About

Megan McGrath is from North Stradbroke Island in Queensland, Australia. She has written for the New York Times, Meanjin and Griffith Review. Her award-winning short fiction is published in literary journals and anthologies. Her recent work includes surf fiction for Tracks magazine, and the novella Whale Station.

Publications

  • Seizure Journal (March 2013) ‘The Breakers’, [Online] Available: http://seizureonline.com/the-breakers/
  • Tiny Owl Workshop (February 2013) ‘Like Yellow Roses’.
  • Dexian Racking (February 2012) ‘Glass Houses’, vol. 2 The Femme Fatale [Online] Available: http://dexianracking.squarespace.com/
  • Imagining the City (November 2011) ‘Bureaucracy for the Broken-Hearted’.
  • Australian Literature Review (October 2011) ‘Farewell, the Sea’, [Online] Available: http://auslit.net/2011/10/21/farewell-the-sea-by-megan-mcgrath/
  • Dexian Racking (September 2011) ‘Friends Like These’, vol. 2 The Swamp [Online] Available: http://dexianracking.squarespace.com/
  • One Book Many Brisbanes (May 2011) ‘The River City’, vol. 6, pp. 12-22
  • Wordy MoFo (December 2010) ‘The X-Philes’, vol. 3
  • Wordy MoFo (October 2010) ‘Twelve of one, half a dozen of the other’, vol. 1
  • Griffith REVIEW (March 2010) ‘The lunar coast’, vol. 28, pp. 251-259
  • WQ Magazine (October 2009) ‘The Waiting Game’, vol. 189, pp. 12
  • The Courier Mail (September 2009) ‘The lunar coast’, ETC lift-out, pp. 25
  • lip Magazine (May 2007) ‘Talking the talk’, vol. 13, pp. 45
  • lip Magazine (December 2006) ‘Tough Break’, vol. 12, pp. 31

Awards

  • Winner of the Fellowship of Australian Writers Alice Sinclair Award (2016) for ‘Tell-tale’.
  • Winner of the Queensland Literary Awards – Queensland Premier’s Young Publishers and Writers Award (2015).
  • Winner of the Griffith Review Novella Project II (2014) for ‘Whale station’.
  • Winner of AusLit Espionage & Deceit Short Story Competition (2011) for ‘Farewell, the Sea’.
  • Shortlisted for the Katharine Susannah Prichard Young Writer-in-Residence Program (2010)
  • Winner of the State Libray of Queensland Young Writers Award (2009) for ‘The lunar coast’.
  • Longlisted for the State Library of Queensland Young Writers Award (2008) for ‘Gerald’.
  • Winner of the State Library of Queensland Young Writers Award: Maureen Donahoe Prize (2007) for ‘Fuel for Loneliness’.
  • Highly Commended for the State Library of Queensland Young Writers Award (2006) for ‘NSI’.

Writing

Whale Station and The lunar coast

Whale Station

Winner of the Griffith Review Novella Project II
Published in Griffith Review 46: Forgotten Stories

August 1962 in Moreton Bay. The Tangalooma whaling station has closed and Australian Rick is twenty-six and out of work. Whaling since his teens, he’s made his home on North Stradbroke Island with Norwegian siblings, his bride-to-be Camilla and his crewmate Christian.

Without work Christian and Camilla face immediate deportation. If Rick can’t get Christian onto the whale chaser, the Looma, for their next contract in Western Australia, he will lose Camilla forever.

Whale Station avoids the sentimental response of atonement through tourism and focuses instead on character displacement in the wake of an Australian industry practice that only ceased operation nationally in 1978 due to commercial viability.

Megan McGrath’s moving novella about identity and industries in change returns the reader to Australia’s recent whaling past; it is a story about the mistakes we continue to make, about the crippling power of love and the grip of small towns.

Buy the e-single
Buy Forgotten Stories print edition.

Read an excerpt:

I got out of bed slowly, stiff in the joints from coming down at Whale Rock. The skin on my hands was raw with tiny cuts, but they were clean and healing. I went into the kitchen, shielding my eyes from the sun coming in through the front windows. Camilla had left a mug of black coffee on the bench, and beside it, my pocketbook lay open, the teaspoon forming a crosspiece against the pages.

In her neat, upright script she’d written, Good luck! And below it, as if an afterthought, the words, no milk, followed by a single x. The brew had long since gone cold but I slurped it down anyway.

Camilla’s note was to wish me well on my search for work, but with respite from the wind for the morning I knew where my priorities lay. Looking for work could wait. I wanted to swim out to Whalebone Reef.

