A crop of successful female writers has emerged in Gundagai, NSW, reviving the town’s long-held link with literature.

Story By Genevieve Barlow

“In the past three years Gundagai has produced no less than eight published female writers – an almost unprecedented number to emerge from a district of no less than 2500 residents,” says sports scientist-turned-journalist and librarian Rochelle Llewelyn Nicholls, whose biography of Australia’s first US major baseball league player, Joe Quinn, was launched in November 2014.
“I’d love to say it’s because Gundagai’s sense of itself is so strong,” says locally born and raised Rachel Murray, 39, whose compendium of Gundagai’s military history documents the personal histories of the town’s 88 servicemen and women. “I’m the only one writing about Gundagai,” she says. “All the others are writing books that are not about this town or this area.”
Forget ‘chook lit’, with its typical cast of loyal horses, birth-giving cows, life-saving dogs and handsome heroes who save struggling female farmers. While rural romance may be all the rage in bookshops, Gundagai’s writers have found meaty tales of bloody Irish conflicts, political intrigue in China, faith-based fiction, accounts of personal trauma and biographies of Australians of whom you’ve never heard, but whose stories have global appeal.
Most of the authors live out of town and three, Vivien Thomson, Freda Nicholls and Gillian Ingall, live on neighbouring properties. Another three – Rachel, Rochelle and Jenny Glazebrook – had the same English teacher at Gundagai High School. Jenny, 38, says that the area’s topography and her teachers at school sparked the writing flame within her. “Judy Pigrim was my favourite teacher,” she says. “She really encouraged us students in our writing and she enjoyed reading it, too.”

This Story is from Issue #98

Outback Magazine: Dec/Jan 2015