Susan Hawthorne

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Susan Hawthorne

Susan Hawthorne (November 30, 1951 –) is a poet, novelist, non-fiction writer, publisher and performer. She earned a BA (Hons) in Philosophy at La Trobe University in 1976, MA (Prelim) in Ancient Greek in 1982 and her PhD in Political Science and Women's Studies in 2002 at the University of Melbourne. She also earned a Grad Dip in Sanskrit in 2010 from La Trobe University and Honours in Sanskrit in 2012 from the Australian National University. Her first Diploma was in Primary Teaching at Melbourne Teachers College in 1972.

She has taught in many universities in courses as varied as teaching, philosophy, publishing studies, women's studies and creative writing. Since 2010 she has been Adjunct Professor in the Humanities in the College of Arts, Society, and Education at James Cook University, Townsville.

Susan's first love is myth. Myth as a pathway to understanding ancient cultures and to expanding on the knowledge we have of contemporary cultures. She attempted to follow this passion in 1979 by enrolling in a PhD in Philosophy on 'A Study of the Structure of Belief in the Ancient World'. Unfortunately, the academic world was not ready for such a study and so she wrote her first novel, The Falling Woman. In her MA (Prelim) she wrote on 'Women and Power: A Feminist Reading of the Homeric Hymns to Aphrodite and Demeter' which followed on from her Philosophy Honours thesis in 1976 ' In Defence of Separatism: An Analysis of Power'. She attempted another PhD in 1984, but only in the 1990s did she finally find the time and support to complete her PhD 'Wild Politics: Feminism, Globalisation and Bio/diversity' (awarded in 2002).


Susan was born in Wagga Wagga, NSW to Primrose and Hugh Hawthorne and grew up on a farm near the small township of Ardlethan. Here she developed a great love of the country and animals. Packed off to school in the city at age twelve, she received a good secondary education (which was not available in Ardlethan), but managed to fail one subject every year and what she regarded as her best subject (Geography) in her final year. University was closed to her, but it turned out to be a plus because Teachers College gave her time to discover her academic passion: Philosophy. Her scholarship was extended, enabling her to complete a BA (Hons). Travels to Greece in the months following university marked her next departure: the study of ancient languages, prehistory and ancient history.

A period of unemployment in the early 1980s was to take her into publishing, via a job for the long-term unemployed. In fact, she had begun her writing career during this time. The job was as Writing, Theatre and Music Co-ordinator for Women 150 (1984-1985). The result was a nine-day women's writers festival called 'The Language of Difference' held in Melbourne in September 1985. She would go on to co-organise two Australian Feminist Book Fortnights (1989 and 1991) and the 6th International Feminist Book Fair (1994). After a year teaching Koorie students at Deakin University (1986), training to be teachers, she was offered a job at Penguin Books Australia as an editor (1987-1991). In 1991, Susan and Renate Klein founded Australia's Spinifex Press, a radical feminist press that continues to publish "innovative and controversial radical feminist books with an optimistic edge." In that period she was a regular reviewer for major newspapers and radio; she taught English to Arabic women and worked as a tutor with teenage Aboriginal students.

In 1994 she joined the Women's Circus and the Performing Older Women's Circus and began her career as an aerialist. 1993 saw the publication of her first collection of poetry. These are the last of her circuitous work and life shifts.

Language has been a continuing passion and she has studied Ancient Greek, Sanskrit and a little Latin. She has some nodding acquaintance with several modern languages, but cannot claim fluency in anything but English.


Susan Hawthorne's oeuvre lies mainly with the written word. In addition to her published works listed below, she has contributed to a wide range of journals and anthologies. She has published poetry and fiction in literary journals and small magazines internationally, as well as in scholarly journals. In addition she has poetry published as broadcasts, on blogs, in translation and in a host of varied anthologies. Her non-fiction has been published not only in scholarly journals, but also as political commentary in newspapers, magazines and websites. She has also written scripts for performance.


Dark Matters: A novel (2017)
Limen (2013, verse novel)
The Falling Woman (1992/2004)


Lupa and Lamb (2014)
Valence: Considering War through Poetry and Theory (2011, chapbook)
Cow (2011)
Earth’s Breath (2009)
Unsettling the Land (with Suzanne Bellamy, 2008, chapbook)
The Butterfly Effect (2005)
Bird and Other Writings on Epilepsy (1999)
The Language in My Tongue (1993)


Bibliodiversity: A Manifesto for Independent Publishing (2014, translated into Arabic, French, German and Spanish)
Wild Politics: Feminism, Globalisation and Bio/diversity (2002, also published in India)
The Spinifex Quiz Book (1993, translated into German and Spanish)


Horse Dreams: The Meaning of Horses in Women’s Lives (with Jan Fook and Renate Klein, 2004)
Cat Tales: The Meaning of Cats in Women’s Lives (with Jan Fook and Renate Klein, 2003)
September 11, 2001: Feminist Perspectives (with Bronwyn Winter, 2002)
Cyberfeminism: Connectivity, Critique and Creativity (with Renate Klein, 1999)
Car Maintenance, Explosives and Love and Other Lesbian Writings (with Cathie Dunsford and Susan Sayer, 1997)
Australia for Women: Travel and Culture (with Renate Klein, 1994, translated into German)
Angels of Power and Other Reproductive Creations (with Renate Klein, 1991)
The Exploding Frangipani: Lesbian Writing from Australia and New Zealand (with Cathie Dunsford, 1990)
Moments of Desire: Sex and Sensuality by Australian Feminist Writers (with Jenny Pausacker, 1989)
Difference: Writings by Women (1985)

As the co-publisher and founder with Renate Klein in 1991 of the independent feminist press, Spinifex Press, they have been responsible for the publishing of more than 220 feminist books from all around the world. Spinifex books have been translated into numerous languages, won awards and some are in the process of being made into films.

