Emma Ashmere was born in Adelaide, South Australia, on Kaurna country. She is the author of the short story collection DREAMS THEY FORGOT and the novel THE FLOATING GARDEN, shortlisted for the Small Press Network Book of the Year 2016. Her short stories and articles have been widely published including in The Age, Meanjin, Griffith Review, Overland, Review of Australian Fiction, Sleepers Almanac, Etchings, Short Australian Stories, NGVmagazine, and the Commonwealth Writers literary magazine adda. She’s a finalist in the Carmel Bird Digital Literary Award 2021 and was awarded a Varuna Writers Space Online Fellowship 2021. Her stories have been longlisted for the Big Issue Fiction Edition 2020, shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Short Story Award 2019, Newcastle Short Story Award 2019, Overland/NUW Fair Australia Prize 2018, and the Age Short Story Competition 2001, and recorded for the National Gallery of Victoria and broadcast on Little Fictions 2RPH for Mardi Gras 2021.
‘Ashmere’s prose is precise, almost elusive, reading at times like poetry.’ Books+Publishing.
Emma has worked as a researcher, tutor, bookseller – and as a cook on film sets, an isolated cattle station, Sydney cafés, London pubs, and an art school in the south of France. She has a MA in Creative Writing from the University of Adelaide, and a PhD on the use of marginalised histories in fiction from La Trobe University Melbourne. She lives on Bundjalung Country in northern New South Wales.
Chatting to authors Nicole Alexander, Meg Keneally, and Mary-Anne O’Connor about their latest novels for the virtual panel The Courage of Her Convictions Historical Novel Australasia Conference Sunday 24 Oct 2021 9am.
Talking short stories at the Australian Short Story Festival Adelaide 5-7 November 2021.
DREAMS THEY FORGOT (2020)
DREAMS THEY FORGOT is published by Wakefield Press – and is on the Sydney Morning Herald’s Books to Read in 2020 and Readings Bookshop’s Books to Get Excited About and 100 Great Reads by Australian Women 2020. “This debut collection of beautiful short stories spans twenty years of the author’s writing life, bringing together tales of love, loss and feeling out of place.”
Hear Emma read her story ‘The Sketchers’ inspired by the art of Grace Cossington Smith and featured in the National Gallery of Victoria’s NGVmagazine.
Praise for DREAMS THEY FORGOT
“Emma Ashmere’s characters are luminescent. These stories drew me into people and worlds so vivid they practically lived on the page.” — ANNA SPARGO-RYAN, author of The Gulf, and The Paper House.
‘Ashmere’s writing is full of quick insights and telling details. These stories move effortlessly through place and time, entering lives on the point of transgression. It’s an absolute pleasure to travel with them.’ — JENNIFER MILLS, author of Dyschronia, The Rest is Weight, and The Diamond Anchor.
‘Stories of extraordinary range and depth. Deeply engaging and satisfying.’ — PADDY O’REILLY, author of Peripheral Vision, The End of the World, and The Wonders.
Reviews of DREAMS THEY FORGOT
‘Ashmere’s prose is precise, almost elusive, reading at times like poetry. It drills down into certain details while leaving others out entirely. This invites the reader to complete the picture by tying together the story elements that Ashmere has chosen to share…The deft description, compelling emotion and insightful observations… will appeal to readers of feminist fiction and Australian realism, in particular fans of Dymphna Cusack or Fiona McGregor.’ ADAM FORD, BOOKS+PUBLISHING. (Read the full review here.)
“The stories in this strong and varied collection range across urban and rural Australia and beyond, to such touchstones of Australian travel as Bali and London, and to more exotic settings such as Borneo and regional France. Emma Ashmere’s stories are often impressionistic, never laboriously chewing on their material and trusting the intelligence of the reader to join the dots and grasp the underlying feeling. There are some excellent stories about family life, especially those told from the point of view of a semi-comprehending and bemused child or adolescent. But Ashmere’s greatest strength is in her stories of the historical past, especially in Australia. These stories acknowledge the limits of what is knowable to contemporary readers, evoking instead the unrecoverable strangeness and mystery of the past.” KERRYN GOLDSWORTHY, SYDNEY MORNING HERALD/AGE.
