"Let us be judged by our actions." DID YOU KNOW that the first women’s Club in Australia was the KARRAKATTA CLUB founded in Perth in 1894. One of its founding members was Edith Cowan who of course later became Australia’s first woman parliamentarian. The Karrakatta Club became heavily involved in the campaign for women’s suffrage, successfully gaining the vote for Western Australian women in 1899, thus making the state third only to New Zealand and South Australia in enacting this legislation. The club maintained a strong reading circle and continued to strive for literary enlightenment. 
It was quick to align itself with the Lyceum Club movement, which spread internationally as a result of the first Lyceum Club founded in London in 1904. Next Tuesday I will be guest speaker at the Karrakatta Club Literary Lyceum Club lunch.

The Wanderers

Last weekend I returned to my birthplace, the no-longer-little town of Donnybrook, to talk about my book, Finding Jasper. Much has changed and, not surprisingly, there were far more new faces at my talk than old.

While wandering around my host’s beautiful property the following day, I ran into a medley of butterflies milling around the garden. They were immediately recognisable, their black, white and orange patterned wings striking against the surrounding greenery. They were, of course, those fellow 'wanderers', the Monarchs, I had been reading about recently and they were playing hard-to-get. They couldn’t seem to make up their minds what they were supposed to be doing. Basking for a few seconds on a blossom or a leaf, then flitting here and there in all directions as if half-drunk. Perhaps they were confused, the sudden onset of winter being disguised by the warmth of the sun and the strong Autumn colours yet to fall.

At last one was captured, photographed and then duly freed.  Always one for making connections, I was reminded of two great novels I had the privilege of reading this year. Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behaviour, which I wrote about in March, and Amanda Curtin’s recently released Elemental both feature live Monarchs as a subject of biological observation as well as a metaphor for human behaviour.

Whereas the Monarchs are, from the very first page, the dominating issue in Flight Behaviour, they appear only fleetingly as a motif in Elemental, with the author saving her focus until their final release at the end.   

There are more parallels yet to come. Both novels revolve around impoverished young women who live in the confinement of small, uneducated communities where old customs, rituals and insularity prevail. Both protagonists are redheaded; both predictably are social outcasts. In the case of Curtin’s young fisher girl, Meggie Tulloch, just the colour of her hair is, by some weird local superstition, cause enough to have her cursed.

It is not just their red hair that distinguishes these young women in their grim and wretched lives; there is an inner fire and intelligence that energizes them in their daily struggle, fueling a desire to escape to a better world beyond.

     I kiss the air. It spins around me with the rush of something new, something that is          white and clean and so real that I can touch it with my fingertips, feel it on my lips, on the skin of my face. It gusts through my hair, pulling it at the roots, and I am breathing it into me, this wondrous something new. And suddenly I know that I will never be the same again because I have felt freedom in my lungs.

But as Ginger Meggie quickly discovers, this new world, the world of herring, is almost as confining and defining as the last.

     Soon it is all I am: red, wet, salted gutted, blood in my eyes, scales on my skin.  Fish     hauled from water into air and struggling to find a way to breathe …

The more pages that we turn, the more our hearts go out to Meggie, feeling her pain, her unrelenting anguish and oppression; always urging her on.

The years pass and life continues to turn its innumerable cycles despite the changes in Meggie’s life. Even when she marries and lands safely on her feet in Fremantle on the other side of the world, still she finds that love and happiness are as elusive as any common butterfly.

The stories and settings of these two 'butterfly books' are vastly different but certain similarities can be noted when you place them spine-to-spine.

Amanda Curtin writes exquisitely. Now that Elemental is on the shelves, she will soon be up there with Kingsolver. Curtin’s strength lies in the power and music of her language, her various evocations of time and place. Just as rich and convincing is the author’s ability to create a character, and the unforgettable voice and resilience of Meggie Tulloch drawing in her family and the reader hook, line and sinker.

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Saturday, 1 June, 3-4 PM at ABBOTSFORD CONVENT

I will be appearing in this event with Anna Solding, Kim Lock, and Caroline Wood from Margaret River Press.   

Going with a small publisher to produce and promote your work can be an intimate affair– what are the benefits? This unique panel of authors and their small publishers will discuss how small publishers can often show a lot more care when it comes to their writers’ wellbeing and livelihoods. 

The 2013 "Kibble Awards"

I am thrilled that my novel Finding Jasper has been long listed for the 2013 Dobbie Literary Award, a category of "The Kibble Awards" open to Australian women writers. 

Read on

The long listed authors will be announced on Thursday 11 April at 9am.   

The short listed authors will be contacted in the coming month and will be announced to the public on Wednesday 5 June.   The winners of both the Kibble Literary Award and the Dobbie Literary Award will be announced on Wednesday 24 July.

Congratulations to all those long listed for "The Kibble Awards".

Perth Writers Festival 2013

A Time and a Place
Friday, 22nd of February
Woolnough Lecture Theatre, UWA

Place is intrinsically linked to the new stories created by Toni JordanLynne Leonhardt and Zane Lovitt. They consider whether place has taken on the role of a character in their writing. 
Chair: Delys Bird

A Postcard from Perth
Sunday, 24th of February
Dolphin Theatre, UWA

Have you ever wondered what early 20th century Perth and its surrounds looked and felt like? Novelists Lynne Leonhardt and Ian Reid, and historian Jenny Gregory bring the Perth of yesteryear vividly to life in their new books.

Chair: Jane Cornes