About 1 ­ Susan Steggall

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ISBN:978-0-9874944-4-3 (print)

ISBN: 978-0-9874944-5-0 (eBook)

Éditions Kusatsu, Sydney

Novels traditionally end with a ‘happily ever after’. To carve identity begins with a ‘happily into the future’. In 1949 Ellie Gilmartin returned to her native Glasgow after going to Australia to learn the truth about her parents’ tragic lives (The heritage you leave behind, 2021). If her professional career as a sculptor was progressing, her private life was in limbo as she reflected on her long-distance relationship with solicitor Jim Blackwood. He came looking for Ellie and their future began. The novel follows these two very different people as they negotiate married life – first in London, then in the NSW Hunter Valley town of Maitland. For Jim, marriage represents companionship, stability and family. For Ellie it is more complicated: how to be wife, mother and professional sculptor in mid-twentieth-century regional Australia. That she succeeds is due to determination and a belief in her talent but at story’s end she must truly fashion her own identity.




I feel rather like a bear waking from winter hibernation, it has been so long since I posted anything about writing on my website. And yet it has been a productive time with short articles on ceramics for the Manly Art Gallery & Museum, book notes and art notes for the ISAA NSW Bulletin, a short story ‘Song for a Moment in Time’ for the new Northern Beaches Writers’ Group anthology, Rhapsody (published soon). My 2019 novel ‘Tis the Doing Not the Deed is still out there although as in 2020, several author talks have been cancelled in 2021.

An appropriate initiative for lockdown times is the video section of the Society of Women Writers NSW website, ‘Sharing Knowledge via Video’. I was keen to participate as I always urge women writers to lodge their work in public institutions (so it cannot be lost or forgotten) and the advent of social media opens up new avenues for recording achievements. I have given lectures on Zoom, and author talks and papers in person over the years but found the prospect of creating a video quite daunting. Where to start? First I sorted publications into long and short form biography, fiction, collaborative projects and editing work. Next, I drafted a text, thinking of the ten-minute limit.

Where to film? My study is a gloriously messy place, so I settled on an alcove in our living room near a bookcase on which I arranged the various publications in the order in which I wanted to discuss them. I ‘framed’ the space with sculptural pieces by Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists. I borrowed an extendable selfie tripod – easier to regulate height and angle than propping a phone on a table. Our apartment faces north and in the morning is in full sunlight. Afternoon light was much kinder.

So… I had my ‘script’, my props and my location. My first attempts were truly awful – full of stumbles and mistakes. I plowed on and after many attempts it seemed to come right. I’m not sure if ‘practice makes perfect’ but I do know that practice makes ‘good enough’. I have attached the video here.



The Heritage You Leave Behind

Glasgow 1948 and 23-year-old Ellie (Eilean) Gilmartin becomes a sculptor despite family opposition and the shadow of her father’s torment following service in World War I. On learning that her mother did not die when she was a toddler but returned to the country of her birth, sends Ellie to Australia to find out why. After bureaucratic obstacles, psychological and physical threats Ellie learns that she cannot assume responsibility for the deeds of her parents but must leave their tragic heritage behind. A steadfast ally shows Ellie the possibility of love, in the future.

SBN: 978-0-9581964-8-2 (print); ISBN: 9780958196499 (eBook); Éditions Kusatsu: $25.00+postage. For all enquiries contact: susansteggall39@gmail.com

Read the review in the Tawny Frogmouth magazine!



Curriculum Vitae

I am an art historian who also writes fiction and biography. All my work is informed not only by art, both historical and contemporary, but also by my interest in, and family connections to, France, its people, culture and language. Although I have lived all my adult life ‘within a walk of the sea’, my love of alpine landscapes has taken me on many memorable adventures.

  • In 1999 I published, Alpine Beach: a Family Adventure (Robyn Ianssen Productions), an autobiographical account of the ten years I spent in France with my husband and two children. I translated Alpine Beach into French in 2002 as Sydney-en-Chablais: aventure savoyarde d’une famille australienne (Éditions Kusatsu P/L)
  • From 2002 to 2005 I lectured in undergraduate and postgraduate courses at the College of Fine Arts, UNSW: Writing Art & Design; Writing For Different Audiences; and Approaches to Australian Art, in the School of Art History & Theory.
  • In 2006 I published Forget Me Not (Seaview Press), a novel linking Australia and France, from World War I to the 1980s.
  • From 1993 to 2010 I have published numerous articles, exhibition & book reviews (art & culture) in specialist and general magazines.
  • 2012 A Most Generous Scholar: Joan Kerr, Art and Architectural Historian, my biography of Joan Kerr, was published by LhR Press.
  • 2013 It Happened Tomorrow, Editions Kusatsu and ebook
  • 2019 'Tis the Doing Not the Deed, (ebook)
  • 2021 The Heritage You Leave Behind, Editions Kusatsu (pbk & eBook)
  • 2024 To Carve Identity, Editions Kusatsu (pbk & eBook)



2010-15  Editor, ISAA Review

2001-16  Editor, ISAA National Newsletter

2006  Editor (with Introduction), A Way of Happening, Society of Women Writers NSW  Inc. (an anthology of prize-winning short stories and poetry)

2016 Editor (with Introduction), Ink 3, Society of Women Writers NSW  Inc. (an anthology of prize-winning short stories and poetry)