Peggy Frew holds her novel-writing teacher Olga Lorenzo partly responsible for the completion of Islands, shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award in 2020.
Years ago, Peggy was developing the first iteration the work that ended up becoming Islands in Olga’s class amid stories that were mostly action packed and plot based. Peggy’s was an intensely interior, quiet novel. ‘I remember feeling ashamed that I wasn’t writing a real book,’ she says.
Olga was adamant that novels don’t have to be pedal to the metal all the time, insisting that what Peggy was doing was valid. At that moment, Peggy says, ‘I felt seen by someone who really knew their stuff.’
The biggest highlights of PWE were the quality of the teaching, the practical advice that demystified the publishing world and learning the importance of having a safe writing community. ‘When it came time for me to set up after the course, I knew how to gather for myself the right people in my writing community.’
Years later Peggy still enjoys engaging with other writers, citing festivals and Varuna writers’ retreat as examples of where she absorbs the energy to keep living what is mostly a solitary writing life. Thankfully, she delights in this life. ‘The sweetness just gets more intense as I start to understand myself more as a writer. Every project I go deeper and find writing for myself. My favourite moments are at my desk with the work, where I realise something’s not working and then work harder on figuring it out. Feeling really satisfied.’
PWE also taught Peggy how to read differently. Ania Walwicz’s very structured approach appealed to her – taking turns to read a published story aloud, discuss it then experiment with your own writing based on the reading. Before this, reading had always been a private thing. Yet reading aloud – together – in a group of people who shared the same intensity about language and story made Peggy realise she was in the right place.
Peggy's novels include Home Visit (awarded The Age Short Story Award), House of Sticks (awarded the Victorian Premier’s Unpublished Manuscript Award), Hope Farm (awarded the Barbara Jefferis Award and shortlisted for both the Miles Franklin Literary Award and The Stella Prize) and Islands (shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award).
This profile was written and researched by Ann Bolch from A Story To Tell.