Book Launch: The First Wave

Gillian Dooley is an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at Flinders University, South Australia. Gillian is also a journal editor and the author of books and articles on literary subjects from Jane Austen to J.M. Coetzee. In this guest post she writes about the launch of The First Wave: Exploring early coastal contact history in Australia, and the book’s importance in our understanding of Australian history.

On 20 June, The First Wave: Exploring Early Coastal Contact History in Australia, edited by The First Wave coverDanielle Clode and myself, was launched in London. This was the result of a happy convergence of circumstances: I was in the UK on an extended visit, presenting at several conferences and giving the odd lecture and seminar, and Flinders University was looking for an excuse to hold an alumni event in London. The Alumni Office at Flinders organised a splendid event in the sumptuous Downer Room at Australia House, with help from the South Australian Agent-General’s office. The Vice-chancellor, Professor Colin Stirling, flew in for the occasion, and nearly 100 people, including Flinders Alumni and many UK-based friends and colleagues, were present to see The First Wave launched into the world – a few weeks before it was even published in Australia – by the incomparable Elleke Boehmer, Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, Professor of World Literature at Oxford, novelist, prominent and prodigious scholar of the South and of colonial and post-colonial encounters.

The First Wave draws together 26 essays, stories, and poems from a range of authors, some of Aboriginal heritage – poets, novelists, historians, literary scholars, art historians, anthropologists, musicologists, linguists, ecologists. We wanted to include multiple perspectives on multiple encounters, in a variety of genres – concentrating on meetings with explorers – temporary visitors, rather than the settlers or invaders who came later, though it’s not so easy to draw these kinds of boundaries.

Elleke spoke at the launch with even more than her customary grace and acuity. She read some passages, including an extract from Kim Scott’s That Deadman Dance and a poem by Ali Cobby Eckermann. Referring to the genesis of the book in my exploration of the encounters described in Matthew Flinders’ accounts of his voyage, she noted

the complex fractal pattern of perspectives, observations and silent sight-lines both Indigenous and European that the co-editors Dooley and Clode had delicately constructed around Flinders’ 1801-3 journey of Australian circumnavigation. Many of these observations crystallised out from the crucial meeting on the beach, that classic zone of colonial encounter, yet at a fragile time before that encounter became violent and destructive. The First Wave also beautifully demonstrates how those observations were then recorded not only in the explorers’ journals and logbooks but also in Indigenous song and dance, so making a very different yet equally telling historical record. Dooley and Clode had achieved this fine balance by drawing together an extensive generic range of writings including some resonant contemporary poetry and were to be especially congratulated about this.

Elleke’s speech made me see the work we had done in a new light, not as merely a heterogenous collection of a variety of perspectives – which it undoubtedly is, and which was our intention – but as something which appeared, in a way, complete – which had an integrity of its own, perhaps beyond the sum of its parts. I found her words extraordinarily moving and extremely gratifying.

Alastair Niven, LVO, OBE, formerly Director of Literature at the both the British Arts Council and the British Council, now of Harris Manchester College, Oxford, kindly agreed to make some closing remarks:

‘It is a genuine privilege to take part in the launch of The First Wave. That’s the sort of politely conventional thing one says on this sort of occasion, but tonight it is really true. This is a monumental book, and I don’t just mean in terms of weight. It is an essential work of true scholarship. This book matters, re-visiting old episodes and in the process re-visioning them.’

There is a crucial if brief sentence in Gillian Dooley’s and Danielle Clode’s excellent introduction. ‘What were the Europeans NOT seeing?’ These essays examine the not seen, which includes how they were themselves viewed by the indigenous peoples they found on arrival in Australia. I don’t usually spatter my talks with Biblical references, but it’s hard not to be reminded of words we have all grown up with and know as evidence of what we define as our civilisation: ‘Now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known.’ This book helps us clarify our opaque vision.

‘Throughout The First Wave words are given new shades of meaning as a consequence of their post-colonial interrogation.  Take as an example Valerie Munt’s essay ‘Sense or Sensibility? Encountering a “Savage” Land in a Romantic Era’, where every word of her title is ironic or nuanced: ‘sense’, ‘sensibility’, ‘encountering’, ‘”savage”‘ (placed in inverted commas), ‘land’, ‘Romantic’, ‘era’, even ‘or’.   This is a book full of such upendings. Encounters and exchanges, footprints and landing parties are all seen afresh. Books like Robinson Crusoe, Coral Island and Lord of the Flies will never seem the same again.’

Once again, I was touched, flattered and surprised by Alastair’s kind words. I have learned a huge amount during this project. When I first conceived of this book project, I knew I’d need a co-editor and the multi-talented Danielle Clode was my first choice, given her expertise on the French voyages to Australia and her wide and varied experience in writing and publishing. Luckily she agreed despite her overflowing schedule and she has been a wonderful partner in this enterprise, in addition to contributing her own beautifully crafted and carefully researched story about whaling on Australia’s east coast. I am grateful to every single one of the contributors for their unique accounts of a myriad of meetings, sightings and exchanges. Only one of them, Patrick Kaye, was able to be present at the London launch, but we look forward to celebrating its publication with many of the others in Adelaide soon – watch this space.

