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Rosanne Hawke (1953–) Biography

Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights

Born 1953, in Penola, South Australia, Australia; Education: Salisbury College of Advanced Education, teaching diploma, 1975; Moody Bible College, diploma, 1985; University of South Australia, English as a second language graduate diploma, 1988, information studies graduate diploma, 2000; University of Adelaide, B.A. (with honors), 2001, Ph.D., 2005. Hobbies and other interests: Cornish studies, music, history, walking, reading.


Agent—Jacinta di Mase Management, 342 St. Geroges Rd., North Gitzroy, Victoria 3068, Australia.


Writer and educator. Junior primary teacher in South Australia, Pakistan, and United Arab Emirates, beginning 1975; English-as-a-second-language teacher trainer, Pakistan, 1986–91, acting principal, 1988, 1990; special-needs teacher in South Australia, 1993–96; creative-writing teacher in South Australia, beginning 1993; writer, 1994–. Also worked as a music teacher, house parent, English resource position, all through The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM) in Pakistan and United Arab Emirates. Residency at Tyndale Christian School; Asialink Literature residency in Packistan, 2006; currently teaches creative writing at Adelaide TAFE and at Tabor Adelaide. Has also volunteered as a newsletter editor and writing competition judge.


Australian Society of Authors, Children's Book Council of South Australia, Ekidnas: South Australian Published Children's Authors, Writers' Centre of South Australia, Cornish Society of South Australia.

Honors Awards

ArtSA emerging artist grant, 1996, 1999; Children Rate Outstanding Writers Awards shortlist, and Notable Book designation, Children's Book Council of South Australia, both 1996, both for Re-entry; Christian School Book Awards shortlist, 1999, for Jihad; Varuna Writers' Retreat fellowship, 2000; Australian Children's Book Council (CBC) Notable Book designation, and Kanga Award shortlist, both 2003, both for Sailmaker; Aurealis Awards shortlist, 2003, and CBCA Notable Book designation, KANGA Awards nomination, and Cornish Holyer an Gof award commendation, all 2004, all for Wolfchild; May Gibb Literature fellowship, 2004; Cornish Holyer an Gof award, 2004, for Across the Creek; Kanga Award nomination, CBC Awards shortlist, and Victorian Premier's Literary Awards commendation, all 2005, all for Soraya the Storyteller.


Re-Entry, Albatross Books (Sutherland, New South Wales, Australia), 1995.

Jihad: A Girl's Quest to Settle the Past—and Say Goodbye, Albatross Books (Sutherland, New South Wales, Australia), 1996.

The Keeper, Lothian Books (Port Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 2000.

A Kiss in Every Wave, Lothian (Port Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 2001.

Zenna Dare, Lothian (South Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 2002.

Sailmaker, Lothian (South Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 2002.

Wolfchild, Lothian (South Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 2003.

Borderland, Lothian (South Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 2002.

The Collector, Lothian (South Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 2004.

Across the Creek, Lothian (South Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 2004.

Soraya the Storyteller, Lothian (South Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 2004.

Yardil, Benchmark Publications (Montrose, Victoria, Australia), 2004.

Mustara, Lothian (South Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 2006.

The Last Virgin in Year Ten, Lothian (South Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 2006.

Contributor to periodicals, including Reading Time; contributor to anthologies, including Forked Tongues, Wakefield Press, 2002, and Exile and Homecoming, edited by P. O'Neil, University of Sydney (Sydney, New South Wales), 2005.


Even while growing up on a sheep farm in rural Penola, South Australia, Rosanne Hawke had a fascination with words and writing. Encouraged by her mother, she built her storytelling skills, and had her first short story published while still a teen. As college inspired more practical concerns, Hawke trained as a teacher, then spent ten years in the Middle East and Pakistan as a teacher of English as a second language. Her experiences with her young students, as well her introduction to Islamic culture inspired Hawke to return to writing, and with her award-winning 1994 young-adult novel Re-Entry she began her second career, as an author. Among Hawke's other novels for young readers are Soraya the Storyteller, A Kiss in Every Wave, and Zenna Dare.

A storyteller even as a child, Hawke was inspired to begin her writing career by her children. As she once explained to SATA: "When my fourteen-year-old was home on holidays, she asked for our story game where she would think up the characters, plot, and setting and I would tell the story. She wanted sixteen-year-old friends, kidnaping, freedom fighters, the Khyber Pass, and Afghanistan! One of our acquaintances had just been kidnaped and with his possible fate in mind I told the story. My daughter liked it so much she wanted it written up for her birthday. After that she wanted it typed so she could have a book of her own. And you've guessed it—after this she wanted it sent to a publisher."

