It’s been a while. I haven’t posted since I’ve been ‘out west’ rather have been hunkered down in my writing cabin, powering through some work. Also I have a new computer and so hadn’t logged into wordpress and it took me a moment to remember how to do it! Things have been pretty crazy lately. My entire household has moved while I am away and so there have been lots of phone calls back and forth, and texts saying things like ‘do you want this piece of driftwood from the garden?’ and ‘are these for donations or to go to the new place?’ I know it’s harder for my husband to be doing all that, but it hasn’t been easy from here either. I think things are settling down now, though, and I am glad for that.
The first week I completed my structural edit and sent it back to my publisher. It wasn’t what I’d planned to work on but that’s how it worked out. Have to say I’m glad it’s done and off.
That first week or so I also did lots of reading, for my new novel project, as well as general reading, also reading for the upcoming writer festival panels in Perth.
And the last couple of days I’ve taken the foot off the old accelerator and been a bit more social, going into the city for catch ups with various people, and tonight out to dinner as well.
Today, though, at the centre where I’m staying – the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writer’s Centre – was a talk about the writer and her early years as governess for a family in Yarram, Victoria. Nathan Hobby is writing the creative component of his PhD on Prichard’s life – he envisions three sections eventually being written – and this composes the first; her year spent working as a governess in Gippsland, Victoria in 1904.
Nathan’s talk was given to us in printed form, and the first sentence had me sitting up:
In Australia’s cultural memory, Katharine Susannah Prichard has become the ageing, tenacious communist living in her cottage in the hills of Perth, widow of a Victoria cross winner, author of her most famous novel, Coonardoo.
I had already known there was a communist connection with Katharine, also that she visited the Soviet Union. I hadn’t recalled that it had been in the early 1930s. I am fascinated by the idea of this woman, described as a ‘bluestocking’:
The Yarram locals found Katharine an interesting topic of conversation; Anne Home, then a school-girl, remembers:
I overheard the following conversation over the teacups one afternoon when the local gossip was being passed round, the new and only governess in the town being the highlight.
Mrs A: ‘Have you seen Dr M’s new governess?’
Mrs B: ‘No, but I hear she is quite a bluestocking, one of those literary girls, the sort that has holes in her stockings and lives with her nose in a book. They say she has come down here for copy.’
I know Katharine wrote a novel about a travelling family circus, Haxby’s Circus, and for research purposes travelled with a circus herself, for several months.
Fascinating Australian artist who deserves wider recognition.
And here are some snaps from my cabin. I can see Perth from the window, it’s lovely up here in the hills. I have two more days and then it’s down to the big smoke for the festival.