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Reading, writing and ideas

What I’m Borrowing: Holly Ringland

By Reading and Writing | 23 July 2020

What I’m Borrowing is a new blog series exploring our affection for libraries, loans, and sharing great reads. Each post we ask a Queensland writer and reader to tell us about their recent lending-loves.

This month we welcome author Holly Ringland, who’s working on her second novel in a vintage caravan she bought to work in and wait out COVID-19 at her parents’ place, on Yugambeh land. Holly’s debut novel is the international bestseller The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, which won the 2019 Australian Book Industry Award General Fiction Book of the Year.

Author Holly Ringland sitting in the doorway of her red and white caravan. Four dogs are sitting in front of her and there are many potted plants to either side of the caravan.

Tell us about the last thing you borrowed from the library. How did you discover it? Did you return it on time?

In the last ten years I’ve been lucky to visit and belong to a few libraries: two in southeast Queensland and one in Manchester, England. My partner Sam is British; I met him in 2009 on my fourth day in Manchester where I’d moved to start over by pursuing my lifelong dream of becoming an author. I’ve lived between Australia and the UK ever since. In 2020, however, I haven’t been in the UK at all. Grounded by the pandemic, I’m staying with my folks who live rurally, on Yugambeh land.

Something that has been so soothing and nourishing during this time has been borrowing and ‘visiting’ my two nearest local libraries online. Their electronic resources have truly been a trove of inspiration, joy, awe, and wonder, which I haven’t been able to get enough of. At the moment, through my library membership, I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole into the entire back catalogue of National Geographic, which I discovered purely by accident when exploring my library’s website. Honestly, it feels like constantly finding treasure.

A woman with an open-mouthed smile holding a library card in each hand.

Do you remember your first library card? Can you describe the library you visited as a child?

One of my first library memories is of falling in love with my local branch was when I was about five years old. We were living on the northern end of the Gold Coast, a block from the sea, and my mum regularly took me on special trips to our nearest library, which at the time was on the top floor of a multi-storey shopping centre.

To my child mind, it was book palace in the sky. You could choose your book and sit by a window at eye level with pelicans and seagulls, gazing out over the sea. I remember my name on my library card was handwritten by the librarian. It was to me The Key that granted my entry to this skyward book palace.

Being in possession of that little rectangle of cardboard, and experiencing the magic of the library left such an impact on me that I wasn’t surprised when, thirty years later, I was writing my first novel and my main character Alice Hart had her life saved in many ways by a library and librarian.

A woman sitting in front of a computer screen with her back to the viewer.

What other items are you, and people in your house, borrowing right now?

My family and I have recently discovered that our library cards also grant us free access to online entertainment (and for me, research!) through websites like Kanopy, which offers a range of films and documentaries from around the world. I’ve spent countless hours searching their archives and losing myself in the enriching solace of listening to stories so far from my own.


Thinking about your own bookshelf, what is your favourite book to lend out from home?

For the last couple of years I’ve loved sharing poetry collections, three of my favourites being Ruby Moonlight by Ali Cobby Eckermann, salt. by nayyirah waheed, and Fierce Fairytales by Nikita Gill. Most recently, Kirli Saunders’ Kindred is a collection I want to press into everyone’s hands.

A woman sitting on an ornate metal bench with a book open in her lap. A dog sits on the ground next to her, she is smiling down at it while she pats it.

Holly Ringland grew up barefoot and wild in her mother's garden by the sea in southeast Queensland. When she was nine years old, her love of landscapes, cultures and stories was deepened by a two-year journey her family took in North America, living in a camper van and travelling from one national park to another. In her early twenties, Holly worked for four years in a remote Indigenous community in Australia’s western desert, where she was the Senior Media ranger at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. In 2009 Holly moved to England and obtained her MA in Creative Writing from the University of Manchester in 2011.

After wanting to be a writer since she was three years old, Holly’s debut novel The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart was published in 2018 when she was 37 years old and has since become an international bestseller. Publication rights have sold in 30 territories and a television series adaptation is forthcoming from Bruna Papandrea's production company Made Up Stories. In May 2019, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart won The Australian Book Industry Award General Fiction Book of the Year.

Holly signed a new two-book deal with HarperCollins Publishers Australia in February 2020; her second novel, The Seven Skins of Esther Wilding, will be published in 2022 under the Fourth Estate imprint.

In March 2020, Holly began filming Back To Nature, a new, visually stunning 8-episode factual lifestyle series she is co-hosting with Aaron Pedersen, for broadcast on ABC TV.

Holly divides her time between Australia and the UK; she has Australian native flowers growing in both places.


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