Women Writers and Aussie Rural Fiction

International womens dayNext Tuesday is International Women’s Day. This year’s theme is gender parity. Worldwide, women contribute more than their fair share to social, economic, cultural and political life. Yet progress towards gender parity is slow, including in the literary world. Australia’s Stella Prize and Britain’s  Baileys Prize are attempts to redress this inbalance. In one literary field however, I can proudly say the achievements of women authors far outstrip men – the hugely popular genre of Australian Rural Fiction

All The Rivers RunThe books in this genre are overwhelmingly written by women, most of us living and working on the land. (Head over to the Australian Rural Fiction website and see for yourself. You’ll find many current and upcoming releases) Publishers point to this as a new phenomenon, but of course, Australian rural literature written by women is not new. Quite the contrary, it’s steeped in tradition. From Henry Handel Richardson’s Fortunes Of Richard Mahoney, Nancy Cato’s All The Rivers Run through to Colleen McCullough’s Thorn Birds, the drama, difficulties and romance of the Australian bush has long been the stuff of great narrative tales.

JourneysEnd_coverFrom the earliest days of white settlement and before, the bush was central to how we became Australian, how we identified ourselves as Australian. Yet during the second half of the twentieth century, it fell out of literary favour. We weren’t a bush people any more. We lived around the urban coastal fringe, and saw ourselves as urbane, cosmopolitan and civilised. But thanks to a talented cohort of women authors, the bush once more looms large in the literary landscape.

Why the massive popularity of this genre, that regularly outsells all others? I believe readers are craving a relationship to country. They’re asking the age-old question – what is it that makes us Australian? And the simple answer is, that we come from this place. Our identity comes from the continent itself. And especially that aspect of Australia that is different to other places. That doesn’t mean our cities. That means regional Australia. That means the bush. That means the climate, landscape and geology that has shaped our culture.

JE Proofs 1I’m so very proud to be part of this immensely supportive group of Australian women writers. I’ve just finished proofreading the pages for my new book, Journey’s End, out with Penguin at the end of May. It’s set on the Great Eastern Escarpment, and pays homage to the men and women who strive to conserve and restore our natural environment. Thanks to the hard work of so many talented women, the story has a ready audience. So let’s hear it for the Aussie rural writers – a shining example of achievement on International Women’s Day!

Australian Rural Romance

Tribute To The ‘Shark Lady’ on International Women’s Day

Eugenie Clark 1Today is International Women’s Day – the perfect time to celebrate the contribution women make to conservation around the world. In keeping with the theme of my upcoming release, Turtle Reef, I’m celebrating the life of an ocean hero. Dr Eugenie Clark inspired the character of zoologist Zoe King in my upcoming release.This wonderful woman, who died last week at 92, was an author and pioneering marine biologist known as the ‘Shark Lady’. She dedicated her life to shark research, while defying social expectations about women’s roles in science. When you see a shark underwater, you should say ‘How lucky I am to see this beautiful animal in its environment.’ Comments like this helped dispel widely held fears of this misunderstood predator.

During expeditions around the world since the 1940’s, Eugenie pioneered scuba diving for gathering scientific data and making observations. She beat Jacques Cousteau to the punch by several years. ‘Her work in Egypt prompted some of the world’s first shark Eugenie Clark 4protection policies,’ says Ania Budziak, Project AWARE Program Director. ‘That legacy lives on as Egypt emerges as a leading proponent of international shark safeguards, championed by people who still cherish their memories of working with Eugenie Clark long ago.‘ Dr Clark was also a pioneer in communicating her scientific work to the public. She shared the adventures and excitement of her research through lectures, television specials, and articles in popular magazines like National Geographic and Science Digest. She wrote three best-selling books: Lady with a Spear (1951),The Lady and the Sharks (1969) and The Desert Beneath the Sea (1991), a children’s book about a scientist researching the sandy bottom of the sea.

Eugenie Clark 3In 1955 she founded the Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida. This has grown into a major centre for shark, dolphin, dugong and sea turtle research. It’s educated countless visitors and launched careers in shark science and conservation. Sonja Fordham, President of Shark Advocates International, says, ‘Mote has certainly changed the course of my career by serving as a forum for ground-breaking discussion and collaboration on shark research and conservation.’

Eugenie ClarkEugenie Clark never lost her passion for diving, making her last dive on her 92nd birthday in the Red Sea. She continued lecturing up to the last few months of her life.She inspired thousands of young women to follow her footsteps, and raised the profile of marine conservation forever. In a world where girls often shy away from science at school, we need more ground breaking women researchers. Dr Eugenie Clark, on this International Women’s Day, I honour you.

 

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