The First Wave, at over 450 pages, has turned out to be a big book, but I hope you will agree with me that its size is justified by the richness of the insights it provides.

Many thanks to Flinders University, Australia House, Elleke Boehmer, and Peter Livingstone, photographer, for their involvement in this wonderful evening.

To purchase a copy of the book, give us a call on (08) 8352 4455, visit us at our Mile End Bookshop, or find it in our online web store.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrEmail this to someonePrint this page

Wakefield Press and Love Your Bookshop Day

Love Your Bookshop Day is all about celebrating what makes local bookshops so great (and so important)! Here at Wakefield Press, we’re celebrating by opening our shop on Saturday 10 August, but the celebration is about more than just one day.

As our fearless leader, Michael Bollen, considers the daunting ‘For Official Use Our little old shopOnly’ headers that have plagued his inbox as late, he also ponders his own official use as a publisher. In Diary of a Publisher, a brilliant new series launched on InDaily, Michael talks about publishing as a whole, and Wakefield Press’s ever-evolving role in the world of books.

Publishing, as Michael (and dictionaries) say, is the act of ‘making things known’. Information and stories that authors and publishers bring to the world, to make known facts, fictions, and half-lie-half-truth tales that captivate and inform us. It’s quite a grand and romantic thought then, when you really think about it. As publishers, it’s our goal to bring important stories to the fore, from South Australia’s women’s suffrage movement and the little-known woman who got it started for our small colony, to the art of absurdity and silliness, to flowers and art in Australia.

For us, Love Your Bookshop Day is a great way to meet with our customers, both old and new, and to showcase the amazing range of books we publish every year. It’s also vital to our existence; without our customers, we would not be. If we don’t exist, South Australian stories will struggle to find the spotlight they so deserve.

Local bookshops live and die by the sword of the customer, so word of mouth, events, and being different are vitally important to us. This Saturday 10 August, Wakefield Press will be open from 1.0 pm to 5.00 pm. We’re running our classic 3 for 2 special, and have a great range of new arrivals and reprinted favourites ready and waiting to be cherished. Around the traps though, there’s plenty going on. Consider supporting one of South Australia’s other independent bookshops (and huge supporters of Wakefield Press).

Imprints Booksellers

on Hindley street will have bubbles, cake, music and giveaways all day, as well as their wonderful range of niche and hard-to-find books in their cosy, welcoming store. You might even be lucky enough to see Wakefieldean Jo working her bookselling magic there. Ask her for a book recommendation, or see what she’s been reading recently over at InDaily.

Matilda Bookshop

is the Adelaide Hills favourite bookstore, although we could be a little biased. Gavin and his team will be open all day on Saturday – pop by for a great range of food and gardening books, including our own Tori Arbon and Lolo Houbein’s Magic Little Meals.

Dillon’s Bookshop

in Norwood has recently undergone a facelift, with their already expansive children’s section growing further. The addition of a reading tree means kids young and old will fall back in love (or more in love) with the magic of books.

Dymocks Adelaide

in Rundle Mall is a booklover’s dream; an emporium-like cave full to the brim of a huge range of books, it’s an old faithful for many of us. Check out the little Wakefield window in the front of the shop, and browse their wares all day. If you’re super keen, Dr Karl’s new book is launching Saturday evening as well – head to their website for more details.

Most importantly though, don’t forget the other 364 days of the year that your local bookshops exist! We love to see customers returning and telling us about books they’ve loved, or would love to see. We love getting these stories to our readers, and expanding our own knowledge and experiences, but most of all we love being here, existing, making things known.

Wakefield Press is open from Monday to Friday, 9.00 am – 5.00 pm every week, and will be open from 1.00 pm – 5.00 pm on Saturday 10 August.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrEmail this to someonePrint this page

An Interview With: Sara Peak, Work Experience Student

Sara, a year 10 student at Saint Peter’s Girls’ School, talks about books, her experiences at Wakefield Press, and the differences between boys and girls reading

What is the first book you ever read?

At the risk of sounding generic, the first book I ever read was Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone. Before this, I lamented reading, but I was immediately drawn into the whirlwind of escapades at Hogwarts, and after reading the Harry Potter series, I started consuming literature at what my parents refer to as an alarming rate. As before this, all I had read were the picture books and young children’s novels given to me by my teachers, so Harry Potter showed me that books are more than a chore and are actually an adventure.

What attracted you to doing work experience at Wakefield Press?

Since I started reading, books have been an enormous influence in my life. When friends were few and far between, I always knew that I would have friends in books, and that they would guide me through anything I had to face. It seems only natural to me that I would take this passion for literature with me throughout my life and working as an editor or publisher is the perfect way to do this. I was attracted to doing work experience at Wakefield Press as I wanted to see what it would be like to work in the publishing industry, particularly in a local business, and determine whether publishing is something I’m actually interested in.