“Ashmere moves skillfully and seamlessly between eras and places… this variety is also a strength, making each story feel different from those surrounding it… a thoughtful meditation on the things that can hold you down, and the different ways through.” ELIZABETH FLUX, THE SATURDAY PAPER.
“A short story collection can have much in common with a collection of poetry, where each story pivots on attention to something particular and arresting – an image, a memory, the encounters with strangeness or beauty that can occur in a life. Individual stories build delicately towards such a moment, then fall away quickly, willing a reader to engage with feeling and suggestion rather than the comprehensiveness of narrative…. Dreams They Forgot is subtle and evocative in this way; her stories move both on internal trajectories of revelation and in relation to each other, incrementally building a richly nuanced fabric of story, character, and pinpoints of life experience.” ROSE LUCAS, AUSTRALIAN BOOK REVIEW.
“Generally, an author’s work improves with time, but all twenty-three stories in Dreams They Forgot are of equal quality. In some collections, stories can blur together, but the diverse locations and historical periods utilised in these stories make each piece memorable.” ANNIE CONDON, READINGS MONTHLY.
“This is an exquisite collection of short stories. Many have a filmic quality as Ashmere introduces a scene and moves like a camera would, resting on an object or a person, and then revealing subtle nuances in gestures or words as we are led further in. The language has the expressiveness of poetry, creating pictures and interactions, leading into stories that leave us pondering long afterwards…. the stories can be read and enjoyed time and again. Highly recommended.” HELEN EDDY, READPLUS.
“These short stories have the compressed clarity of diamonds. From somewhere deep, Ashmere brings these small stories to the surface and sets to crafting them. Every angle and facet is laser cut and polished to perfection. Turn them slowly in your hands. Be dazzled by the light that glances and bounces off their surfaces and be drawn to the shadows that lie within.” JENNY BIRD, BYRON WRITERS FESTIVAL NORTHERLY.
“Emma Ashmere’s short story collection, Dreams They Forgot, is creatively atmospheric, a series of ‘slice of life’ vignettes set in a variety of eras with a mostly feminist leaning. Emma writes with sublime texture, so much simmering beneath the surface. ” THERESA SMITH, THERESA SMITH WRITES.
“Ashmere has curated this collection in a way which makes it read almost like a novel… Many characters seem to be echoes of each other (or maybe the same person?)… Her prose sits lightly on the page, remaining poetic without forgoing narrative drive. Like a caricaturist, she can evoke a full person with just a few strokes of the pen… If you are yet to discover the short story, then this collection might just persuade you. And if you are already a convert, then Ashmere will no doubt delight and engage.” TRACEY KORSTEN, GLAM ADELAIDE.
Behind The Book
Watch the recording of Victoria Purman, Pip Williams, and Emma Ashmere talking about history and fiction Down the Rabbit Hole: History & Fiction Writing hosted by History Trust South Australia.
Launch with Nikki Anderson for FEAST LGBTQIA+ Festival 2020.
Q&A with the Feminist Writers Festival on writing Dreams They Forgot.
‘Written on Water’ in Overland is about the 1976 tidal wave predicted to wipe out ‘the sinners’ of Adelaide – and Emma’s story ‘The Second Wave’ which was inspired by it.
Hear Emma talk about her three favourite ‘Summer Reads’ with Joanne Shoebridge of ABC Northcoast : The Song of the Crocodile by Nardi Simpson; Weather by Jenny Offill; and The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett.
Recording of ” Women Who Break The Rules” online event Readings Bookshop (available until Mon 28th Sept) Passcode H@Ek2mr. Emma Ashmere (Dreams They Forgot) and Laura Elvery (Ordinary Matter) talking to publisher/editor Jo Case about their new short story collections.
‘Catch A Passing Thought’ on writing short stories.
