This year has been an eventful one for me; it’s hard to believe five months have gone by since my last blog post. But as the year draws to a close, I’ve finally made time to note a few recent milestones for the record.
At the beginning of September, on pretty much the same day my scholarship expired, I finished writing my PhD thesis, consisting of a novel, Mother of Pearl, and an exegesis on the topic of commercial surrogacy between Thailand and Australia. A month or so later, after a final proof read, I formally submitted my thesis (see photo, left). At the time of writing, my PhD thesis is still under examination, so you can’t call me by my Bond villain name, Doctor Savage, just yet. With luck, I’ll know the outcome within the first few months of next year.
In between finishing and submitting my PhD, I managed to find a new job as Director of Writers Victoria, which (as it says in our strategic plan) has the largest membership of any writers centre in Australia, and is the only organisation that works with writers all year round, across all styles and genres, at all stages of their development, and in all parts of Victoria. As someone who has been a passionate advocate for Victorian writers ever since I came to call myself one, I feel as though I’ve done a ten-year apprenticeship for this role without even being aware of it. It’s my dream job (news of my appointment made the online media), and a real privilege to be at the helm of an organisation where I’ve been a member and worked as a tutor for several years. (Above photo shows my predecessor, the exceptional Kate Larsen, passing on the banner to me).
Not realising I would have a job so soon after finishing my PhD, however, I’d already lined up teaching and festival commitments for the second half of the year, which has made the past few months a particularly busy time. These commitments included a session at the Melbourne Writers Festival as part of the schools program, with two brilliant YA authors, Kim Kane and Belinda Murrell (right), where I was accompanied by my Miss Eleven, a big fan of Murrell’s time slip books. I did a session on ‘rural noir’ at the inaugural Ballarat Writers Festival in October, delivered a crime writing workshop for the ACT Writers Centre in Canberra, and taught crime writing classes at my old high school later that month. Teaching crime writing to 15-year-old girls is among the tougher gigs I’ve had, but in the end, I really enjoyed it. I got the sense, too, that the students appreciated having an outlet for their murderous fantasies…
November also found me back at the Word for Word Non-Fiction Festival in Geelong. I’ve had the privilege and pleasure of being involved in this festival since its inauguration in 2014, for the past two years running masterclasses, as well as chairing panels. This year, I conducted a full-day workshop on Writing Essentials, saw Peter Carey give the opening night keynote address, and interviewed the very classy Caroline Baum about her book Only: A Singular Memoir.
My last ‘formal’ gig of the year was to attend a Reading For Good meet up, a book club designed to celebrate female writers around the world. I was thrilled to have my second novel (my personal favourite), The Half-Child, included on the 2017 reading list, where it was in highly esteemed company.
Another very cool thing that happened this year was that my short story, ‘The Odds’ (first published in the Review of Australian Fiction), was selected by UK crime writer Sophie Hannah for inclusion in the anthology Deadlier: 100 Of The Best Crime Stories Written By Women, published by Head of Zeus. As the blurb says, “From Agatha Christie and Daphne du Maurier, to Val McDermid and Margaret Atwood, women writers have long been drawn to criminal acts. Here, award-winning author Sophie Hannah brings together 100 of her favourite examples.” Having my work associated, albeit vicariously, with that of Agatha Christie, Daphne du Maurier, Val McDermid and Margaret Atwood is a career highlight, to put it mildly.
In the midst of all this, Australia voted in favour of marriage equality. I couldn’t see why we needed a plebiscite to deliver just policy in this area, but at least the right result came about in the end (photo at left shows me and my partner of 27 years at one of Melbourne’s Marriage Equality rallies).
An eventful year, as I say.
In the New Year, I will reflect on my reading in 2017. In the meantime, I extend my heartfelt wishes to readers of this blog for a happy, healthy and relaxing festive season.