At the end of your work experience, what are your thoughts about working in publishing?

I think that I would absolutely love working in publishing. Being able to see publishing in action really highlights for me the incredible process that books go through before they arrive on the shelves, and then into my hands. I would love to be a part of this magical journey, and help make the books that I adore.

Do you think boys read differently from girls? If so, how? If not, why do you think so many people believe that?

I think that, to an extent, boys do read differently to girls, as boys and girls are raised extremely differently. From the moment they’re born, boys are encouraged to want to read about superheroes and fast cars, while girls are encouraged to read about fairies and princesses. While many people do break free from these stereotypes that are impressed on us since birth, it still has great influence over our reading choices into our later life. However, this is not to say that boys and girls read completely different books, but different books are marketed to boys and girls. I firmly believe that if boys and girls were raised the same way, reading habits would not vary among genders.

 What’s the last book you read for fun? What was fun about it?

I recently finished The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee. It is the second in the series, the first being The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. What I love about these books is that they really question what we have learnt about our history. As our history books are predominantly filled with straight, white men, reading historical books filled with queer people, people of colour, and strong, powerful women really turns history on its head, particularly as the author made the novels as historically accurate as possible.

What’s the last book you read and hated? What did you hate about it?

While I hate to hate books, I really despised Stephen King’s IT. In my opinion, the book is absolutely massive, and it has no reason to be. It was excessively long, with waffling descriptions that were completely irrelevant to the plot line. While there were many genuinely brilliant moments, they were far between, and reading the rest of it simply wasn’t worth it.

How do you find out about books you want to read?

I’m a prolific social media user, and I spend hours scrolling through bookstagrams and the #LoveOzYA tag to find new releases that interest me. I’m also well known in my local bookstores for showing up and looking through all of the new titles that interest me, and spending the vouchers I culminate every birthday, Christmas and Easter on them. As a member of two different book clubs, I also read the new releases that we look at every month.

Name a book or books that changed the way you think- in any way at all, large or small.

A book that changed by way of thinking was The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. It changed the way I considered by privilege, and my activism. Although my white privilege was something, I was always vaguely aware of, I never truly considered what it meant and how it impacts not just my life, but the lives of many other people of colour until I read this book. This book is absolutely essential in shaping the way we think about racism, particularly the institutionalisation of it.

Based on what you see around you, do you think teenagers read more or less than they used to?

I think that teenagers read more than they used to, but in much less conventional ways. With social media increasingly becoming the most-used way to share information, photos are not the only thing shared. People are able to express ideas and writing via blogs, websites, tweets, captions and multiple other platforms. However, in regard to books, I think there always has been and always will a much smaller group of readers. Perhaps this group has expanded or decreased over time, I don’t know, but to me, it always remains very similar.

Who is your favourite author and why?

It definitely depends on the day and the mood! If I’m feeling romantic, then I love Jane Austen; nostalgic and I love F. Scott Fitzgerald; upset and I love both Mackenzi Lee and Becky Albertalli; inspired and I love Margot McGovern and Christina Lauren. I know this isn’t a very good answer, but I love all of these amazing authors, so if you want anything to read, check them out.

If you were banished to a desert island and could take three books with you, what would they be and why?

I would definitely take The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. This is my favourite book of all time, as it’s commentary on capitalism, love and the American dream is absolutely genius. The way Fitzgerald wrote about Gatsby from Nick’s point of view allows the readers to admire Gatsby as Nick does, and as Nick claims to remain impartial and un-judgmental, his judgements on the situation away the author far more than if Gatsby had made his justifications himself. Thinking of another two books is harder as there are so many books I would want to take. I would take The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace, which is a beautiful book of poetry about being a girl growing up in a world in which we’re told that we’re to be saved by men. Lastly, I would take Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli, as it’s such a perfect coming-of-age that I know I could read it over and over without ever getting sick of it.

Keep an eye out for Sara’s other blog posts, coming soon!

Are you interested in completing work experience at Wakefield Press?  Contact for more information.




Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrEmail this to someonePrint this page

Not Black Books


If, like me, you have always loved reading, the idea of owning your own bookstore may also be your idea of heaven.

I have been in customer service all my life, yet I have never worked in a bookshop before. I have worked at independent cinemas and theatres, I have worked in menswear and wine sales, but not in a place that would make me the happiest: selling books. Although working at the Cinema Nova was fantastic, the diet wasn’t great (choc tops and popcorn). Getting to watch as many films as you want and being able to choose the emptiest cinemas to do it in was brilliant. (However, as a result, I now hate sharing cinemas with other people.)

Then there was the TV show Black Books. That was truly the dream writ large – or rather, medium-sized – in my lounge room. To be Bernard Black, to own a bookshop where you can curse at the customers, drink wine and smoke cigarettes all day and just read while you ignore the customers you aren’t yelling at. Sounds idyllic.

(Well, not so much these days, now that I’ve given up the cigarettes and recognise the link between too much alcohol and depression. And I’m an early riser, so all that’s left of that dream is yelling at or ignoring customers, and reading.)

