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Your KS #55: Katharine Susannah from Cradle to Grave

As reported last month, Melbourne University Press will be publishing my biography of Katharine Susannah Prichard in 2021. It’s going to be about 500 pages long (150,000 words) and the working title is The Red Witch: A Biography of Katharine Susannah Prichard. ‘Red Witch’ is hard to go past as a name that captures so much of Katharine Susannah – and I acknowledge Dorothy Hewett, Dylan Hyde, and the KSP Writers' Centre who have all previously used ‘the red witch’ name in their article / chapter / book titles. I’m really pleased MUP have been willing to publish it at its full length. They’ve also been very supportive of the idea of having lots of photographs, something that will enrich the story.

Potential readers shouldn’t be scared off by the fact it’s coming out with a university press. University presses enable thoughtful books to reach a wide audience and the MUP CEO, Nathan Hollier, has a great track record of publishing enjoyable biographies like Cathy Perkins’ The Shelf Life of Zora Cross and Paul Genoni and Tanya Dalziell’s Half the Perfect World: Writers, Dreamers, and Drifters on Hydra 1955-1964 in his previous role at Monash University Publishing. My biography is built on a lot of research, but I’m hoping readers will find it an engrossing narrative as well.

I’ve taken a conventional ‘cradle to grave’ approach to the biography. Every phase of Katharine’s life was fraught with drama and has become significant to the mythology around her, so a comprehensive, chronological account seemed necessary. I’ve broken her life into thirty-nine chapters and five parts—1. Kattie: 1883-1907, 2. Freewoman: 1907-1919, 3. Mrs Throssell: 1919-1933, 4. Comrade: 1933-1946, 5. Katya: 1946-1969. I finally have a full draft and am currently working my way through the many loose ends as the deadline of 1 September grows closer. I look forward to celebrating its publication next year with my fellow members of KSP Writers’ Centre.

- Picture: the freshly-signed publishing contract!

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