About Penny

For me, books and writing come first, followed closely by the cinema. I've always been in love with words. I combined both of these passions by being a film critic for a few years, writing for various local arts magazines and reviewing films on 2XX and local ABC radio stations. I even went to the Cannes Film Festival once. It was while I was travelling in the area and before I started writing but I pretended to be a journalist and managed to get a Press Card, which got me into any film I wanted to see. It was bliss!

This brings me to travel. I've travelled a lot in Europe, mainly in the Mediterranean areas, the former Yugoslavia etc, bits of the Middle East and a little in Asia and more recently in the US. I love boats and the water and I've done a bit of sailing, in the Mediterranean and Adriatic and up the Straits of Malacca. I sailed down the Nile in a felucca back in 1985. It's the best way to travel, followed by the train. I'm also a fan of cycling and walking - two ways to get to know a place in a different way than speeding through it in a car.

Wherever I go I'm always drawn to art. I'm passionate about colour and texture. I'm good at interior design and have transformed many an unprepossessing place into a harmonious, vibrant and cheerful-looking space. I practised art myself (painting, photography, off-loom weaving) before writing took over when I came to Canberra over 20 years ago. Recently I combined art and writing in my PhD (University of Canberra 2009) where, as well as writing a thesis, I wrote a novel, Beyond the Pale, which was about three generations of women artists. I did a great deal of research in art history plus took some art classes for empirical experience. The novel explores the theme of love versus freedom through the lives of three women artists. Parent/child relationships, the corrosive effect of family secrets, and the wonder of second chances are sustained themes. By the end, all three generations of women have changed profoundly, each of their lives dramatising the transformative power of love. Three excerpts of it appeared in Hecate (Vol. 35, nos 2/2, 2009).

I also love music and yoga and the Argentine tango. The musician and teacher, Joaquín Amenábar, sometimes visits Canberra, and he states in his book, Tango: Let's dance to the music! (2009), '...just as a musician in an orchestra uses his instrument to play a tango, we dancers can play the tango with the instrument that is our body.' This expression, without words, feels exceptionally good. They say there are no shortcuts to happiness, but I reckon that dancing the tango, perhaps dancing anything, is definitely one.