Today I am working in a bookshop. It is not my own and I am not yelling at or ignoring customers. And it’s by no means a conventional bookshop, because it is the bookshop attached to a publishing house, Wakefield Press, an independent Adelaide publisher. I didn’t mean to end up here and my role is not really bookshop assistant, but I am here in the bookshop and I will assist you if you come in.

I wish I had worked in a bookshop earlier in my life. To be surrounded by books is a lovely thing. Wakefield’s director of marketing and the author of the delightful Boomer and Me spends a day a week working at Imprints in Hindley Street. Does she need to, between all her writing of reviews and working here at Wakefield and working on her own book? Probably not, but she cherishes her time there among the books and the book buyers.

Screen shot 2019-05-24 at 9.42.45 AM

One thing I have found working in retail is that you tend to end up shopping where you work. I drank a lot of wine when I worked as a fine wine assistant and I still have ties from when I worked in menswear. Ending up with more books doesn’t seem such a bad thing. 

Today I was planning to take home Stephen Orr’s This Excellent Machine. It has had some great reviews! But someone has put The Hawke Legacy out on display and sentimentality draws me to that one instead.


Emma Sachsse is an Adelaide-based writer who can sometimes be found looking after the reception desk/bookshop at Wakefield Press, or slinging our books to gift shops and other nooks & crannies around Adelaide.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrEmail this to someonePrint this page

Art books for the connoisseur and casual admirer alike

From world-renowned glass blowers to landscape painters, it’s evident that Australia. produces some of the most talented artists, and art, across the globe. Here are five titles to fuel your passion for art this month.


Penelope & Tansy Curtin, Blooms and Brushstrokes: A floral history of Australian art

Blooms and Brushstrokes, Penelope and Tansy Curtin

Blooms and Brushstrokes takes you on a unique journey through the history of Australian art, one flower at a time, examining the blooms depicted. in still lifes, floral portraits, decorative interiors and botanical illustrations by a long line of Australian artists.

Spectacular, intimate, engaging and meticulously researched – and full of interesting and. quirky facts about the flowers and the artists themselves – Blooms and Brushstrokes is a book for art, flower and history lovers alike.

Catherine Speck, Heysen to Heysen: Selected letters of Hans Heysen and Nora Heysen

Heyson to Heyson, Catherine Speck

The prominent Australian artist Nora Heysen has been said to have. worked in the shadow of her father Hans Heysen, one of Australia’s most recognised landscape painters. Theirs was a close and affectionate relationship, in which father and daughter .shared a lifetime of thoughts about art and life, and a mutual respect and admiration for each other’s work.

Heysen to Heysen is a showcase of letters between Nora and Hans Heysen from the collection of the National Library of Australia. Accompanied by carefully selected images. and text by leading art historian Catherine Speck, the publication lifts the lid on a vista of Australian art.

Clare Belfrage, Kay Lawrence & Sera Waters, Clare Belfrage: Rhythms of necessity 

 Clare Belfrage, Kay Lawrence, Sera Waters, Clare BelfrageClare Belfrage: Rhythms of necessity is the first major publication that explores the significance of her. contribution to contemporary international glass art. Exhibited across the world, Belfrage’s glass vessels explore the pulse and flow of forces that shape the natural world as well as the lived patterns of the everyday.

As well as showcasing her award-winning glass vessels, Clare Belfrage: Rhythms of necessity explores the bodily. processes of glass blowing, particularly the specific skills of fine cane drawing for which she is renowned.

Liz Williams, Margot Osborne & Grant Hancock, Liz Williams: Body language 

Liz Williams, Margot Osborne, Grant Hancock, Liz Williams

Liz Williams: Body language celebrates the remarkable figurative sculptures of Australian ceramicist Liz Williams. In this first comprehensive survey of her ceramics, Margot Osborne traces the evolution of Liz Williams’ impressive. body of coil-built ceramic sculptures commencing in the late 1970s.

Liz Williams’ choice of the artisan medium of clay and her distinctive sculptural approach have made her art difficult to contextualise in terms. of contemporary styles in both sculpture and ceramics. This, and her decision to practise from a base in Adelaide, contributed to her relatively low profile during her life. This first retrospective survey makes it possible to fully appreciate Williams’ achievement and her contribution to ceramics in Australia.

Gloria Strzelecki & Jacqueline Hick, Jacqueline Hick: Born wise 

Jacqueline Hick, Gloria Strzelecki, Jacqueline Hick

Jacqueline Hick (1919–2004) was one of Australia’s most successful figurative painters. In a long and. fruitful career she also explored print-making and enamelling. Her subjects included the Australian landscape, musical and theatrical performances, and city life. Above all, Hick was drawn to the human figure. Whether observing the foibles of modern living or the displacement of Aboriginal people’s traditional lifestyles, her figurative works sought to expose human insensitivity.

Jacqueline Hick: Born wise showcases many of Hick’s finest works, and traces a life that, like her art, was imbued with wit, wisdom and empathy.


To read more about any of these books, or to find other related titles, find our entire art list here on our website.

