Interview: Catherine Andrews, Stella Ambassador
Andrews has been a fundamental part of Stella and its history, particularly in recent years. Without her support, for example, Stella Day Out wouldn’t be possible. In this interview, the Stella Ambassador shares with us about her role in the organisation and her favourite books.
How did you first encounter the work of Stella?
I didn’t know it at the time, but reading Emily Bitto’s debut novel, The Strays, was the first time I crossed paths with the Stella Prize. I can’t remember if I read this before or after it won in 2015. After that, I was introduced to incredible co-founder and inaugural executive director, Aviva Tuffield, and the rest, as they say, is history.
What has been your most rewarding experience as Ambassador of Stella?
Meeting authors of exceptional creative ability and intellect has been a pure joy in this role. Stella people are passionate, insightful and in my experience, exceptionally generous. I am lucky to call many Stella authors my friends and, as their friend, I thank them for their contribution as a cultural collective.
What do you see as Stella’s role in the Australian cultural Sector?
The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves matter, which is why Stella must remain at the heart of the Australian literary landscape. We have worked hard to address diversity, equity, and inclusion at Stella, but whilst we’ve made headway, there’s a lot more to do.
What role have books and reading played in your life?
Ever since I was a small child, words and writing have been a defining feature in my days. I have used books as a way of dreaming, learning, and escaping. Reading is everything to me.
What are you reading now?
I have just started reading Stella Prize winner Charlotte Wood’s latest book Stone Yard Devotional. I first came across Charlotte in a piece written by Rachel Buchanan ‘Sweet dreams are made of this’ published in The Age in 2012 and I’ve been a huge fan ever since.
What are your top five Stella listed books and why?
This is a particularly unfair question to ask me because the Stella canon is brilliant and it’s almost impossible to narrow it down to five. Many of my favourites have won the big prize over the years, but here are some others you might not have had the chance to read that I really enjoyed since I stepped into this role.
Only the Animals, Ceridwen Dovey
The Eye of the Sheep, Sophie Laguna
Hope Farm, Peggy Frew
The World Without Us, Mireille Juchau
The Hate Race, Maxine Beneba Clarke
Poum and Alexandre, Catherine De Saint Phalle
The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree, Shokoofeh Azar
The Choke, Sophie Laguna
Eggshell Skull, Bri Lee
The Arsonist: A Mind on Fire, Chloe Hooper
There Was Still Love, Favel Parrett
The Yield, Tara June Winch
The Animals in That Country, Laura Jean McKay
Revenge: Murder in Three Parts, S.L. Lim
Bodies of Light, Jennifer Down
Stone Fruit, Lee Lai
Indelible City, Louise Lim
All That’s Left Unsaid, Tracey Lien