‘I don’t know if I would’ve written The Lotus Eaters without the course. From what I’d read there wasn’t a big explosion of female-driven memoir, especially Australian memoir. Narrative non-fiction was not something I grew up reading. It had been ascribed to a certain age group, mostly men, and certainly men of profile,’ says Emily Clements.
PWE’s nonfiction classes inspired and coaxed her into the inevitable, which she’d been avoiding – writing about her adolescence. Brenda Walker’s essay, ‘The Long Fall into Steel’ presented in class by Pete Barrett, was her first nonfiction impactful moment. The essay, ‘dripped through time in a way I’d never seen before. I realised, you can do this!’
Emily also credits the workshopping in Michelle Aung Thin’s class and Liz Steele’s editing class as being formative, practical and building skills.
Along the way to publishing The Lotus Eaters, Emily cites many smaller successes that kept her going. She was shortlisted then Highly Commended for the Scribe Nonfiction Prize, which was the first moment outside of PWE that she felt validated. ‘It was also the first time I got money for my writing.’ Emily was shortlisted for the joanne burns award, a 100-word microfiction competition, which was projected on the big screen at Federation Square. She remembers thinking, ‘Oh there’s that thing I created that people are now engaging with in a space that’s far bigger than the context I imagined.’
After the course, Emily took a lot of pride and pleasure in working as fiction editor for Voiceworks, helping younger writers to learn and grow. She appreciated an opportunity to funnel her PWE experiences into others, because she’d gained so much from the course.
Emily emphasises how practical and down-to-earth the course was. ‘It didn’t feel cliquey at all.’ To her it felt connected, like a little community, that lasts well beyond the course.
Emily's first novel is The Lotus Eaters.
This profile was written and researched by Ann Bolch from A Story To Tell.