To purchase copies of any of these books, visit us in our Mile End bookshop, give us a call on (08) 8352 4455, or find them in our online web shop.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrEmail this to someonePrint this page

An interview with: Jaye Jarvis, work experience student

Jaye Jarvis, a year ten student at St Johns Grammar School, outlines her keen interest in reading and writing, as well as her involvement in the work experience program at Wakefield Press.

Jaye Jarvis


What is the first book you ever read? 

My mum spent countless hours reading to me as a kid, but the first novel I can consciously remember reading was Layla, Queen of Hearts by Glenda Millard. It’s a gentle, almost nostalgic story about the ups and downs of friendship and the power of love in all of its most unexpected forms. Millard’s writing style was almost definitely the catalyst for my tendency to be overly emotional.

What attracted you to doing work experience at Wakefield Press?

I’ve always liked to think my passion for literature and books was written in the stars, but that’s probably just my romanticised logic taking over. For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to be involved in the production of books in any way possible, whether that be as an editor, a designer or even an author. Doing my work experience at Wakefield Press seemed like an excellent opportunity to test my interest and nail down a specific aspect of publishing that could lead to prospective employment.

Do you think boys read differently from girls? If so, how? If not, why do you think so many people believe that?

I think that the greatest existing disparity between boys and girls when it comes to reading lies in expectation, not ability or interest. From the beginning of modern literature in the 18th century, both men and women were expected to be equally well read; a societal standard that’s practically disappeared over time. When young girls read nowadays, they’re considered intelligent and hardworking, while most of the time boys who are passionate about reading are seen as nerdy or weird. At least that’s what it’s like in high school, anyway. I’d really like to see this reputation change, as the enjoyment of books shouldn’t come with any excess baggage or reason for judgment.

What’s the last book you read for fun? What was fun about it?

The last book I read for fun was My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix, a title that explores the challenges of friendship and demonic possession; an underlying metaphor for the difficulties faced by teenage girls. Being the ideal demographic, I really enjoyed the theme of the novel in general, and additionally found a lot of enjoyment in the 1980s setting.

What’s the last book you read and hated? what did you hate about it?

I like to think I’m a very positive, treat people with kindness, kind of person, but my one exception is when it comes to Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Under the curse of some vengeful higher power, I’ve been made to write two essays on the novel during my time at school. I suppose the genre isn’t an area of interest for me at the best of times, but I also find a lot of difficulty in appreciating the writing style. It’s too long-winded, and the concept in general makes me a little sick to the stomach.

How do you find out about books you want to read?

I pay a visit to my local library about once a month, scouring pretty much every section for new arrivals and books that catch my eye. Usually I end up with nine or ten titles that will occupy my time before the next visit.

Name a book or books that changed the way you think- in any way at all, large or small.

Admittedly this is more of a negative influence, but Looking for Alaska by John Green taught me not to romanticise hardcore partying or alcohol consumption during my high school experience. At the time I read the book, I was a little caught up in the world of social media and Netflix specials, which resulted in a pretty warped idea of what my teenage years would be like. As it turns out, I’m much happier knowing that teenage life is a lot less chaotic and angst-ridden than the movies make it out to be.

Based on what you see around you, do you think teenagers read more or less than they used to?

I think that although the effects of social media fascination and addiction are more prevalent than ever in today’s society, there’ll always be teenagers that love to read. The same way that many young adults prefer records or cd’s to Spotify, book-lovers will always be present in society. Besides, kicking back with a physical book in your hand isn’t the only way to indulge in the written word any more. Thousands of teenagers are blogging and reading YA on their Kindle’s every day. Passion for reading among today’s youth isn’t dying out, it’s just evolving.

Who is your favourite author and why?

It definitely depends on the day, but I’d say either Jane Austen, Derek Landy or Krystal Sutherland. Sense and Sensibility was the first classic I ever read, so Austen’s style holds a special place in my sentimental heart. Derek Landy’s Skullduggery Pleasant series was the first to spark my interest in the supernatural, and I take a lot of inspiration from his work. As for Krystal Sutherland, she’s written two books that rank highly in my personal top 50, so I’d be stupid not to mention her. I really admire the way she writes from the perspective of teenagers being an adult herself, and her narratives are expertly crafted and super creative.

If you were banished to a desert island and could take three books with you, what would they be and why?

Pride and Prejudice, so I could have a good cry; Marilyn Manson’s biography, just to keep things interesting; and How to Build and Sail Small Boats by Tony Read. (I’m not a big fan of the desert climate.)

Keep an eye out for Jaye’s other blog posts, coming soon!

Want to complete your work experience at Wakefield Press? Email to express your interest.


Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrEmail this to someonePrint this page

An Interview With: Poppy Nwosu

In this latest author interview series, work experience student Sian Beatton interviews Poppy Nwosu, author of Making Friends with Alice DysonPoppy’s story came runner up for the 2018 Adelaide Festival Unpublished Manuscript Award, but here at Wakefield press we thought her story too good to go unnoticed. Poppy’s book is a romantic story about rumours, friendship, and discovering who you really are.

