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Patricia Wrightson
Photograph of Patricia Wrightson, née Alice Patricia Furlonger
Photograph of Patricia Wrightson, née Alice Patricia Furlonger
Born Alice Patricia Furlonger
(1921-07-19)19 July 1921
Lismore, New South Wales, Australia
Died 15 March 2010(2010-03-15) (aged 88)
Lismore, New South Wales, Australia
Pen name Patricia Wrightson
Occupation Writer, editor
Language English
Nationality Australian
Period 1955–2004
Genre Children's literature, folklore, magic realism
Subject Fantasy (nonfiction)
Notable awards Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing
1988
Order of the British Empire

Patricia Wrightson OBE (19 June 1921 – 15 March 2010) was an Australian writer of several highly regarded and influential children's books. Her reputation came to rest largely on her magic realist titles. Her books, including the widely praised The Nargun and the Stars (1973), were among the first Australian books for children to draw on Australian Aboriginal mythology. Her 27 books have been published in 16 languages.

For her "lasting contribution" as a children's writer, she received the biennial Hans Christian Andersen Medal in 1986.

Early life

She was born on 19 June 1921 in Lismore, New South Wales. She was educated through the State Correspondence School for Isolated Children and St Catherine's College.

Literary career

During World War II, she worked in a munitions factory in Sydney. After her marriage in 1943, she worked as secretary and administrator at Bonalbo District Hospital, from 1946 to 1960, and Sydney District Nursing Association, from 1960 to 1964. She served as Assistant Editor and later editor of the School Magazine, in Sydney, from 1964 to 1970, a literary publication for children.

She wrote 27 books during her lifetime and entwined Australian Aboriginal mythology into her writing. As her writing developed, Wrightson's work revealed two key characteristics: her use of Aboriginal folklore, with its rich fantasy and mystery, and her understanding of the importance of the land. Author, editor and academic Mark MacLeod wrote that "Wrightson thought that it might be possible to reconcile Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian cultures and create a new kind of pan-Australian narrative, in which the human characters from both cultures were strongly aware of and influenced by the metaphysical world that Indigenous Australians had known for 60 000 years." As a non-indigenous person, Wrightson's use of Aboriginal myths and legends in her fiction was questioned by other writers.

She died of "natural causes" on 15 March 2010, a few days after entering a New South Wales hospital.

Awards

  • The biennial Hans Christian Andersen Award conferred by the International Board on Books for Young People is the highest career recognition available to a writer or illustrator of children's books. Wrightson was a runner-up for the writing award in 1984 and won it in 1986. The illustration winner that year was Robert Ingpen, who had collaborated with Wrightson on The Nargun and the Stars (1973), her fantasy novel based on Aboriginal mythology. They remain the only Australians among more than 60 Andersen Medal recipients.
  • Wrightson was made an officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1977 and she won the Australian Dromkeen Medal in 1984, also for her cumulative service to children's literature.
  • Many of her books made the shortlist for the annual Australian Children's Book of the Year Award, which she won four times: in 1956 for her debut novel The Crooked Snake, in 1974 for The Nargun and The Stars, in 1978 for The Ice is Coming and in 1984 for A Little Fear.
  • Wrightson won the Ditmar Award from the annual Australian National Science Fiction Convention in 1982 for Behind the Wind, as the year's Best Long Australian Science Fiction or Fantasy.
  • The Children's Literature section of the New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards began as a single award in 1979, but was redefined in 1999 to create the Patricia Wrightson Prize (for writing for a primary school audience) named in her honour, and the Ethel Turner Prize (for a secondary school audience).
  • Patricia Wrightson was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letters by Southern Cross University in September, 2004.

Selected works

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