Paperbark Merchants: Paperbark Book Club end-of-year wrap

Billie-Jo WhitbreadAlbany Advertiser
Authors Sam Carmody and Sarah Drummond with Billie-Jo Whitbread at Six Degrees.
Camera IconAuthors Sam Carmody and Sarah Drummond with Billie-Jo Whitbread at Six Degrees. Credit: Yann Toussaint

It was a cool Birak evening in Kinjarling/Albany when our Paperbark Book Club held the final session for 2023.

Book Club members filled the Gold Room at Six Degrees, eagerly awaiting conversation with the evening’s two guest authors, ABC radio’s Sam Carmody and UWA’s Sarah Drummond.

This November, we had all read Minds Went Walking, an anthology of short stories published by Fremantle Press.

A selection of titles read by the Paperbark Book Club 2022-23.
Camera IconA selection of titles read by the Paperbark Book Club 2022-23. Credit: Supplied

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Twenty-one Aussie authors (including Sam and Sarah) each wrote a short story inspired by a different song from Paul Kelly’s repertoire, culminating in a collection of stories that diversely met the brief in entertaining and thought-provoking ways.

There was a lot to unpack and the evening’s conversation did not disappoint.

There existed an effortless dynamic between Sam and Sarah that put the entire room at ease and allowed for an honest and earnest discourse to unfold as the evening progressed.

This year has yet again been a wonderful year for our book club.

We have had marvellous conversations with brilliant Aussie authors such as Pip Williams, Alex Miller and Karen Brooks.

We hosted five authors in-house at Six Degrees and were invited into the writing rooms of five more authors via Zoom.

The selection process of the reading material for our club is a serious matter.

We try very hard to ensure the season’s 10 books cover a variety of genres and writing styles to engage a wide readership and encourage members to step a little outside their reading comfort zone.

When reflecting on my favourite read from this year’s book selection, I found my heart and mind unable to choose a favourite between Limberlost by Robbie Arnott and The Escapades of Tribulation Johnson by Karen Brooks.

Both were remarkably different titles yet each book was brimming with elegant considered prose and left me lingering in a state of contemplative melancholy for days, my favourite state to be in after reading a good book.

Not quite in the realm of existential crisis but surely floating somewhere on the cusp.

Nostalgic revelry coloured by an underlying pulse of sorrow.

Now that is my jam! (Trust me, it is a better experience than it first sounds).

Next year will be our club’s third year and we already have several talented Aussie authors lined up including this year’s Miles Franklin winner Shankari Chandran (Chai time in the Cinnamon Gardens) with her forthcoming novel Safe Haven.

We love seeing new faces at the meetings so if you are interested in attending our last Wednesday of the month sessions email events@paperbarks.com.au to register for free and join in the fun.

Book Club kicks off in February 2024 with Rachael Johns joining us in-house.

Hope to see you there.

Billie-Jo Whitbread is the events co-ordinator and box office manager at Paperbark Merchants in Albany.

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