VALE Wendy Jenkins AM

It is with deep regret that Fremantle Press acknowledges Wendy Jenkins AM, who passed away suddenly late last week at the age of 70. She is survived by her sister Lois and brother John.

Wendy’s career at Fremantle Press spanned four decades as a manuscript assessor and mentor, editor and writer. We were proud to call Wendy our friend and colleague, and admired immensely her unsurpassed grasp of language, her quick wit, keen eye, finely tuned ear, and her wicked sense of humour.

Wendy, a fourth-generation resident of Fremantle, began working with the Press first as a writer, publishing her debut poetry collection Out of Water into Light in 1979. Wendy went on to publish a second poetry collection, Rogue Equations, and four books for younger readers: Killer Boots, Hot News, The Big Game and Gunna Burn.

Hired by then director Ian Templeman to work at Fremantle Arts Centre, Wendy’s talent for manuscript assessment came to the fore just as Fremantle Press was moving away from anthologies to single-author works. During her tenure, we estimate that Wendy assessed some 10,000 manuscripts and worked closely with many of Western Australia’s finest poets and authors, displaying her editor’s empathy, brilliant insight and unstinting encouragement.

Among the works which Wendy found in the ‘slush pile’ were A.B. Facey’s A Fortunate Life, arguably one of Australia’s best-known books. (Wendy shared that moment of discovery in a post she wrote for the book’s 30th anniversary.) But Wendy herself was perhaps most proud of her work with those she considered WA’s literary giants: Caroline Caddy, Marion Campbell, Nandi Chinna, Dennis Haskell, Gail Jones, John Kinsella, Joan London, Caitlin Maling, John Mateer, Deborah Robertson, Tracy Ryan, Philip Salom, Kim Scott, Dave Warner and Brenda Walker, to name just a few.

A more complete picture of Wendy Jenkins’ time at Fremantle Press was penned by her close colleague publisher Georgia Richter at the time of Wendy’s retirement.

In 2018 Wendy was made a member of the Order of Australia for her significant service to literature as an author, editor and publisher, and for her work mentoring and developing the Western Australian literary community. At the time Wendy said, ‘Editing has been at the centre of my working life, and I have been privileged to be present at the emergence and unfolding of some of this state’s, and this nation’s, most defining voices, stories and talents. It has been work of quiet passion, from which I have gained more than I have given.’

Those fortunate to have worked alongside Wendy, or to have been edited by her, know that her gifts to us all were immense and her ‘work of quiet passion’ unwavering. It is with heavy hearts that we mark her passing.

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