Richard Llewellyn Deaf and Disability Grant: On the Edge of Mountains

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I am very surprised, and excited, to receive news about my success in receiving a Richard Llewellyn Deaf and Disability Grant towards my next middle grade/YA historical fiction #OnTheEdgeOfMountains based around Guide Alice, Mt Buffalo’s original rebel, guide and photographer.

Alice Manfield (1878 – 14 July 1960) was commonly known as Guide Alice. She was a mountain guide, amateur naturalist, chalet owner, photographer, and early Australian feminist figure. Her pioneering work at Mount Buffalo from the 1890s to the 1930s led to her becoming a tourist attraction in her own right, and helped lead to the establishment of the Mount Buffalo National Park. This short video explains some of her life https://www.slv.vic.gov.au/stories/from-the-vault-alice-manfield

This project evolved because I became aware of Alice’s story and was fascinated by her bold approach to life. Then, the main character Clara, began to emerge. I like to write stories that reduce stereotypes and increase understanding of diversity and to include characters who live with chronic illness, mental illness, and/or who are neurodivergent. I have personal experience of this, having had type 1 diabetes since 1979, and Anxiety and ADHD, diagnosed in adulthood. I am also interested in writing stories that reflect our Australian environment, culture and history, even in my fantasy works. I often write about the importance of nature, sustainability and environment, to human lives.

I believe the work will highlight an important Australian feminist pioneer and will encourage discussions around loss, mental health, feminism and the rights of women, diversity and the importance of our connections to nature. The working title is, On the Edge of Mountains.

It is likely to be a MG/YA cross-over, as the main character, Clara, is 14 years old, but this will become clearer once I begin writing. It will have an own voices twist, with Clara having ADHD and anxiety – both things I grew up with, but had no knowledge about until my adult years. Her mother has type 1 diabetes and the story will highlight the experience of being a child of a parent with chronic illness.

Themes include loss, grief, family and forgiveness, survivor guilt, feminism, being bold, and the healing power of nature. The past will be brought to life by Clara’s connection with Alice, who will become her guide in life. This project will expand my writing into historical fiction, something I am very interested in, and will create an important story based around an incredible Australian woman, that has never been told in this format before as far as I know. Weaving the life of Alice into the story, feminism will be a key theme, with Clara learning that standing out, and standing up, for her rights and the rights of others, are important. The Mt Buffalo region, a sense of freedom, protecting the environment and how nature can heal, will all feature.

Stay tuned! I will begin proper research next week, and all being well covid wise, I will be visiting Mt Buffalo later in September.

Thank you to the South Australian Department of the Premier and Cabinet and the Richard Llewellyn Deaf and Disability Grant for the opportunity

Helen

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