About Michelle Symes

Compassion, difference and belonging

Through my writing I seek to explore how we can create a more ethical and inclusive world. My writing themes are compassion, difference and belonging.

I am a former journalist and corporate communications expert turned fiction writer, copywriter, editor, and mentor to university students and aspiring writers.

I’m writing my first novel through a West Australian PhD scholarship program supported by my Edith Cowan University supervisors and authors Dr Marcella Polain (The edge of the world (2007), Driving into the sun (2019)) and Dr Donna Mazza (The Albanians (2007), Fauna (2020). I’ve also written a novella, yet to be published, as part of my Honours studies, in which I achieved a First Class Distinction.

I’ve been published in the former Review of Australian Fiction, Westerly, The Age and Winning Writers, and been recipient of a number of state and national awards.

My novel is about diverse characters, from different times, going down to the Swan River to find new ways to belong.

My writing journey

I usually write in my Fremantle studio, near where the Swan River disappears into the Indian Ocean. I live near the bustling historic Fremantle port village; home to artists, archaeologists, immigrants, all range of people; seagulls, sunlight. It’s a place of beginnings and endings; inclusions and exclusions; and something else. Red port cranes stand tall as the sky, as if mythical guardians and as the river passes by, each time it passes by; there’s a conjuring of unnameable presences.

My PhD novel has taken me to the extremes of Australia. It has taken my writing near out-of-control fires in the Blue Mountains. I have written with my feet in the dusty red dirt of the Dampier Penisula. I have written atop drifts of sand listening to humpback whales exhale ocean.

I have written on the beginning of time. In ancient caves and by deep river gorges.

I have connected to quiet.

I have followed in the footsteps, a Bunuba Elder. I have listened, waited. I have waited for Country to approach and for it to meet me in the air. Quiet and alive.

Shaun Tan

Shaun Tan has kindly given me permission to use his images on this website.

Tan’s work talks to the pain, magic, sublime, absurd, wonder that exists in quiet spaces.

He is a visual story teller. I hope to listen to the quiet with words, and in this way touch these unheard spaces that hold so much potential.