Kim Kelly

Australian Author

Month: July, 2016



Last night I went to an arts networking soiree in what passes for the big smoke in my shire – the town of Blayney.

My kind of town, Blayney has a population of about five thousand – a figure that jumps to a whopping almost seven thousand if you include all the little villages dotted around her. It’s essentially a farming centre, a place to get the tractor serviced, and set as it is in the spectacular green and gold hills of the Central West of New South Wales, it’s endlessly beautiful, too.

But the truly wonderful thing about living in a shire like this is that it’s brimming with people who do stuff rather than talk about it. Over the past two years I’ve called this place home, I’ve met a seemingly disproportionate number of artists and they’re an eclectic bunch.

There’s Rebecca Price, the silversmith, who makes exquisite, bespoke jewelry in her workshop on the main street, White Rock Silver. There’s Tom Miller the blacksmith and his partner Monika Altmann who have a magical bush gallery called Metal as Anything out at Newbridge. There’s Cecily Walters who creates images from handmade felt that look like dreamy watercolours, and Loretta Kervin, who paints and crotchets her sunshine onto just about anything. There’s the rainbow joy of Tracey Mackie’s canvases capturing the creatures we share this space with – the cows, chooks, horses, dogs and sheep.

There’s internationally renowned Wiradjuri artist, Nyree Reynolds, whose ethereal depictions of people and place seem to step out of the ancient mists that clothe these hills. Nyree spends a great deal of her time with the school children of the region, too, switching their little souls on to the power of their creativity, and – so I learned last night – always paints while cuddling either a Siamese cat or a chihuahua.

Last night I also learned that there’s a piano museum in the tiny village of Neville – the only piano museum in Australia. There, they restore old pianos – as old as the 1840s! – bringing them back to life not only as playable instruments but so that a new generation might marvel at their breathtakingly intricate craftsmanship.

And I’ll never forget the lad who swaggered into the pop-up art gallery in town last Christmas, boots dusty and still smelling of the paddock, with his portfolio of photographs under his arm. Gorgeous! And his photos weren’t too bad either.

None of the people I’ve just mentioned do what they do for the money or the glory or because someone in Sydney thinks it might be fashionable. They do this stuff because they love it, because they want to create beauty, and because exploring and recording and expressing our experience of life always makes a contribution to understanding who and what we are as humans. And I’ve only mentioned a handful of them here.

Our networking soirees happen every winter via Charles Sturt University’s Arts OutWest program – by the sparkling energy and enthusiasm of Tracey Callinan, who heads up the team, and Penny May, who’s just joined them as our local mover and shaker. Clinking glasses with us last night was also General Manager of Blayney Council, Rebecca Ryan, who spoke about all the creative ways she’s promoting our shire to the rest of the country – and the world. Rebecca’s vision is that when people find out what’s on offer they’ll want to spend whole holidays here, visiting each of the villages, discovering our artists, tasting our produce, delighting in the landscape, breathing in the fresh, cool air…


As we were all chatting away, inspiring each other, I was reminded of a comment made a few weeks ago by a young woman over the other side of the world, in London, when she was asked about what Brexit – the UK’s exit from the European Union – meant to her. She said, appearing astonished that anyone should ever consider a boundary to connectedness a good thing: ‘The future is global and local.’

And so it is. It’s an idea that’s being harnessed by my publisher – The Author People – right now. Breaking boundaries. Valuing the authentic over mass-market corporate machinery. Valuing passion and its multilayered transactional power over productivity spreadsheets. Many of us are tired of being told what to buy and what to love. But the tide is turning. Or perhaps returning to a time when how and why things are made is of equal importance to the thing itself. A time when there was no metropolitan monopoly on the vanguard.

It’s a little-known historical fact that no-one embraces the new like rural Australians do. Our farmers were among the first in the world to embrace the automobile and the aeroplane, and then radio, and now the internet. The tyranny of distance makes it so. And I think our future will show a resurgence in the worth of our cultural connectedness to the land out here, too. Our diversity, complexity. All our colours.

