Welcome to the The Heaven I Swallowed Book Coverwebsite of  Australian author, Rachel Hennessy. Rachel’s second novel THE HEAVEN I SWALLOWED was named Runner Up in the 2008 Australian/Vogel Award and was published by Wakefield Press in June 2013. It tells the story of Grace, a World War II widow who decides to “save” a young Aboriginal girl, Mary, by adopting her into her home, believing she will be able to redeem the child by giving her all the benefits of white society.

Her first novel THE QUAKERS was also published by Wakefield Press. The book won the Adelaide Festival Award for Best Unpublished Manuscript and was described by John Birmingham (author of HE DIED WITH A FELAFEL IN HIS HAND) as “unputdownable”.  THE QUAKERS is a love story with a twist, where friendship turns to obsession and addictions lead to murder.

Rachel is currently working on her third novel, KEEP ME CLOSE, the fictionalised re-telling of the writing of her first novel in the hothouse of a Creative Writing workshop.


TEXT Journal prose piece: The (in)exactitude of knowledge

conqueredThe lecturer (1)
He sticks his head into the hall and asks ‘Is this Biology 101?’ before ambling into the lecturing space. The students (off screen) titter. Who is this crazy guy, they think? The man casually places his folder file on the desk, then launches into a story about a ‘male, 45, married, career as a criminal lawyer’ whose behaviour was bizarrely effected by a brain tumour.

After the anecdote, the Professor throws a series of questions to the audience: ‘Who believes in nurture?’, ‘Who believes in nature?’, ‘Who believes in God?’ The questions are flung, fast and furious, and we do not get to see who is raising their hands. We hear laughter again. This man is crazy, yes, but he is also good fun.

‘They’ are showing us this YouTube clip as an example of a certain lectureship style. ‘We’ are staff at a university, jumping through the hoops to gain a teaching certificate.

We debate the man’s style. Does he talk too fast? Is he too challenging? Does it look like the beginning of a Hollywood movie; Robin Williams at the front of the class shouting ‘Carpe diem’? What will the students learn from this encounter? Will they remember anything he said or just the fact he is slightly off-beat, not the usual sedentary lecturer? Will the man become the lesson?

I consider the possibility of walking into a tutorial and acting this way. The image does not come. I am not an older man, I do not have the … what is the word …? Well, if I cannot even find the word, how can I stand with such authority, with such knowing, and entertain the masses; a lecture hall full of undergraduates who can sniff out the slightest whiff of fakery.

Read more.

Overland/Lit Hub article: Can Fiction Still Make A Difference?


silhouettesWhen teaching creative writing, I invariably ask my students why it is they want to write. The answers range from the predictable – ‘to straighten out my thoughts’, ‘to create my own world and escape reality’, ‘to remember and capture memories’ – to the faintly quirky – ‘to reproduce the contours of my mind’, ‘to take ideas out and decide if they are a diamond or a piece of glass’. While these reasons are perfectly valid, I am yet to encounter a student who gives the answer I did when I first began my writing journey: ‘to change the world.’ Read more.

Overland Article: Why Helen Garner was wrong


I was twenty when I first read Helen Garner’s The First Stone, published twenty years ago, in 1995. I had fallen in love with Garner as a teenager via her novels Monkey Grip and The Children’s Bach, thrilled by her depictions of ‘ordinary’ Australian women living in urban and suburban areas, thrilled that women/girls like me might be worthy of literature.

So I remember approaching The First Stone with trepidation, knowing of its subject matter but, hoping, Garner’s skills would provide an interesting insight into the case the book was investigating: two girls who were taking a master of Ormond College at the University of Melbourne to court for sexual harassment.

Reading The First Stone was like being betrayed by a good friend.

Read more.

Overland Winter Fiction Edition: amazing stories from new and emerging writers



If He Woke Up by Kalia Forde

‘The Sleep Walkers are coming,’ he whispered once in the dark, ‘and we have to be prepared.’ This has gone on for months now, him talking in his sleep, usually babbling incomprehensibly. It’s only on occasion, like that night, where he will say complete sentences. Sentences containing words I didn’t even realise he knew.

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Australian Crawl by Shannon Burns

‘Even the rain is drowning,’ he mutters. If Thomas could only recover, or genuinely imagine, what it was to be. Instead his feet move damply and his mind glitches. Over and over, the same thoughts, the same corrections, the same aimless abstractions.

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