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IPEd member Amanda Curtin wins the WA Writer’s Fellowship

by Jess Gately and Cheryl Bettridge

Longstanding Editors WA member Amanda Curtin said she found it hard to speak when she took out the Western Australian Writer’s Fellowship at the 2019 WA Premier’s Book Awards. The fellowship, which awards an author $60,000 to develop their writing practice, is one of the most valuable literary awards in Australia and open to writers of any form or genre.

Amanda said the announcement ‘sent me into a state of shock, disbelief and elation … I felt — and still feel — grateful to have been shortlisted, let alone to have won, given the admiration I have for so many Western Australian writers and all they achieve. It is immensely exciting and liberating to have that time and space ahead of me, and the extraordinary encouragement that the fellowship represents means a great deal to me.’
Amanda was shortlisted this year among fellow Western Australians Lucy Dougan, Rafeif Ismail, Caitlin Maling and Carl Merrison, all of whom were present at the awards evening held at the State Library of Western Australia on Friday 7 August 2020. The evening was well attended by members of the WA writing community.

The judges said Amanda’s proposed new novel is an exciting work of literary and historical fiction, narrated in part by a young Irish immigrant in 1890s gold-rush WA. Asked about her new project and where she got the idea from, Amanda said: ‘Through working as a book editor over many years, I’ve been exposed to the work of fine historians and have squirrelled away notes and questions about people and what they feared and valued, society as it was — many things I struggle to understand. The seeds of this new novel come from that cache, as has been the case with much of what I’ve written. I’m fascinated by the past and what it brings to bear on the future.’
Amanda Curtin
[Photo credit:  The State Library of WA]

Amanda said she wanted to explore issues such as immigration, racism and social change, although she doesn’t usually talk a lot about specifics so early in the writing process, as ‘trying to put a box around ideas that are still in process can drain the life out of the writing’.

She has published four books previously, the most recent of which was Kathleen O’Connor of Paris, published by Fremantle Press in 2018. This narrative non-fiction book explores the question, ‘what does it mean to live a life in pursuit of art?’ In her part-biography, part-travel narrative,  Amanda embarks on a journey to follow in the footsteps of bohemian artist Kathleen O’Connor. Her other novels, Elemental and The Sinkings, also incorporate her trademark historical research skills while her short fiction collection Inherited gives you a bite-sized taste of Amanda’s beautiful writing style.

Editors WA is enormously proud of Amanda who has previously held several seats on the WA branch committee including that of president and has continued to be an active and positive presence in the WA editing community, respected by her peers and readers alike. Congratulations, Amanda, and good luck with your new novel.

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