Castlemaine writer wins literary award

A Castlemaine writer has drawn partly on her own past experiences as an aerial circus performer to take out a prestigious $50,000 national literary award.
But Libby Angel also drew on threads of early Australian history to pen her first novel, The Trapeze Act, which has just been named winner of the coveted $50,000 Barbara Jefferis Award.
The biennial award celebrates women in literature and rewards outstanding novels written by Australians that depict women and girls in a positive way or empowers their status in society.
Angel’s The Trapeze Act interweaves early Australian history with tales from circus life – many of them with a strong element of fact – while also portraying a girl’s journey towards self identity in a dysfunctional, yet highly entertaining, family.
“I don’t write with any preconceived agenda but it’s lovely to have my book recognised in the spirit of something that’s close to my heart,” the Castlemaine writer and poet said.
Angel is well known among locals for her role as a yoga teacher and she reflects that there’s some relationship between her discipline of Iyengar yoga and her former life as a circus performer specialising in aerial work, including trapeze, during a five-year stint with London’s Circus Space.
She increasingly turned her focus to yoga partly in response to the wear and tear associated with the circus work that delivered her a wealth of stories, including some darker insights into international circus life.
“I hung out with a lot of people from all around the world – a Cuban trapeze troupe and other Europeans and all sorts of people,” she says.
“Many of them worked in traditional circus and came from Communist countries and they had really interesting stories.”
As a piece of literary fiction, The Trapeze Act evolved over the course of 12 years with moments of hiatus between text progression.
Published by Text Publishing, the 240-page paperback is largely set in Angel’s own birthplace of South Australia and encompasses an early Australian expedition narrative.
“It’s a fictionalised family history,” says the Castlemaine writer who is now close to finishing her second book, which she describes as another work of literary fiction.
“But this one’s set in the 1990s in Victoria,” she notes.
The somewhat media-shy Angel says the prize money associated with the Barbara Jefferis Award is also very welcome, as neither writing nor yoga teaching are usually hugely remunerative.
“It’s a big confidence boost,” she says.
“Prizes like this are essential. You don’t really make any money out of publication in itself. It’s very difficult.”
Announced at the University of Sydney in recent days, the award is named for highly regarded author Barbara Jefferis, a founding member and executive director of the Australian Society of Authors.

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