The swim was less than fifty yards. The reef, just off the headland in front of our house, nothing spectacular. But the bones were incredible.

Home for the three of us was a small shack at Claytons, right on Cylinder Beach. Cylinder was a beach with cycles. At different times the cove filled with sand that buried the footholds of the headland and others it opened up to lagoons or tadpole infested tea-tree swamps we’d need to wade through to reach the sandbar and surf on the other side.

In the humid summer months the hum of mozzies filled the reeds on quiet days and we’d pray for a sou’easter to blow them out to sea. The shift was seasonal, the way all things were. But August was a season of its own. August took the coil of winter and wound it so tight every morning pinched your bones. The cruellest of all were the August skies that swept blue and clear like an icy skin over the horizon.

On the beach, I unzipped my jacket and pulled my shirt over my head. My skin rippled in the cold and even the sand had a bite to it. This was not a day for inching out past the breakers. I barrelled into the surf, throwing my body into the shore break before the chill could register. I hadn’t swum in months but after a few strokes heat filled my limbs and I relaxed into the rhythm of a crawl, pulling myself out through the surf.

Once I cleared the waves, I treaded on the surface, sucking the air deep into my lungs. The bottom was barely two body lengths below but after being away for so long, the thought of going under to be with the bones, even for a minute, made my heart race.

The bones in the reef, I suspected, were from a carcass that had rotted on a nearby beach and been worked into the rocks by the currents and tides. The past few summers I’d been trying to catalogue the remains. Rumour said it wasn’t a whole whale just an assortment of bones, all the wrong order, like someone had tipped the pieces of a jigsaw out of the box. I disagreed. There was a whale down there. And I wanted to prove it. I’d been sketching the bones from memory after each dive, trying to capture one piece at a time. How they looked in the rock and how they’d look free of it.

I was in awe of them. I wanted to know this whale through its parts. For me, the work and the whale was always a different thing. The same way I felt fishing for turtle or snapper or jew; I could still love the animal and hunt it.

Preparing to dive, I counted the seconds of each breath, in and out, then I tipped on the surface and dove straight down.

As my vision adjusted to the salt water the reef came into view. At first I saw only a flat, dull shape against the sand and I kicked hard to propel myself against the current. This was the same reef I’d visited only months ago. My pulse was in my ears as I tried to comprehend what I was seeing. As the swell rolled above me I rocked with it, making a final check but I wasn’t wrong.

The bones were gone.

The lunar coast

Winner of the Queensland Young Writers Award
Published in Griffith Review 28: Still The Lucky Country

The lunar coast is an award-winning short story about what happens to a small fishing town on the west coast of Australia when the tide goes out and doesn’t come back in again.

This story won the Queensland Young Writers Award and was published in Griffith Review 28: Still the Lucky Country. You may read The lunar coast online here, or read the SLQ YWA judges report here.

Below are some notes on The lunar coast for students of the Faroe Islands (and elsewhere) studying this story for school (hello!)

Where did you get the inspiration to write The lunar coast? How important is the setting?

I have always been interested in the way people are influenced by the environment. I grew up on an island on the east coast of Australia so seascapes, tides and the ocean have always interested me.

In 2009 I spent three months travelling around the coast of Australia enjoying the variety of landscapes. I was inspired to write The lunar coast when I was in Broome in Western Australia.

Broome has some of the biggest tides in the world and this inspired the idea of considering what might happen to the landscape and the characters who inhabit the coast if the tide-change was permanent.

Below is a picture I took while I was kayaking in Broome. At high tide, all the rocks you can see in the picture disappear under the water. When I returned home, this image was a powerful reminder of the pull and power of tides and I wanted to write a story to capture that power.

You can read about the Broome tides here: http://www.visitbroome.com.au/discover/facts-figures/tides

What are the major themes?

  • Male friendships / masculinity
  • Survival
  • The impact of the environment on industry (or, conversely, the impact of industry on nature)
  • Climate change

How important is the relationship between Lee and Alex?

In The lunar coast the changing tide reflects the changing relationships of the characters. The friendship between Alex and Lee is the core of the story. With the absence of the tide, these young men have each been forced to change in different ways. Their response to the situation is what drives this story. The final, violent act is a metaphor for the end of their friendship.

What makes a good story? Where do you get your ideas from?

I believe that all good stories come from true life experience. With some extra imagination, you can make a story out of anything. For this story, I took a real experience (witnessing a huge falling tide), and added an idea (what if … the tide doesn’t come back in again) and added some imagination (characters, settings, plot) and then I had everything I needed to write this story.

