Joanne Fedler’s much anticipated new book:

The Whale’s Last Song

out October 2024

A parable about love and sacrifice; a rumination on the tragic mistakes in every life – and the steadfastness that is required to overcome those mistakes – and a love song to the natural world.

“A bright ode to all thats good and beautiful in the world. The Whale’s Last Song is a timeless tale, an allegory of the heart”

Maggie Hamilton

“Fresh, exquisite … a creative tour de force, weaving a sense of belongign and the fallibility of being human and the mysteries of being alive”

Suzie Miller, Prima Facie

“Beautiful … My heart aches for this story, so small but heavy with the weight of meaning and emotion. And the writing! I cried over the ending. I loved it. I want to give it to everyone I know.”

Hannah Jermyn, Audio Publishing Manager

“Written with the timelessness and universality of a folk tale, imbued with heartfeltness and wit, warmth and a deep, deep knowing, it is both stern and playful, sweet and true, light and profound. It is truly, truly special.”

Catherine Milne, Publisher

“So beautifully written, a magical tale. It feels really special, the kind of book suddenly everyone you know is reading.”

Caitlin Toohey, Marketing Executive

“‘A little gem of a book full of heart.”

Enchinea Close-Brown, Intern

Joanne

I have lived on the unceded Gadigal land of the indigenous Eora nation in Australia since 2001, as an immigrant from South Africa. Leaving the place you come from is not something you get over. You are always spliced, always torn. But it offers new horizons.

I’m an author, writing mentor and publisher. The Whale’s Last Song (Harper Collins, 2024) is my 15th book about a girl whose sister is sick with the pox, who goes in a search for a cure. I wish we could save the people we love. I lost my mother to ovarian cancer during Covid. Grief is how we learn to love more fiercely and to appreciate what really matters.

As a child, silkworms and books were my first friends. Language helped me build a bridge for my hard-of-hearing sister to my parents since I was the only one who could understand what she was trying to say until speech and hearing therapy gave her a voice. Each of us has privileges that can ease the path of others. It is not hard to be useful.

I wrote and illustrated my first story when I was six, Goodbye Kitchen. It was thin on plot – Emily plans a picnic with Rufus, her neighbour – that’s it – but with coconut-lime lollipops.

When I was 14, my dad gave me Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood, a play for voices. It centred me like clay on a wheel. I knew all I wanted was to do that with words.

During my ‘going-to-save-the-world’ years, I got a Master’s degree in law from Yale, set up and ran a not-for-profit advocacy centre to end violence against women and sat on the South African Law Commission to help draft new domestic violence legislation. In 1994, Hustler magazine made me ‘Asshole of the Month,’ for my advocacy against violent pornography – it’s still my most prized award.

 I’ve developed my own unique creative process for mentoring writers and aspiring authors which I teach in my workshops, retreats and online writing courses. We can only ever take a reader as far as we have gone. So how we think matters. Who we are – our values and beliefs – informs the vision of life our writing is in service to. If we get clear on that, the craft gets easier.

 I began ocean swimming after a back injury some years ago. I have become smitten with the sea and all her creatures: turtles, Port Jackson sharks, stingray, octopi, blue gropers, weedy sea dragons, cuttlefish, dolphins, whales – even the ones that sting. I used to hate cold water, and now, I’m obsessed with it. I get grumpy if I miss a single day. Which goes to show that we can change. It gives me hope for humanity.

I am a natural systems thinker and a Virgo. I love cats and appreciate other peoples’ dogs. I make good soup and salads. When it comes to food, I trust vegetables.

Plants blow my mind, succulents in particular because they propagate and revive, even after neglect. I think the human spirit is a bit like that.

I believe we are not here (on this earth) for ourselves. We are here as ourselves, but we are here for each other. Every day offers us the chance to live into that prayer.

WH Auden wrote, ‘We must love one another or die.’ Maybe it’s as simple as that.

My online writing courses are always available:

Writing as Medicine for the Soul

(available on the Insight Timer app)

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