Posted by: Lisa Hill | April 15, 2015

Meet an Aussie Author: Wendy Scarfe

Scarfe, Wendy

It’s barely a month since I finished reading Wendy Scarfe’s terrific novel Hunger Town and here we are with the news that the book has been long-listed for the $30,000 Kibble Award — and in eminent company too! (See my post about the 2015 longlist here).

Hunger Town was the first book I had read by this prolific author, and I was curious to learn more about her.   I dashed off an email to Wakefield Press (who were very excited about the longlisting as well) asking if Wendy could be persuaded to participate in Meet an Aussie Author – and here she is!

1.  I was born at Henley Beach in Adelaide. My father’s family were all South Australian but I grew up in Melbourne, went to school there and to Melbourne University.

2.  When I was a child I wrote poetry, mostly about nature.

3.  The persons who encouraged me to write were my parents, the author Eric Lambert and my husband. I was inspired by the American writers of the 1930s-40s who tackled the great social issues — Sinclair Lewis, Upton Sinclair, John Steinbeck. I learned my writing skills from the classics.

4.  I write in a spare bedroom with a desk and a view from the window of the river estuary and the sea. In the past when our four children were home I wrote on the kitchen table.

5.  I write in the mornings when I’m fresh and do more boring things like housework when I’m tired. I rarely try to write at night but when ideas come to me I get up and write them down because I’ll have forgotten them by the morning.

6.  Research is essential. I do a great deal but in writing a novel I always integrate the research into the text so it doesn’t seem to be stuck on.

7.  I keep my published work in a separate bookcase in the lounge room.

8.  On the day my first book was published in 1967, my husband and I shared our excitement at our joint publication. It came from London, was entitled A Mouthful of Petals, and concurrently had a lengthy AGE review by Nancy Cato: ‘Hungry Children eat Flowers’.

9.  At the moment I’m relaxing from the past five years of work on my new novel Hunger Town.

10. When I’m stuck for an idea I go for a walk or a swim. When I’m stuck for a word I use my Thesaurus. Initially I write the manuscript by hand in biro in exercise books. On the page opposite my writing I have a collection of synonyms and brief reminders of ideas. I regard computers as a necessary evil.

Wendy has a large body of work in her own right, but she also has co-written a number of books with her husband, Allen Scarfe.  Her work includes:


  • Shadow and Flowers (Writers Workshop, Calcutta, 1964)
  • Shadow and Flowers 22nd enlarged edition (Nosukumo Publications, Melbourne, 1984)
  • Dragonflies and Edges with Jeff Keith (Seaview Press, Adelaide, 2004)


  • The Lotus Throne (Spectrum Pubs., Melbourne, 1976)
  • Neither Here nor There (Kepler Pubs., Warrnambool, 1984)
  • Laura: My Alter Ego (Spectrum Pubs.,Melbourne, 1988)
  • Miranda (Seaview Press, Adelaide, 1988)
  • Fishing for Strawberries (Seaview Press, Adelaide,2001)
  • Jerusha Braddon, Painter (Seaview Press, Adelaide, 2005)
  • Hunger Town (Wakefield Press, 2014, see my review)
  • The Day They Shot Edward (Wakefield Press, 2018, (first published by Spectrum, (1991,1992), with a revised edition by Seaview Press, 2003, see my review)
  • One Bright Morning (Wakefield Press, 2022, see my review)

Non-fiction, with Allan Scarfe

  • Tiger on a Rein: Report on the Bihar famine (Geoffrey Chapman, London, 1969)
  • People of India (Cassell Australia, Melbourne,1972)
  • The Black Australians: Aboriginals: The Past and Future (Lloyd O’Neil, Melbourne, 1974)
  • JP His Biography (Revised edition) (Orient Longman, New Delhi, 1997, first published 1975)
  • Victims or Bludgers?: A Poverty Inquiry for Schools (Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1981)
  • Labor’s Titan: The Story of Percy Brookfield, 1878-1921 (Edited with Gilbert Roper) (Warrnambool Institute Press, Warrnambool, 1983)
  • All That Grief: Migrant recollections of Greek resistance to fascism 1941-9 (Hale & Iremonger, Sydney, 1994)
  • Remembering Jayaprakash (Siddharth Pubs, New Delhi, 1997)
  • Taste for Carnage: Alex Sheppard, a portrait 1913-97 (Seaview Press, Adelaide, 1998)
  • A Mouthful of Petals: the story of an Indian village, Wakefield Press, 2020, first published by William Heinemann 1967, revised edition published by Seaview Press 2011 (see my review)

See the complete list at Wikipedia.

Wendy’s career has been built around teaching and writing, but she has also brought up a family of four children.  She has lived in England and India (where she and Allan ran an experimental rural school), and when she retired from teaching she completed a B.Litt. in Classical and Near Eastern Studies.  What an amazing life of achievement, eh?

Find out more about Wendy and Allan at their website.

NB This post was updated 23/1/21 to add list additional NF titles, plus links to books I’ve reviewed since the original post, and to Wendy’s latest novel One Bright Morning (2022).

Buy her book at Fishpond: Hunger Town: A Novel
or direct from Wakefield Press
and good bookstores everywhere.


  1. I am looking through summaries of Wendy Scarfe’s books. They seem very good. I want to read her.

    I love the literary influences, these were indeed great writers.

    Writing manuscripts by hand seems a fascinating way to write these days. It seems so different from what so many of us are used to.


    • Indeed yes, I remember reading Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle and it was a revelation to me, and Steinbeck, well, the man was a genius. I’ve only read Main Street by Sinclair Lewis, but I admired that too. I certainly like the sound of her novels, I’ll have to hunt them out from somewhere…


  2. What an interesting author. I was not familiar with her work. I do love that she enjoyed the American depression writers. I will have to keep an eye out for her. Aaghh so much good to read!!


    • Hehe I’m adding to your wishlist again, I know…
      *not hanging my head in guilt*


  3. […] longlisted for the Kibble Award), and The Day They Shot Edward, (2018) and I featured her in Meet an Aussie Author in 2015, but until I read this updated edition of A Mouthful of Petals: Three Years in an Indian […]


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