Friday, 26 March 2010

Vale Patricia Wrightson

Patricia Wrightson author and long-time Clarence Valley resident died this month.

Patricia Wrightson, who died this week aged 88, was one of the first children's writers to use Australian places and idioms in her novels. [Many of her works draw on Australian mythology.] Born in the northern NSW town of Lismore, Wrightson's first books were published in the 1950's, and she continued writing until ill health forced her retirement in the late 1990's.

In 1999, the NSW Premier's literary awards honoured Ms Wrightson by naming their children's literary prize after her. Minister for the Arts, Virginia Judge, yesterday acclaimed Ms Wrightson as an "Australian literary great". (As reported in The Australian, March 25, 12:00 am.)

Ms. Wrightson was one of Australia's best known children's authors. She worked as assistant editor of School Magazine from 1964-1970 and became editor in 1970 until 1975. Her first children's book The Crooked Snake, written in 1955 won the Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year 1956. With a writing career of nearly fifty years, Ms. Wrightson won that award again for The Nargun and The Stars (1973), The Ice is Coming (1977), A Little Fear (1983). High commendations were awarded for The Bunyip Hole (1958), The Feather Star (1962), I Own the Racecourse! (1968) which was also the CBCA Book of the year in 1969, An Older Kind of Magic (1972), Behind the Wind (1981), Balyet (1989) was shortlisted for Older Readers 1990, The Sugar-gum Tree (1991) was shortlisted for Younger Readers in 1992, Rattler's Place (1997) was named an Honour Book for Younger Readers in 1998.

Ms. Wrightson received the Dromkeen Medal in 1984, the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 1986 and delivered the annual Arbuthnot Lecture in 1985.

In a 1991 Horn Book Magazine article, Wrightson describes the roots of writing:

"The necessary, natural struggle to tell a story is always new, but the roots were there already: hiding in yourself, planted by your inheritance to be discovered through need. They were deep and strong... the roots of writing are deeper than you think. "Deeper Than you Think." by: Wrightson, Patricia, Horn Book Magazine, Vol. 67, Issue 2.

Photograph from The National Library of Australia

1 comment:

Ian Ross said...

Over recent years I rediscovered my old Patricia Wrightson books as my own children grew to love reading. Upon re-reading them again myself, I was struck by the realisation that my own love of the Australian bush, bushwalking, (and a passion for the responsible preservation of wilderness for future generations to discover for themselves) had been greatly influenced by the stories of Patricia Wrightson. Her ability to awaken the young imagination of the 1960's to the magical properties of the Australian landscape, and stimulate an appreciation for the Aboriginal experience of the spiritual mystery of landscape must have seriously contributed to the change in our society's attitude to the "bush" as something to be used and plundered without thought for the future. The social settings may now have dated for today's young generation, but the quality of the characterisation and story telling is still brilliant. I am glad I took the time, one day in 1993, to phone her, and thank her for her stories which helped shape my attitudes to life. Thank you Patricia Wrightson - Rest in Peace.