If you enjoyed The lunar coast:

You might like to read my short story, The River City, or my novella Whale Station. You can also contact me by email if you have any questions. Thanks for reading!

Speaking and Events

Panels and Readings

  • Young Writers Conference (November 2017), South Brisbane
  • Express Media’s “Tracks” (October 2017), East Brisbane
  • Literary Salon (July 2017) ‘The Cape’ and ‘The Night Catch’, South Brisbane QLD.
  • Brisbane Writers Festival (September 2016) ‘The Sound: Sarah Drummond’, Brisbane QLD.
  • Brisbane Writers Festival (September 2016) ‘Memoir Reading Series’, Brisbane QLD.
  • Emerging Writers Festival (June 2015) ‘Freelancing for Life’, Melbourne VIC.
  • Emerging Writers Festival (June 2015) ‘How To Be a Writer’, Melbourne VIC.
  • Emerging Writers Festival (June 2015) ‘What You Wish You’d Known in High School’, Melbourne VIC.
  • Queensland Writers Centre (May 2015) ‘Launch Lab’, Brisbane QLD.
  • Queensland Writers Centre (February 2015) ‘Meet the Publishers’, Sunshine Coast QLD.
  • Whispers salon (December 2014) ‘Whale station’.
  • 4zzz Book Club (November 2014) ‘Whale station’.
  • Avid Reader (November 2014) ‘Whale station’.
  • The Wheeler Centre (October 2014) ‘The Novella: Forgotten Stories’, Melbourne VIC.
  • Brisbane Writers Festival (September 2014) ‘Inspire: Adventure’, Brisbane QLD.
  • GenreCon (October 2013) ‘What Writers Get Wrong’, Brisbane QLD.
  • Brisbane Writers Festival (September 2013) ‘Into the Woods’, Brisbane QLD.
  • Whispers salon (June 2013) ‘Angeles’.
  • Voices on the Coast Youth Literature Festival (April 2013) ‘Journey of the Book’, Sunshine Coast QLD.
  • Brisbane City Council Libraries (March 2013) ‘Blogging and Author Platforms’, Mt Gravatt QLD.
  • Somerset Celebration of Literature (February 2013) ‘Blogging and Author Platforms’, Gold Coast QLD.
  • Brisbane Writers Festival (September 2005) Emerging Writers Showcase.
  • The Courier Mail (August 2005) Write Small Competition.

Creative Writing tutoring

  • Queensland Writers Centre (February 2018) ‘Introduction to Creative Writing’, Mt Gravatt QLD.
  • Queensland Writers Centre (October & November 2017) ‘Introduction to Creative Writing’, Southport & Sunnybank QLD
  • Queensland Writers Centre (July 2017) ‘Fact or Fiction’, Mt Ommaney QLD.
  • Queensland Writers Centre (June 2017) ‘Introduction to Journaling’, Kenmore QLD.
  • Queensland Writers Centre (March 2017) ‘Introduction to Creative Writing’, Ashgrove QLD.
  • Scenic Rim Writers (August 2016) ‘Writing Short Stories’, Beaudesert QLD.
  • Queensland Writers Centre (May 2016, June 2013) ‘Write On!’, Brisbane QLD.
  • Queensland Writers Centre (May 2016, May 2014, September 2013) ‘Toolkit for Writers’, Brisbane QLD.
  • State Library of Queensland (March 2016) ‘Word Up’, South Brisbane QLD.
  • Queensland Writers Centre (March 2016, March 2014, July 2013) ‘Introduction to Creative Writing / Writing 101’, Brisbane QLD.
  • IMPACT Centre / Backbone Youth Arts (March 2016) ‘Inspiring Creativity’, [Online]
  • Emerging Writers Festival (June 2015) ‘Freelancing for Life Masterclass’, Melbourne VIC.
  • Queensland Writers Centre (April 2015) ‘To Market, To Market’, Brisbane QLD.
  • State Library of Queensland/QWC Regional Workshops (June 2014) ‘Short Story Writing’, Brisbane QLD.
  • State Library of Queensland/QWC Regional Workshops (June 2014) ‘Short Story Writing’, Gold Coast QLD.
  • State Library of Queensland/QWC Regional Workshops (May 2014) ‘Short Story Writing’, Townsville QLD.
  • Sandcliffe Writers Festival (August 2013) ‘Blogging and Author Platforms’, Bracken Ridge QLD.
  • The Australian Writers Marketplace (April 2013) ‘Introduction to Creative Writing’, [Online]