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Open Right

Alice Bishop

Author, Inspirational Speaker, Social Issues

Alice Bishop is from Christmas Hills, Victoria. Her first book A Constant Hum, tracks the lingering aftermath of Australian bushfire. It was recently shortlisted for the 2019 Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction and recognised in the Penguin Literary Prize. Alice’s work focuses on place, people and climate—often highlighting the quiet moments that make us who we are.

Where were you born?

I was born in Carlton but grew up in Christmas Hills, a bushy town about an hour out of Melbourne. The land out there has really made me who I am, especially after watching it slowly grow back after the really devastating bushfires of Black Saturday – a day many will remember.

My parents rebuilt our house after the fires on the same block I grew up on, though, and I’m really lucky to be able to still visit Christmas Hills once a week. My heart’s out there. It’s home.

What other jobs have you had?

Like so many, I worked in supermarkets as a teenager, and then in hospitality to get through uni. One of my first jobs was a strapper at the Yarra Glen Racetrack (I think I was 14) but didn’t last very long—the 4am starts and huge thoroughbreds outdid me, very quickly!

What themes are recurring in your work?

I’ve written about bushfire aftermath for the last ten years or so. Seeing my community struggle in the aftermath of the 2009 Victorian Fires drove me to write about the quieter stories of disaster which, too often, get missed in bigger retellings. I wanted to focus on women’s stories of natural disaster too.

What have been the highlights of your career?

Having people read and connect with A Constant Hum, both in Australia and overseas, has been special. I’ve had people email me about their experiences from the Ash Wednesday Fires, and people share their quite personal experiences of other bushfires around Australia too. Having a book in the world which makes people feel comfortable to reflect on their own stories of extremely difficult times is definitely an honour.

Attending Alice Springs Writers Festival in 2019 – lyapirtneme | returning – was also a career highlight in terms of public appearances. It was a weekend full of learning, ideas and hope: one I’ll never forget.

Where have your works been published?

My short stories and essays have appeared in Meanjin, Sydney Review of Books, Overland, Australian Book Review, Sydney Morning Herald, Kill Your Darlings and many more.

What are you passionate about?

Seeing the landscape I knew as home disappear, so quickly, on the weekend of Black Saturday made me really want to write about the climate emergency. I have also been driven to write about loss, and displacement after bushfire – particularly women’s experiences as my mum’s ongoing strength and resilience after our house burnt down wasn’t something I saw reflected in the news.

Haven’t I seen you before?

When I was 13 I was an extra for the TV show The Saddle Club. I appeared in one scene, carrying a shovel in the background (definitely the peak of my acting career).

Download complimentary teaching notes for A Constant Hum here.

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