As is sometimes the case, Hawke's first novel, Jihad: A Girl's Quest to Settle the Past and Say Goodbye, was not her first book to be published. That honor went to Re-entry, a prequel to Jihad that focuses on the concerns of most teens: worries about fitting in, peer pressure, developing one's unique identity, and budding romance. Hawke mixes these elements with a plot concerning an Australian teen whose family returns Down Under after living in Pakistan for ten years. Jaime feels like an outsider in her new school in Adelaide, and as a way to deal with her longing to return to the Middle East she creates Suneel, a Pakistani boy she pretends to have left behind, and she writes of him in her diary. As Jaime starts to see beneath the seemingly anarchistic surface of Australian teen culture, she also begins to view the realities of life in Pakistan with more objectivity. Describing Re-entry as a book "writ-ten from the perspective of a thoughtful girl who after learning to fit into an alien society has to go through the same process in her own," H. Nowicka dubbed the novel "fascinating" in a Reading Time review. Other critics noted Hawke's effective multicultural moral, while also adding praise for the novel's likable protagonist.

Published in 1996, Jihad finds Jaime back in Pakistan during school holiday. While visiting her friends there, the teen attempts to make emotional sense of the turbulent year she just spent at her new Australian high school. Self-exploration is put on the back burner, however, after Jaime and her friends are kidnaped by jihad freedom fighters. Hawke spins "a real page-turner that grabs you by the scruff of the neck and drags you through the action," according to Kate Graham in Youth Express.

Designed for middle-grade readers, The Keeper finds twelve-year-old Joel being raised by his grandmother during his parents' long absence. Joel has trouble controlling his emotions when provoked by bullies at school and, his frustration over his difficulty with some school subjects makes matters worse. "Hawke displays an unerring touch with the thoughts and feelings of a troubled youngster who knows only fisticuffs and foul words to grapple with confronting situations," remarked Cynthia Anthony in Magpies. Joel feels he needs a father figure and out of desperation he advertises for one. His stipulations that the candidate be tough and know all about fishing are amply met by Dev, a tattooed biker with a ponytail whose role as a new friend Joel decides to keep a secret. In addition to fishing expertise, Dev is successful at managing his own anger, and he helps the boy manage his emotional life. Immersed in his friendship with Dev, Joel hardly notices the arrival of a stranger in town who appears to know Joel's Gran. The mystery of this unknown woman's identity, as well as the subsequent arrival of a dangerous individual, adds an element of suspense to The Keeper.

Reviewing The Keeper, several critics focused on Hawke's ability to evoke a preteen's emotional ups and downs: the author "is excellent at conveying the turbulence that takes over Joel's mind and the impotent anger which makes him lash out, as well as the strategies quiet Dev is able to give him to channel his aggression into calmer and more constructive responses," Katharine England wrote in the Adelaide Advertiser. Critics also lauded Hawke for successfully incorporating a suspense/mystery into the second half of her story, building up to an exciting and satisfying conclusion that should hold the attention of even reluctant readers.

Other young-adult novels by Hawke include Zenna Dare, which moves across a century of Australian history through its main characters, modern teen Jenefer and the nineteenth-century singer known as Zenna Dare, who may be Jenefer's great-great-great-grandmother. Helping the teen solve this haunting family mystery is Caleb, an aboriginal classmate at Jenefer's new school whose strong ancestral ties Jenefer envies. In the Adelaide Advertiser Katherine England praised Zenna Dare as a "richly textured tale of family relationships and changing morality across two centuries," while in Viewpoint a critic cited Hawke for her "relaxed, natural voice" and "cast of engaging and well-drawn characters."

Also for middle-grade readers, Soraya the Storyteller focuses on a twelve-year-old girl who flees with her family from their native Afghanistan after the repressive Taliban take power and imprison her father. Moving from Pakistan to Australia, they now live in a refugee camp on a temporary visa, fearing the time when they will be forced to return. Inspired by dreams of a winged, black horse, the young refugee turns to storytelling to deal with the fears and worry brought about by the upheaval, as well as to recall fond memories of her peaceful life in Afghanistan before the terrorist government took power. As the author noted on her home page, "I was first inspired to write Soraya when I heard about innocent children kept in detention centres in Australia. At first I didn't believe it, or take much notice—I thought there was a mistake. When I realized it was true and the people detained were not hardened criminals but people just asking for help, I felt compelled to write their story."

"My purpose in writing is always to entertain, to take people away," Hawke once explained to SATA; "to enter someone else's world for a while. While doing that I sometimes want to show what it may be like in that world and so foster understanding and acceptance for someone who may be different or have some difficulty. Much of my work has a multicultural theme as in Re-entry and Jihad. Even Zenna Dare deals with ethnic identity. My books aren't only for readers—I find that the characters in my books teach me about life as they are materialising on the page.

