoch University’s website as part of the creative arts showcase, and she has been published in Trove. In 2011 she won the Katharine Susannah Prichard Short Fiction Award (under 20s category), and she is about to begin a Young Writer in Residence program at the KSP Writers Centre—something she describes as ‘probably the coolest opportunity writing has given me’.

Emily’s manuscript—working title Between the Sleepers—is a historical romance intended for adult/young adult readers: ‘The story begins in 1937 when Winston Keller, a member of the working class with a secret talent for sketching, meets the daughter of Perth’s newest business tycoon at a family dinner. The dinner is supposed to be a chance for Robert Willis and George Keller to reconnect after many years estranged, although Robert only seems interested in rubbing his wealth in his old friend’s face. But there is an unexpected consequence—Winston and Sarah Willis fall in love. Their relationship forces Winston into a world of jazz music, adultery and, ultimately, war.’

Here is a taste of Between the Sleepers:

Winston raced up the hill towards his home, towards the rows of semi-detached red tenements with fruit trees drooping in the yards. His part of Fremantle always smelled like cut grass and eucalyptus, as well as the marshy smell of the docks. Some of the houses had dark green picket fences, peeling from the heat and the salt and the wind. Others simply faced on to the road. Lawns were littered with clues to the lives of their owners: a set of lawn chairs with old crocheted lap-blankets folded on top, a tricycle parked by the front steps, uncollected West Australian newspapers piled by the welcome mat. Winston pedalled hard to crest the top of the hill.

By the time he’d coasted down the other side of the incline, he was out of breath. His tyres scraped in the sand as he backpedalled and swung on to Fothergill Street. It had just begun to get dark, and the street was still full of people. Three small children were chasing a yellow dog up and down the laneways and Winston swerved to avoid them…

Website: The Incredible Rambling Elimy

You can also read
Part 1: Rashida Murphy and Kristen Levitzke

Coming up
Part 3: Karen Overman and Kim Coull
Part 4: Michelle Michau-Crawford and Louise Allan

 

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