Poppy Nwosu

How do you keep a book interesting?

This is a great question!

For me, I think the biggest key to writing a book that is interesting the whole way through is to keep assessing whether I myself actually find what I’m writing interesting. I am a bit of a selfish writer, so I definitely write the kind of stories that appeal to me and that I find interesting personally, and I think that does make it easier to ensure my story is satisfying (for me at least! Ha!).

The flipside of this is that of course through the process of writing and editing a book, a writer is forced to read it through a MILLION times, so definitely don’t get worried if you end up finding your manuscript less interesting as time goes on. That doesn’t mean your work is no good, it just means you have read it a MILLION times, and that is totally okay.

Did you base any characters on yourself or people you know?

Although I do take tiny snippets from everyday life, I don’t think I have ever based a character entirely off myself or someone I know.

One of the main joys of writing for me is the opportunity to explore the things that make people tick, and often when I begin writing a story I don’t even know a huge amount about the characters myself! It then becomes part of that process of writing just to explore who they are and figure them out.

Actually, one of the most interesting things that has come out of the release of my debut novel, is that I have realised a LOT of people have presumed that the protagonist in my novel is based on me and my high school experience. Funnily enough, this is definitely not the case, and I actually had a lot of fun writing a character like Alice who is quite different to me in almost every way.

Making Friends with Alice Dyson CVR V6.inddDid you base the story on something?

I did!

The original idea was sparked by a cute viral video I watched on the net a few years ago, which featured a caught on camera goofy impromptu dance on the street by two teens walking home from school. I saw the video and just couldn’t stop thinking about who they were and what their friendship might be like, and that really morphed into this love story.

From there I was also influenced greatly by the cute romantic animes (Japanese animation shows) I was watching at the time and also by a book I adore, which is fun and light and moving all rolled into one (Jaclyn Moriarty’s fantastic #LoveOzYA novel Finding Cassie Crazy).

What did you learn from writing this novel?

This is another excellent question, and it made me sit down and think, because actually I’ve never stopped to wonder what I learned!

Probably the biggest challenge for me with writing ALICE was in figuring out how to ensure that the romantic tension between Alice and her new friend Teddy lasted the whole book. I think one of the most difficult parts of writing a love story is in keeping readers invested in that romance until the end of the book. That was a major challenge for me, and I hope that I learned how to accomplish it with this novel.

What do you want your readers to learn form this novel?

To be completely honest, although in hindsight I can see there are themes in ALICE about standing up for others and not buying into stereotypes etc. when I was actually writing it I never thought much about trying to teach anyone anything. There are ideas in it that I definitely wanted to explore myself,  but none that I felt like I wanted to teach.

In a lot of ways, and this may sound bad or weird, but I don’t know if it matters to me if readers can learn anything or not from what I write. I have always been of the mindset that fiction should make you feel something, and that is what I mostly set out to do. By writing the kind of story that I find realistic and romantic, that makes me feel happy, I think I hoped to make readers feel happy too.

How do you put emotion into your characters?

Right here you have hit on my absolute most favourite element of any story! Actually, I am obsessed with getting emotion across within my work, and one of the hugest parts of writing ALICE for me was to develop a love story that felt ultra possible and realistic, and create characters whose emotions readers could recognise and identify with.

I think every writer probably has different story elements that they most identify with and that they most want to bring out in their work (for instance, twisty plots or interesting fresh ideas etc.) but for me, embedding emotion into my characters and stories is always highest on my list. The easiest way I have found to do that is to really think deeply about a character’s reactions and actions, and think about how everything that occurs within the story might truly impact them and make them feel if they were real.

I think a great way to almost ‘learn’ emotions is also to read other books and watch movies and tv, and start analysing the character’s reactions within their stories. I often think, if that person was real, as in truly alive and real within that world, would they truly react that same way or would their emotional reaction be different?  This is actually the thing that can make or break a story for me. For instance, a story could have the most interesting satisfying plot in the world, but if the emotions and emotional arcs of the characters don’t ring true, if it doesn’t make me feel anything, then I won’t be able to love it.

Sometimes I think the stories we read or watch can almost occur in heightened realities, and therefore emotions in those stories can sometimes lose their grounding and depth, and end up feeling less impactful because they don’t feel true. I think that is okay to have stories like that, but personally I am always more moved by, for instance, a love story that feels grounded in true emotion, where the characters feel like they might actually continue to love each other long after the credits roll or the final page.

Gosh what a huge answer! Sorry! But you got me started on a very special topic! 🙂

How do you come up with an interesting ending to your stories?

Oh, this is a fun one to answer! Endings for me are very difficult, because I usually have only a very vague idea of where the story is going to end up when I begin writing it, and definitely no end scene or final plot point in mind. Which means I am usually left in a state of indecision by the time I make it to the end, wondering how to make it work and how to keep it interesting.