"Sometimes I get excited about what I see while writing and would like others to see it too. But I try to write in such a way that if young people are interested only in a story that's what they'll get, yet if they want something deeper they can find that too. The Keeper is a story like this—on the surface, a simple adventure/mystery about a boy who wants a dad, but underneath there's a boy trying so hard to deal with a stallion-sized problem in his life: that of Attention Deficit Disorder. No one listens if you tell them things. Manning Clark once said that if you want people to learn anything at all, tell them a story.

"I love history and how the things that have gone before can solve some puzzle in the present. I like the mysteriousness of secrets and how one thing leads to another. I'm most probably an idealist, although I'm wary of such labels—I would like people to be able to accept themselves and each other, to love, to be able to live in peace."

Discussing her working conditions as a writer, Hawke explained: "I like to write drafts and plan outside. As a young person, I wrote my best stories out in the paddock or by the creek. I write a lot in my head as well while I'm out walking or swimming. Going to the symphony may suddenly give me an amazing idea just as the cymbals crash or the whole group of first violinists are lifting off their chairs in excitement. I enjoy historical surroundings too. I live in an 1860s country home-stead in the mid-north of South Australia near Australia's oldest mining town, Kapunda. My husband is restoring the house and I have an underground writing room (it was built by the Cornish). It is very quiet out here and if I am not on tour visiting schools I can get a lot done. On a good day I can write 3-4,000 workds—they may not be the best and final words but once the draft is done I can play with those words as much as I like. If I get "stuck' I go for a walk or write in my journal about the project. I read at night. I also write to music—it helps keep me on the chair."

"Advice I give to young writers is write from the heart," Hawke added: "do it with all your passion and energy and courage. If you really want to write, then think of it as the most important thing you can do, like a mission you've been sent on, or a race you have to finish but not necessarily win. For most of us who want to write, writing is as necessary as breathing, so learn to breathe properly. I show young people that first of all they have to start, and read lots as well. And once started, writing is 3D: determination, drive, and darn hard work."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Advertiser (Adelaide, Australia), March 11, 2000, Katherine England, review of The Keeper, p. 19; September, 14, 2002, Katherine England, review of Zenna Dare; February 25, 2004, p. 28.

Australian Book Review, April, 2000, Pam Macintyre, review of The Keeper, p. 56; September, 2003, Karen Brooks, "Wonderworks," p. 61; October, 2004, Sherryl Clark, "Animals, Boats, and Shacks,"pp. 61-62.

Bookbird, Volume 37, number 2, 1999, John and Heather Foster, "Caught in the Crack: Stereotypes of South Asians in Australian Children's and Adolescent Literature."

Church Scene, August, 1995, Fiona Prentice, review of Re-entry, p. 8.

Courier Mail, March 28, 2000, Millan Richards, review of The Keeper, Books section, p. 2.

Lollipops, What's on for Kids, July-August, 1995, Cecile Ferguson, review of Re-entry, p. 18; May-June, 1996, Cecile Ferguson, "Meet Rosanne Hawke," p. 20; May-June, 1996, Cecile Ferguson, review of Jihad, p. 21; April-May, 2000, Cecile Ferguson, review of The Keeper, p. 18.

Magpies, July, 1995, review of Re-Entry, p. 25; May, 2000, Cynthia Anthony, review of The Keeper, p. 34; March, 2002, review of A Kiss in Every Wave, p. 33; May, 2002, review of Zenna Dare, p. 40; July, 2003, review of Borderland, p. 41; July, 2003, review of Wolfchild, p. 34.

Reading Time, August, 1995, H. Nowicka, review of Re-entry, p. 34; Volume 44, number 2, 2000, Jane Gibian, review of The Keeper, p. 25.

School Librarian, spring, 2001, review of The Keeper, p. 33; summer, 2003, review of A Kiss in Every Wave, p. 99; spring, 2005, Mary Medlicott, review of Soraya the Storyteller, p. 34.

Viewpoint, summer, 1995, review of Re-entry, p. 44; winter, 2000, Rosemary Worssam, review of The Keeper, p. 43; spring, 2003, review of Zenna Dare, pp. 38-39.

Youth Express, spring, 1995, Jennifer Micallef, review of Re-entry, p. 25; spring, 1996, Kate Graham, review of Jihad, p. 22.


Rosanne Hawke Home Page, http://www.rosannehawke.com (July 13, 2005).

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Bob Graham (1942-) Biography - Awards to Francis Hendy Biography - Born to Sew