Susan has received around 20 awards for her writing and poetry as well as several writing grants.

Activities and Awards[edit]


The Falling Woman (1992). Her first authored book. Fiction. 1990 six months off work on unpaid leave enabled her to complete the novel.
Listed as one of The Australian’s Year’s Best Books, 1992.

1990, Arts Vic small grant.
1984-5 Women 150.
1986 Deakin Univ.
1987-91 Penguin.
1988-91 National Festival, Australian Feminist Book Fortnight.
1991 Founded Spinifex.


The Language in My Tongue. This collection was substantially republished as my 1999 book, Bird and other writings on epilepsy. Poetry

Learning to be a publisher, Spinifex.
Chair 6th International Feminist Book Fair (IFBF).


Wild Politics: Feminism, globalisation and bio/diversity. I started this in Bangladesh in 1993 and spent some years teaching myself enough economics to write this book. Enrolled in PhD, 1999-2002. Non-fiction

Melbourne University Scholarship 2001 to complete PhD (final year of enrollment).

2002, Listed as one of ABR’s Year’s Best Books.

• Chair 6th IFBF in Melbourne 1994.
• Half time at VU, 1995-97, Teaching Creative Writing and Publishing Studies.
• Circus: aerials and performance scripts.

Running Spinifex Press.

1998 and 2005[edit]

The Butterfly Effect: I worked on this during 1998. Put on hold from 1999-2004 while I finished PhD and other academic writing projects. I wrote final ms in 2005 and published as the book, The Butterfly Effect. Poetry

Arts Vic small grant for ‘Unstopped Mouths’ hypertext and poetry project, later included in The Butterfly Effect.

•Running Spinifex Press.
• Research Associate VU supervising PhDs and MAs in Creative Writing and Publishing.


Earth’s Breath (2009), following Cyclone Larry in 2006.
Shortlisted 2010 Judith Wright Poetry Prize.

Unsettling the Land (2008). Commissioned as part of the Drought Project curated by Lella Cariddi. Poetry

• Running Spinifex Press, learning how to make eBooks.
• Started studying Sanskrit.
• Research Associate VU supervising PhDs and MAs in Creative Writing and Publishing.


Cow (2011). Written while in India on Asialink grant (Aug-Dec).
• Shortlised 2012 Kenneth Slessor Poetry Prize, NSW Premier’s Literary Awards.
• Finalist, 2012 Audre Lorde Lesbian Poetry Prize (USA)
• Written while Asialink Literature Resident, University of Madras, Chennai, funded by Arts Qld and Australia Council.

Valence (2011) first draft written just before going to India when not working full-time (May-July).
Limen (verse novel, 2013) first draft written in early 2010 soon after returning from India. Poetry

• Learning Sanskrit (2007-2016). I took 9 months off work from Spinifex in 2009 (April to Dec).
• Adjunct Professor in Writing Program, JCU (appointed 2010, continuing position).
• Elected English-Language Co-ordinator, International Alliance of Independent Publishers (based in Paris), 2011-2016.


Lupa and Lamb. Written during six month Residency in Rome. Poetry
Written while BR Whiting Library Resident, Rome, funded by the Australia Council.

Written a non-fiction book, Bibliodiversity: A Manifesto for Independent Publishing in the 21st Century. Non-fiction (also published in Canada; translated into Arabic, French, German and Spanish)

• Learning Latin and Italian. • Took 6 months off work from Spinifex in 2013 (Aug 2013 to Jan 2014).
• Co-ordinator English-language group, International Alliance of Independent Publishers.


Gave more than 20 talks across 2015-2016 at conferences and festivals. Non-fiction

• George Robertson Award for Service to the Publishing Industry.

• Grant from Melbourne City of Literature to travel to Turkey for meeting of International Alliance of Independent Publishers.


Invited to participate in a year-long writing-a-poem-a-day on a blog.Poetry

• Received a one-year Project Grant from the Australia Council for the Arts.

• Invited to participate in the Australia Council's Publishing Delegation to India.
• Grant from Copyright Agency to travel to the Philippines to give a Keynote address on Endless War, Endless Profit. Women Leaders in Peacebuilding and Rebuilding Lives. International Conference on Women, Peace and Security. Philippines.
• Celebrated 25 years of Spinifex Press.


Dark Matters: A novel Published in 2017. Fiction
• Written with support of a grant from The Australia Council for the Arts.

Working on a bilingual English - Spanish collection of poetry. Poetry

• The 2017 Inspire Awards. Winner, Penguin Random House Best Achievement in Writing.
• Adjunct Professor in The College of Arts, Society and Education, James Cook University, Queensland.
• Continuing to publish (from 2003 onwards) in the area of violence against lesbians, specifically lesbians who are tortured (which also the core subject of Dark Matters).