Supported by the Ray Mathew and Eva Kollsman Trust

Prodigal Daughter
Presented by Susan Johnson on Tuesday 23 August 2011.


Susan Johnson was born in Brisbane but moved to Sydney at an early age, where she spent her childhood in an around Sydney's North Shore (St.Ives).  She moved back to Queensland in her final years of high school after her parents bought a pineapple farm.

In 1985, Susan received the first of three New Writers' grants from the Literature Board of the Australia Council which allowed her to write full time. Before that she was a full-time journalist (starting at the Brisbane Courier-Mail and going on to work for such diverse publications as The Australian Women's Weekly, The Sun-Herald, The Sydney Morning Herald and The National Times).

 The same year she was awarded her first grant, she co-edited and contributed to a collection of Queensland short stories called Latitudes: New Writing From The North. In 1989 she was awarded the Nancy Keesing Fellowship at the Cite Internationale des Arts in Paris.

Throughout her years as a writer of fiction she has continued to publish journalism and essays on mainly literary matters for newspapers and magazines including The Guardian, The Times, The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian and Q Magazine of The Courier-Mail). In 1999 she returned to full-time journalism for a period of two and a half years as editor of an 18-page arts and culture section of The Age, Melbourne.

Susan is the author of eight books: six novels; a memoir; and a recent non-fiction book, an essay, On Beauty.

 Her novel The Broken Book was longlisted for the Miles Franklin and the International IMPAC Dublin Awards, and shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, the Queensland Premier's Prize for fiction, the Nita B Kibble Award, the Association for the Study of Australian Literature Gold Medal and the CAL Waverley Library Award for Literature. Amongst its many delights is a cameo role for the National Library’s Manuscripts Collection.

Susan’s other books have received many accolades.  Flying Lessons, was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier's Prize for fiction; A Big Life, was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier's Prize and the Banjo Award; and her memoir, A Better Woman was shortlisted for the National Biography Award. Her next novel, My Hundred Lovers: The Autobiography of a Body will be published by Allen and Unwin next year.

Susan is also a contributing editor of Agni literary magazine which is published at Boston University.

For most of the last 23 years, Susan has lived overseas – in Paris, Hong Kong and London. She recently returned to Australia and is currently Senior Feature Writer for Qweekend magazine.

Listen to the lecture
Read the essay:Prodigal Daughter (561KB)


 Author Kate Jennings

Author Susan Johnson at the National Library of Australia


Kate Jennings – book signing

Author Susan Johnson at the National Library of Australia for the 2011 Ray Mathew Lecture, Canberra.