With ALICE, I really didn’t know how I was going to end the story, but I guess for me, as we discussed above, it does always come back to the emotion in the narrative. Most of all I wanted to write an ending that had a good emotional resolution for the characters, and when figuring out how to finish the story, I focused mostly on what felt right in terms of the character’s journeys, their emotional arcs and the love story itself. In some ways, I suppose the plot came second, and I figured it out later as a framework to prop up how I wanted the emotional side of the story to end.

Now that I think about it, I suppose that is the way I usually approach the ending of all the stories I write!

Want to experience the journey of Making Friends with Alice Dyson? Visit Wakefield Press at 16 Rose Street, Mile End SA 5031 or shop for the book online.

Keep an eye out for an interview with Sian, coming to the blog soon! In the meantime, follow Poppy’s writing journey over on her blog.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrEmail this to someonePrint this page

Extract: The Australian War Memorial

In The Australian War Memorial: A century on from the vision, Steve Gower, the highly successful director of the Australian War Memorial from 1996 to 2012, gives a comprehensive account of the development of the Memorial from its inception just over a century ago.

Australian War Memorial, Steve GowerThe book recounts the many challenges in establishing the Memorial and then in developing further its galleries and displays, the extensive collection, associated events and the overall supporting facilities. It also goes behind the scenes to provide insights into the many facets of a major, modern cultural institution.

In this extract from the final chapter of the book, Gower reflects on the importance of the Memorial, as well as the way the Australian people. have interacted with the Memorial over the years; some with disdain and contempt, others with a sense of solemn pride. He notes that directors past, present and future have always had the betterment and preservation of the Memorial at the front of their mind.


It seems relevant to ask why so many people are interested in what happens at the Australian War Memorial and why such passion is aroused at different times. I would suggest the reason is that the Memorial deals unmistakably with an agreed, major Australian narrative, not the only one but. arguably the principal one, which had its origins in the Gallipoli campaign and which has resonated with successive generations. That narrative has been challenged and dismissed by some: others demand that it be interpreted their way. Minorities have attached what they believe it stands for and have confidently predicted its imminent demise. Notwithstanding, the narrative has survived and is probably stronger now than it has ever been. It belongs to the Australian people, with all their strengths, weaknesses, pride, foibles. and innate decency, who by their support have expressed their satisfaction with its very essence. it comes from the people voluntarily, not imposed from above.

The Australian War Memorial, as a custodian of the narrative, belongs to all Australians. It’s not owned by the defence force, whose members carry the burden of the nation’s expectations that they live up to the values implicitly recorded there. I have no doubt that can be a source of strength and resolution for them in fulfilling their duty. The .institution is not owned by veterans, despite their service and sacrifice and the fact that some regard it as the sacred cathedra of a secular Anzac religion. And it’s certainly not owned by the staff of the Memorial, the Director, historians, curators, or the like. Having said that, every Director and staff member down the ages has believed strongly in the Memorial and had its interests and advancement to the forefront of their minds.

The greatest privilege conferred on all staff is holding temporary stewardship of the narrative. and its contemporary meaning. In accepting this task, it’s their challenge to meet the collective high expectations the general public has of this great. and uniquely Australian institution. This sometimes requires a degree of resilience and fortitude not usually associated with museums and a sensitivity to nuances and subtleties.

In 2015 I asked Peter Burness, that long-serving. servant of the Memorial, what he thought Bean’s reaction would be were he to come back now. Burness thought he’d be thrilled. Bean’s vision had not only blossomed. but flourished, perhaps well beyond his original dreams. he might even be a little surprised by. the esteem with which it is held by the public, and its prominence as the central repository of .Australia’s remembrance of war. The Memorial is a great tribute to his. determination, persistence, and powers of persuasion in seeking the fulfilment of his vision.

As for Treloar, I believe he, too, would be pleased, but as an undemonstrative, hard-working, self-contained man, it is probable that he would suppress any satisfied smile. But inwardly, he’d be very proud of seeing how the place to which he’d devoted his life had progressed. His life’s work has become a lasting legacy, as he had hoped.

Both would be well pleased with how the record has been guarded over the last century. And so should anyone else who has been associated with the Memorial, in whatever capacity.

Steve Gower was Director of the Australian War Memorial between 1996 and 2012. He is a Duntroon graduate and Vietnam veteran who gained an Honours degree in Engineering from the University of Adelaide, followed by a Masters degree by research. He spent 37 years in the Australian Army, attaining the rank of major general before resigning to become the ninth Director of the Australian War Memorial, a position he held for over 16 years.

To purchase a copy of The Australian War Memorial: A century on from the vision, visit us in our Mile End bookshop, give us a call on (08) 8352 4455, or find the book in our online web shop.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrEmail this to someonePrint this page

ANZAC Day titles for the historian in us all

ANZAC Day is a solemn reminder to generations young and old of the pain and loss of war. But with the number of surviving veterans declining, it’s important for younger generations to keep their memory alive. With that in mind, here are five historical titles to read this ANZAC Day.