‘Writing Us In’ Author Talk with Theresa Smith Writes.
Interview with SA Weekend.
‘Finding Irish Iris’ writing the story ‘Nightfall’, shortlisted for the 2019 Commonwealth Writers Prize.
Chatting to Pamela Cook and Kel Butler on the Writes4Women W4W podcast
Where To Buy The Book
Find Dreams They Forgot (RRP AUD $24.95) at your local bookshop or online:
Wakefield Press (Adelaide) paperback and e-book
Avid Reader (Brisbane)
Bookroom at Byron (Northern NSW)
The Bookshop Darlinghurst (Sydney)
Hares & Hyenas (Melbourne)
Imprints Bookshop (Adelaide)
Lismore Book Warehouse (Northern NSW)
Matilda Bookshop (Adelaide Hills)
National Library (Canberra)
*Available as an e-book from Wakefield Press. Some prices vary on international sites Book Depository, Fishpond, Amazon etc.*
THE FLOATING GARDEN (2015)
Praise for THE FLOATING GARDEN
“…evocatively portrays both the difficulties and the sense of promise in the post-war era… at times it reminded me of Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet.” ⋆⋆⋆⋆ (four stars) BOOKS+PUBLISHING
“…beautifully detailed… finely crafted…an elegy for the forgotten….a subversive counter-history to the tumult of rapid progress.” SYDNEY MORNING HERALD/AGE. Read the full review here.
“This captivating debut… teems with charlatans, eccentrics and those doing it tough in a time of hardship and prejudice. Yet Ashmere weaves a sense of hope and redemption as her characters seek to rediscover their true selves.” ⋆⋆⋆⋆ (four stars) THE ADVERTISER.
“I enthusiastically recommend this book … a new type of historical fiction.” ⋆⋆⋆⋆ (four stars) MD Brady’s US blog: Me, You and Books.
“I loved the vivid descriptions of the market and the ferries; the sights and scents of lush plant life; the mud, slush and sordid decay of the houses … the shadowy dangers that lurk in the cramped dark streets… Without idealising poverty, Ashmere depicts this Sydney as a place for the marginalised and eccentric.” LISA HILL (Top 10 Books 2016) ANZlitlovers
“Ashmere does for the underprivileged of 1920s Sydney what Ruth Park did for the 1950s in Harp in the South… both exude warmth and sympathy for their motley crew of marginalised characters, and both are valuable for their social history.” Whispering Gums.
“…a surprising love story, full of turns, transformations and ‘slips of the heart.’ A wise, tender and beautifully detailed novel.” GAIL JONES, author of The House of Breathing, Sorry, Five Bells, and The Death of Noah Glass.
“[A] compelling and lyrical novel of a rough-and-ready Sydney that is in the throes of rapid change; a town where the spiritual is necessary but corrupted,a and where sexual lives remain hidden even from those in the grip of desire.” SOPHIE CUNNINGHAM, author of Bird, and City of Trees.
“A charming and lyrical story of masculine ambition outwitted by feminine fruition. 1920s Sydney in all her raffish grandeur, flourishes on every page.” MANDY SAYER, author of Love in the Years of Lunacy, and Australian Gypsies.
“…a beautiful and quietly enthralling work… it skillfully renders the range and complexity of women’s lives.” JESSICA WHITE, author of A Curious Intimacy, and Hearing Maud.
The Floating Garden follows the fortunes of the unforgettable Ellis Gilbey, the highly-strung artist Rennie Howarth, the charismatic theosophist Miss Minerva Stranks, and the delicate Kitty Tate. A beautifully written debut novel. JESSE BLACKADDER, author of The Raven’s Heart, Chasing the Light, and Sixty Seconds.
“Emma Ashmere’s subtle, wry storytelling takes the reader inside 1920s Sydney… it is the story of those women who dared to want more than society offered them.” SARAH ARMSTRONG, author of Salt Rain, His Other House, and Promise.
More reviews of The Floating Garden here.
Copyright Emma Ashmere © 2015 ____________________________________________________________________