Brow Books publisher Sam Cooney speaks with American writer Paula Saunders and Irish writer Caoilinn Hughes about how they depict the cost of fulfilling or deferring ambition, approach ideas about failure and success, and create family narratives about characters attempting to outrun their pasts. Paula’s searing The Distance Home follows two gifted siblings set on different life paths, while Caoilinn’s Orchid and the Wasp centres on a savvy, tough young woman who flees Dublin for the art scenes of Manhattan and London.

Supported by Culture Ireland and the Consulate General of Ireland, Sydney.

Paula Saunders (International)

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Paula Saunders grew up in Rapid City, South Dakota. She danced as an apprentice with the Harkness Ballet in New York City under the direction of David Howard. She is a graduate of Barnard College as well as the Syracuse University creative writing program, where she was a student of Tobias Wolff and Douglas Unger. She was awarded a post-graduate Albert Schweitzer Humanities Fellowship at the State University of New York at Albany, under then-Schweitzer chair Toni Morrison. Her first book, The Distance Home, was long-listed for The Center for Fiction’s 2018 First Novel Prize. She lives in California with her husband. They have two grown daughters.

Caoilinn Hughes (International)

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Caoilinn Hughes is an Irish writer whose poetry collection Gathering Evidence won the Irish Times Shine/Strong Award. She has received fellowships from the Bogliasco Foundation, Art Omi, La Napoule Foundation and Siena Art Institute, as well as a Literature Bursary Award from the Arts Council of Ireland and the Ireland Funds Monaco Award. Her work has appeared in Granta, POETRY, Tin House, BBC Radio 3 and elsewhere. She holds a PhD in English Literature from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anthony Doerr calls Hughes’ debut novel Orchid & the Wasp, “a gorgeous novel told in an onrush of wit and ferocity [... which] will rattle your most basic assumptions about money, ambition, and the nature of love. Caoilinn Hughes is a massive talent.”

Sam Cooney (Australian)

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Sam Cooney is publisher at independent book press Brow Books and quarterly literary magazine The Lifted Brow and is publisher-in-residence at RMIT University. In 2017 he took part in the Australia Council’s Future Leaders professional development program, and last year he took part in the Australia Council publishing delegation tour of India, and travelled to the USA and the UK on Australia Council-funded research trips about not-for-profit trade publishing. He is a current AMP Foundation ‘Tomorrow Maker’.