Why not? After all, my novella, Wild Chicory, is making her sweet mark these days – a story, ultimately, of how I came to live and write in this place, the flowers of my country lane sprinkled across her cover. A little piece of Blayney Shire set free across the globe.

wild chicory bec-min

The launch of Wild Chicory at White Rock Silver earlier this year, photo by local scriptwriter Joe Velikovsky.
The photograph that heads up this piece shows one of the garden installations at Metal As Anything.






I love ships. I love their sweeping, classical lines; their slow but mighty power; their history. Without them, we’d never have discovered all the worlds beyond our shores. Empires would never have reigned their terrors so far and wide; but neither would the globe have become small enough to bring us all together, mixing us around, blending cultures, sharing ideas.

This love affair with ships began when I was eleven, in 1979, and I was travelling with my parents and my brother from Denmark back to England after a tour. For some reason lost to the mists, we boarded a vessel that, in my memory at least, was some kind of Scandinavian version of the Fairstar – a notorious Aussie floating party palace, thankfully also now lost to the mists.

It was an overnight journey, and after dinner Mum took me to the disco that was raging on board. Our parents obviously believed in giving us a broad, if random education in diversity wherever we travelled because my memory prior to that disco is one of becoming quite practically lost, en famille, some days earlier, somewhere in the red-light district of Amsterdam, and asking Mum why the ladies in the windows were all wearing their swimming cossies – and why my thirteen-year-old brother had lost interest in finding our hotel.

Anyway, the Scandinavian shipboard disco was just as unfathomable to small me. Boogie music thumping and rainbow lights flashing through a darkness thick with cigarette smoke, Mum and I were dancing away when I was literally whisked off my feet by a giant Viking – long blond hair, long blond beard, seven feet tall – who then began tossing me in the air to the beat of the boogie. That was the most amazing fun I had had in my young life, of course, and I’m sure the Great Dane would still be tossing me in the air if Mum hadn’t yanked me out of there, a bit freaked out, no doubt, at how off his face Sven must have been.

I was more interested in wanting to know why he’d been wearing clogs – actual wooden clogs – if he was Scandinavian and not Dutch – indeed not a Dutch farmer from the nineteenth century. Mum answered with something typical, such as: ‘I don’t know. He must like clogs.’

And I’d probably still be nagging her for a better answer, if she were still here with me, and if I hadn’t at that moment felt the rocking of the ship in our little twin-berth cabin.

‘What’s that?’ I asked Mum.

‘That’s the ship moving through the water,’ she told me.

‘Where are we?’ I asked the black night.

‘Somewhere in the North Sea,’ Mum said. ‘It’s rough out there.’

And the thrill that planted in my brain topped the whole experience. We were inside the belly of a ship, being tossed on the sea.

‘Can we go back out and have a look?’

‘No. Go to sleep.’

In the morning the sea was grey and calm and boring and English, but the thrill of the night before stayed with me and has done ever since.

I haven’t had a chance to relive the experience very often over all these years, only coming close to it on my honeymoon with Dean, in Cairns, North Queensland, when we took a big catamaran out on the Great Barrier Reef and where, on our return to port, the sea turned bone-judderingly choppy on us. It was so madly rough, most of the passengers were playing tag for the bathroom. Even Dean, who can sail yachts, was green. But I was gripping the rails and wooting: ‘YEAH!’

Those who know me will understand what a contradiction this is. I’m terrified of my own shadow. I hate flying and most of the time I hate driving too. But put me in a sturdy vessel on the sea, and I just go: ‘YEAH!’

Maybe it’s some ancient memory in me, whipping up on the wind. I don’t know. Even still, and strangely enough, I never imagined I would ever write a story about the sea. Until, of course, I randomly read Annie Boyd’s – her history of the SS Koombana ­– and my own, Jewel Sea, rocked out of my heart and onto the page.

Writing that tale was an exhilarating experience in itself. I became that ship – a luxurious Edwardian party ship, she was, carrying the cattle and gold and pearls that made her passengers some of the wealthiest people in the world. And I became the storm that took her down, pulling her to the bottom of the sea off the coast of Western Australia, where she is yet to be found.  

I can’t wait to share her with you. Only sixty-nine sleeps until official publication day. But who’s counting…

Jewel Sea Preliminary for Kim_Page_2



If you’d like to know more about Jewel Sea, you can here.