Don Longo, Pens and Bayonets: Letters from the Front by soldiers of Yorke Peninsula during the Great WarPens and Bayonets, Don Longo

Pens and Bayonets gives voice to the young Australia soldiers who volunteered to fight for our freedom in the Great War. They answered the call willingly, with many thinking it may be all over before they got there. How wrong they were. Author Don Longo gathered many of the moving letters sent to the fronts, and set them in their historical context, to bring these soldiers back to life.



Allison Reynolds, Anzac Biscuits: The power and spirit of an everyday national icon

Anzac Biscuits, Allison ReynoldsAnzac biscuits, baked in Australia and New Zealand for over a century, have a powerful connection to the national identity and culture of both countries. But what is the story of this national icon? Were they eaten by troops during the First World War? When did coconut make an appearance?

Author Allison Reynolds traces the origins of the humble Anzac Biscuit, delving into war files and family cookbooks to investigate the provenance of this extraordinary everyday biscuit.



Cheryl Williss, Miss Marryat’s Circle: A not so distant past

Miss Marryats Circle, Cheryl WillissIn 1915, the second year of the Great War, Mabel Marryat joined the newly-formed League of Loyal Women. Mabel was active in the League’s emergency corps, ‘women who are prepared to give their service in any need that may arise’.

This book gives voice to the women of South Australia’s first 110 years of European settlement and opportunity to reflect on the changing position of women in society. But the spotlight shines on Mabel. Her long and devoted community service – particularly to her ‘Diggers’ – was extraordinary.


Sharon Cleary and Robert Kearney, Valour and Violets: South Australia in the Great War

Valour & Violets, Sharon Cleary and Robert kearneyClose to 35,000 South Australians enlisted for service overseas during the Great War. Around 5500 never came back. Countless more returned with physical and psychological injuries that would affect them for the rest of their lives.

Drawing on the work of the many who have written on the subject previously, Valour and Violets provides a wholly South Australian perspective on the impact of the Great War on individuals, on families and on our state’s coastal, regional, and outback communities.


Melanie Oppenheimer, Margaret Anderson, and Mandy Paul, South Australia on the Eve of War

Sa on the Eve of War, multipleIn August 1914 South Australians – much like their fellow Australians around the country – enthusiastically displayed their patriotism when war was announced. It’s a story we know well, but what do we know of South Australia in the lead up to the First World War? What was it like to live there at the time? What were South Australians talking about?

South Australia on the Eve of War considers unique aspects of the state in this pre-war period, including the political reverberations of Federation, the town planning of what was then Australia’s third-largest capital, Adelaide, and the shifting social positions of women, Indigenous Australians and minority groups.

lest we forget


To read more about any of these books, or to find other related titles, find our entire history list here on our website.

To purchase copies of any of these books, visit us in our Mile End bookshop, give us a call on (08) 8352 4455, or find them in our online web shop.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrEmail this to someonePrint this page

Colonial Settlers, Paradise and One Degree of Separation

Colonial Settlers on the River TorrensThe running joke in Adelaide is that everybody knows everybody. It isn’t six degrees of separation in this town – it’s one.

If you meet someone new it won’t be long before you discover that you both used to have so and so living next door to you or that you are actually second cousins once removed or that you both dated Jamie Darcy when you were in your twenties.


I  experienced the book form of this phenomenon when I read In My Mothers Hands by Biff Ward on the weekend.

In it there was an interesting anecdote about how her grandfather was the reason that the suburb of Paradise was so named. I had always wondered at the name, and assumed that it was a hopeful moniker slapped on it by a developer. In fact, it was named after the Paradise Bridge Hotel, owned by Joseph Ind. He was quite the character, as were many of Biff’s relatives, including her father, the man who was the first person to collect Australian Settler songs like Click go the Shears.

At one of Wakefield’s book launches, Big Rough Stones by Margaret Merilees. I bumped into a friend of mine who was there with her mother: Biff Ward.

The one degree of separation thing happened again this morning when I picked up our book Colonial Settlers On The River Torrens. This book is about the first generation of European settlers to take up properties on the upper reaches of the River Torrens. They were the first to intensively cultivate the land in the present-day suburbs of Campbelltown, Paradise and Athelstone.

Paradise Bridge HotelFlicking through the gorgeous pictures I spotted one of the Paradise Bridge Hotel. There I found the story of Joseph Ind, melon grower, hotel owner, and Biff’s grandfather and local character, in what was later to become Paradise.

Joseph Ind and many other local characters are remembered for their many achievements settling the areas which we now know as Paradise, Campbelltown and Athelstone. Importantly, their harsh treatment of the Kaurna people is also remembered, acknowledging that the titular settlers were not the first to live on the land.

As my experiences go, a flick through the beautifully-curated pages of images and research by Dr Roger Irvine might reveal some names familiar to you too – we are in Adelaide, after all.

By Emma Sachsse, Wakefielder by day, writer by night. Find more of her work on Medium.

To purchase a copy of Roger Irvine’s Colonial Settlers on the River Torrens, visit us in our Mile End bookstore, give us a call on (08) 8352 4455, or find the book online at our webstore.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrEmail this to someonePrint this page