Aug 15 2012

Cadwallader – Robyn

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Robyn Cadwallader (c) Che ChorleyThough it is great news when a writer gets a first time publishing deal in Australia, it doesn’t automatically mean they will get published internationally. Yass Valley writer Robyn Cadwallader hasn’t only managed to get a publishing deal for her first novel ‘The Anchoress’, with  publishing giants Harper Collins, Australia but also with Faber & Faber in the UK, Farrer, Straus and Giroux in the US and Gallimard in France!

‘The Anchoress’ was released in early 2015 and this is what the Harper Collins press release had this to say:
‘An intense, atmospheric and very assured debut, this is one of the most eagerly anticipated novels of the year … This one will will appeal to readers who loved Hannah Kent’s bestselling Burial Rites.’

The following is a profile by the Yass Tribune newspaper from 2011:
Robyn Cadwallader has always had a fascination with the written word and her visions of writing a book are finally coming to fruition. The Murrumbateman resident has the first draft of her novel complete and hopes to pull it all together soon. She recently won an award for her manuscript which gives her an edge on other writers.

The Varuna Writer’s Award provides an opportunity for professional writers to give advice on the book and a link to ever elusive publishers.

For Robyn, her book has been a long held dream. Fresh out of high school the writer embarked on a degree in literature and completed her honours in English literature. However, after studying the great authors of the past the young student decided she couldn’t throw her hat into the same ring as those prestigious writers.

“I discovered that there were all these people who could write so well and, well, I wouldn’t dare to do it,” Robyn said.

So, she took a few different paths, many linked to writing; finding herself as an academic in Adelaide, teaching creative writing and literature. But not until recently had she felt comfortable creating works to be published.

The writer received an award from the Friendly Street Poets, the biggest poetry reading and publishing group in the southern hemisphere, for her book of poetry published by Wakefield Press, ‘I painted unafraid’. “Winning that gave me a bit more of a boost of confidence,” Robyn said. From there she decided to throw herself into writing, something the Flinders University academic had wanted to do her entire life. “I thought I should give it a go and see what happens. You don’t want to die wondering,” she said.
“My mother used to paint Worcester china… and was very good at it. She was really quite an artist,” the Murrumbateman resident said. Robyn’s mother didn’t continue with her passion and that disappointment was a good reminder to persevere, she said.She has instilled this philosophy in her four children, who are all pursuing careers they love, but which don’t necessarily bring huge financial rewards. These values grew from her mother’s inability to follow a dream.

And persevere the writer has, with the novel’s publication edging closer. “I made a few false starts but since being here I have had a bit of time to think and research and write,” the Murrumbateman poet said. The book is a tale of an anchoress, a woman of the church, sealed in a room in medieval England. The idea sprang from Robyn’s PhD, based on medieval women who chose to be locked away. The novel explores the experience of such containment, the recovery of the woman’s sense of self, the value of her own body and the ways in which she engages the villagers who visit her with sympathy. Robyn plans to take a break from writing once the first draft has been looked over by consultants from Varuna writer’s house and she puts the final touches on her research. After her break she will re-read the manuscript with fresh eyes before tracking down a publisher.

Australia coverFinding inspiration

Although her home is settled in the picturesque village of Murrumbateman, the writer said she doesn’t look outwardly for inspiration; there is a white wall in front of her desk, void of any distractions. “I’m not the person who needs a beautiful view… its good for me to be just inside my head,” she said. The writer said it sounded “arty, wanky even,” to say that the story leads her but that’s how she finds inspiration; she sits down and the words spill out. “It’s like the things I’m most interested in are hanging around my conscious thinking but it comes out when I write… in the last two weeks I didn’t know how the story would finish but… it finds its way,” she said.

It has taken Ms Cadwallader quite some time to learn that’s how it works for her and she has passed that advice onto her students. “I would say just sit down and write anything… then go back and take a phrase or a few words that you find interesting. “Most students refuse that because it’s slow… all I start with is a core image and just run with it.”

– Kind permission of: Yass Tribune 08 September, 2011

‘Cadwallader brings a measured intelligence to her work, to produce a rush of memorable images that evoke the sights, sounds and tastes of each moment. She explores the various roles of womanhood, to produce a collection that is intelligent yet comfortably readable … The result is an outstanding new book of poetry, which expresses emotional lucidity without sacrificing intellectual understanding. It displays Cadwallader’s rare talent: that of balancing rigour with passion.’

– Stephen Lawrence, Judge, Single Poet 2009