Tag Archives: Michelle Michau-Crawford

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

 

12 Comments

Filed under The next wave

2, 2 and 2: Michelle Michau-Crawford talks about Leaving Elvis and Other Stories

MichelleLR-3I’m delighted that the first post for 2016 in my 2, 2 and 2 series, which highlights writers with new books, is Michelle Michau-Crawford and her debut short story collection Leaving Elvis and Other Stories (UWA Publishing). Michelle was one of the ‘next wave’ women writers featured on the blog in 2014, and I also had the great pleasure of editing this remarkable collection.

If the name of the author or the title story sounds familiar, you might be recalling that Michelle won the prestigious ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize in 2013 for the story ‘Leaving Elvis’, which was subsequently published in ABR.

Michelle has worked as a university lecturer, speechwriter, researcher and public relations officer, and lives in Perth with her menagerie in a house surrounded by vegetable gardens and fruit trees.

Here is the blurb for Leaving Elvis:

We’re travelling light, without excess, into our future. Gran had been rough as she uncurled my hands from their position, gripped around the open car doorframe, and shoved me into the passenger seat.

A man returns from World War II and struggles to come to terms with what has happened in his absence. Almost seventy years later, his middle-aged granddaughter packs up her late grandmother’s home and discovers more than she had bargained for. These two stories book-end thirteen closely linked stories of one family and the rippling of consequences across three generations, played out against the backdrop of a changing Australia.

A debut collection—as powerful as it is tender—from the winner of the 2013 ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize.

And now over to Michelle…

12218707_10153761607677079_2142340854_o (1)

2 things that inspired my book

1 This collection started as a sort of side-project to take me away from the novel I thought I should be finishing. In a roundabout way, a gentle rejection was the inspiration for finally letting go of something that had ceased to bring me any real satisfaction in order to focus on something that was bringing me satisfaction. By the time I’d completed one story and some first drafts of several more short stories, I had grown to resent sitting down to work on the novel. I had basically killed that work by overwriting and overthinking it. But somewhere along the way I had convinced myself that without seeing it through to publication, I was a phoney, and that once it was done I could put it aside and ‘write more short stories’. One day I braved up enough to share the manuscript with a publisher for feedback, and when we met to discuss it she identified what I already knew. We suggested putting the manuscript aside for a while. I was so relieved that I may have jumped up from my chair and given her a hug and said something along the lines of ‘Thank goodness, now I can go to work on what I really want to be doing.’ I seem to recall that I then proceeded to babble on about the closely linked stories I was working on.

That publisher was Terri-ann White from UWA Publishing, so the rejection story had a very happy ending for me!

2 For as long as I can remember I have had a fascination with abandoned and lost children. I was born just six months before the Beaumont children disappeared in January 1966, and from early childhood always knew that children could simply cease to exist in the blink of an eye. In 2005 I began what would amount to eight years’ work (not full-time, I might add) on what eventually became the short story ‘Leaving Elvis’. I was researching for an Honours project at the time, looking at memory and trauma in Australian literature. My particular interest at that point was in intergenerational trauma and patterns of behaviour, and abandonment, in all its various forms, of children by adults. I came across Peter Pierce’s The Country of Lost Children: An Australian Anxiety (1999). In his book Pierce describes the way that the theme of abandonment has flowed through non-Indigenous Australian literature since white settlement, and contemplates the contemporary ‘lost child’ as a victim of white society itself. Where early writings centred on fears about a hostile and unforgiving land, writing changed direction around the 1950s, a period generally recognised as a time when there was a loss of innocence in white Australian culture. Without intending to, and certainly without realising it until well into the writing of the collection, I appear to have continued this pattern and written a book that explores, in part, the lost child as victim of society itself, along with intergenerational patterns of behaviour in a period commencing around the 1950s.

2 places connected with my book

1 The small ‘home’ town that features in a number of stories appears to be somewhere in or near the Western Australian wheat belt. However, I have intentionally left the location unspecific so that by changing a few minor details it could be just about any small town or outer suburb in Australia where people have somehow found themselves living. It is the sort of place where, with no real aspirations or ambition to spend a whole life there, several generations of one family now reside, doing the best they can. Some of the people in these stories are prone to plotting or dreaming about escaping to that mythical ‘somewhere else’ where they can leave their past behind and live a more fulfilling life. Ultimately, when it comes down to it, wherever they may find themselves living, this is the only place they have to come back to in order to feel some sense of connection and belonging to a physical environment.

2 The sky is a place that is significant in Louise’s adult life. In her years in Europe, it is the thought of the specific colours and expansiveness of the Australian sky that increases both her longing for home and her sense of isolation. At one point, she has a fling with an English artist who’d tried to paint the Australian sky just so she’d have an opportunity to be able to talk about home and the sky with him. Many years later, in another story, she realises that she has to return to Australia, to her home town, while looking up at the sky of the northern hemisphere with it’s ‘skew-whiff shades’ that will never be right.

2 favourite moments in the book

1 In the story The Light, there is a moment where Natalie, having reached rock-bottom, and with every reason not to feel good about anything at that particular time in her life, sits in an isolated place in nature and feels a few fleeting moments of calm. ‘She’s never had religion, but there’s something soothing and spiritual-like about being here, and she feels close to relaxed, sitting there with the sun disappearing while the immense orange sky turns purple and grey.’ Often the people in these stories struggle to feel they belong and maintain connections, Natalie perhaps more so than others. But that passing moment of recognition that there is something bigger than her and her problems is enough.

2 I’m interested in those vulnerable moments in childhood and adolescence where there is an understanding in the young that there is something going on within their bodies and minds, but still an inability to fully understand or articulate those changes. There is a moment in the story ‘Rendezvous’ where this occurs. Louise reflects on being about eleven years old when she’d stood in front of her friend Leslie Mulligan: ‘pulling petals off a daisy one at a time, she’d stared him in the face, he loves me, he loves me not.’ Watching her friend grow pink and embarrassed, she’d run off laughing, knowing that she had ‘some sort of mysterious power over him, but not yet knowing how or when to use it.’  Confused by both his and her reaction to the experience, she hides until Leslie finally gives up searching for her and goes home.

 

Leaving Elvis and Other Stories will be available in bookshops in February 2016
Find out more at UWA Publishing
Visit Michelle’s website or connect via her Facebook page
Michelle will be a guest of the Perth Writers Festival 2016

6 Comments

Filed under 2 2 and 2 (writers + new books)

The next wave: update

Congratulations to two writers featured last year in my series The Next Wave. MichelleLR-2 Michelle Michau-Crawford has signed a contract with UWA Publishing, and her short story collection ‘Leaving Elvis and other stories’ will be published early in 2016. DSC00729 Rashida Murphy’s unpublished novel ‘The Historian’s Daughter’ has been shortlisted along with nine other manuscripts for the Dundee International Book Prize. The winner will be announced in October. I couldn’t be more thrilled for Rashida and Michelle!

5 Comments

Filed under The next wave

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

picisto-20141127082720-542876

 

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

32 Comments

Filed under The next wave