Stalwart event volunteer and Fremantle Press favourite, Bianca Breen, shares her fly-on-the-wall account of the annual event programmer’s breakfast

As I look around the room at AH Bracks Library, watching booklovers assemble, I’m struck by how wonderful this event is. Debut writers are assuaging each other’s fears while old hats are catching up. We’re brought together by stories; authors sharing their upcoming releases, teachers and other programmers seeking to help share those stories and experiences. I’m astounded by the quality and range of stories hitting the shelves this year from WA’s talented writers.

We have several stories from First Nations authors to look forward to this year. Smashing Serendipity by Louise K. Hansen is a yarn of strength and resilience against violence and racism. Sadly, Louise passed away a few days after the book went to print. She was represented by her husband and daughter, who delivered moving speeches on the positive  impact Louise left behind. Louise’s own artwork makes up the cover: the story of Louise’s parents’ respective birth countries Debut children’s book author Isobel Bevis introduced her picture book Nedingar, a story about ancestors, told in both Noongar and English.

Staying in the realm of picture books, Kelly Canby made us laugh with every pun about ‘time’ she could think of to honour the release of Timeless, and we continued the celebration with Say Hooray! by Renae Hayward and Rebecca Mills, which delights in babies and the milestones they achieve. And Katie Stewart is back with another picture book, When I can Fly, following an adorable young boobook owl who is easily overwhelmed by the city. Katie explained that this one is for the quiet people, those who cringe at the words ‘group activity’ or ‘sports carnival’. I know a younger version of me would have appreciated this one.

There were plenty of familiar faces returning to the pitching podium. Karen Herbert’s upcoming release Vertigo is set to follow in the footsteps of her previous crime/mystery novels, as public servant Frances Gellar – who has vestibular disorder – enters the ‘mother world of government corruption. And creative crime legend David Whish-Wilson is continuing his prolific output with I Am Already Dead, which is set against the backdrop of 1980s WA. Emma Young is back and bringing ‘a 2023 Bridget Jones’ with her in The Disorganisation of Celia Stone; a journey of self-discovery told through diary entries. And Reneé Pettitt-Schipp returns with The Archipelago of Us, drawing on lived experience, as Reneé reflects on Australia’s national identity as it relates to its detention centres and her experiences of teaching children in detention.

We were also among award-winners. Recently published, The Glass House by Brooke Dunnell won the 2021 Fogarty Award and features a tension-filled domestic drama of friendship, buried memories and caring for a parent with dementia. Then Molly Schmidt, who won the 2022 City of Fremantle Hungerford Award with her manuscript Salt River Road, pitched her story of family and Country, set to be released in October of this year.

A recurring theme among these pitches is that of family. For Dawn Mauldon, her story focuses on her mother, and how Dawn grew up as a hearing child of Deaf parents, as told in Unheard Voices. For Georgia Tree, it’s her father and his struggle with addiction and the dumb luck that surrounded him in Old Boy. And for Laurie Steed, it’s about his children and how his life changed after becoming a parent, in Love Dad: Confessions of an Anxious Father.

For fans of historical fiction, look out for The Brothers Wolfe by Steve Hawke – a family saga of self-obsession and secrets as Steve ‘digs into the psyche of entrepreneurs’. The Silk Merchant’s Son by Peter Burke is set in the Swan River Colony and follows the trials and tribulations of 1845 missionaries as Peter sets out to ‘retell the stories Western Australians think they know, but don’t’.

Younger readers (and the young at heart) haven’t been forgotten. There are two YA anthologies and a middle-grade novel coming out this year. If you recognise Chemutai Glasheen’s name, you might have read her contribution to the 2022 anthology Unlimited Futures. In her new book, eleven short stories of ‘freedom, dignity, and belonging’ in the lives of teenage characters fill I Am the Mau and Other Stories. An Unexpected Party, co-curated with Seth Malacari from Get YA Words Out, is filled with fantastical stories by previously unpublished LGBTQIA+ writers to ‘raise the profile of queer YA.’ Then, dancer-turned-journalist Chenée Marrapodi is debuting with One Wrong Turn, bringing together her love of dance and Italian heritage, and setting out to establish that ballet is not just about ‘tutus and tiaras – dancers are also athletes and team players’.

There was a lot to ponder and discuss as we then tucked into tea, coffee, and a selection of fruit, quiche, pastries, and cinnamon buns from Little Loaf Bakery, Fremantle. I caught snippets of conversation between programmers introducing themselves and authors putting faces to social media handles, and I can’t wait to watch every one of these books find a home on people’s shelves, and gush about them with my fellow booklovers.

Bianca is an emerging YA writer. When she’s not at work at The Literature Centre in Fremantle, she’s the Communications Director of the Australian Young Adult Literature Alliance (#LoveOzYA) and the host and creator of YA for WA. Bianca was the YA winner of the 2021 ASA Award Mentorship Program and a 2022 Upcoming Writer-in-Residence at KSP Writers Centre. She holds a Bachelor of Creative Arts (Writing) from La Trobe University.

Books discussed
The Valley

Share via: