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Persistence pays off for NMIT Novelist

05 Sep 2012

Possibly the worst question any writer can hear is “Have you finished your novel yet?” but after 10 years NMIT Professional Writing and Editing teacher, Edwina Preston, can finally smile and say “yes”.

Preston, who teaches NMIT's Certificate IV and Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing programs at the Institute's Collingwood campus, will launch The Inheritance of Ivorie Hammer on Thursday evening at Northcote's Wesley Anne.

The book is set at the beginning of the 20th century and spans a 40-year period in which most the action takes place in two towns - Pitch and Canyon.

Preston says her novel is “sort of Dickensian, a murder mystery but also a comedy of manners.”

The story centres on brothers Arcadia and Otto Cirque who arrive in a fading gold-mining town with their travelling circus, Saturnalia. Their presence changes the town and the life of young Marianne Ward. Within months one of the brothers is dead and a pregnant Marianne goes missing. Decades later these dramatic events touch the life of Mrs Ivorie Hammer, whose secret history holds the key to a series of mysterious deaths and disappearances in her home town of Pitch.

Preston's first major literary project was Not Just a Suburban Boy, a biography of artist, Howard Arkley, published in 2002. The Inheritance of Ivorie Hammer is her first novel although it has been 10 years in the making.

“Everything takes a long time in publishing and there were times when I thought it would not happen. I'd say it's more about stamina than discipline. It's something I always tell my students ... it's about persistence.”

The journey to becoming a novelist has been a long one for Preston who commenced a law degree but never finished, moving into freelance journalism which she enjoyed but found “financially difficult”.

Funded by Arts Victoria and the Australia Council, Preston wrote most of The Inheritance of Ivorie Hammer while working as a sessional teacher at NMIT and thinks it would be harder to do now that she works almost full-time while juggling a Masters degree with raising two children aged 14 and 4.

After working on the project for so long Preston was pleased to finally receive the advanced copies a few weeks ago but says that such a long process has meant that the thrill of finishing has been tempered by the vicissitudes of life ...“I had a $140 parking fine when I returned to my car after picking up my advance copies.”

Preston has been teaching at NMIT since 2004 and also works as a sessional teacher in NMIT's Bachelor of Writing and Publishing program.

During her time at NMIT she has helped to develop the writing and editing skills of a wide range of students - some of whom seek careers as commercial writers, editors or fiction writers while others simply want to improve their writing skills for their own pleasure. One of Edwina's former students, Tess Evans, has recently signed a three- book deal with publisher, Allen and Unwin.

“I actually really enjoy teaching,” says Preston although she acknowledges that it remains “really hard to get published in Australia”. In class she teaches her students about the growing number of opportunities to publish without hiring a literary agent including approaching publishers directly (Allen and Unwin offer writers the chance through their 'Friday Pitch' program) or self-publishing online (popular for fiction and poetry). Preston says NMIT students learn valuable self-publishing skills by working on projects such as NMIT's writing anthology - Infusion.

Preston's novel will be published as an e-book as well as in print.

What: The launch of The Inheritance of Ivorie Hammer by NMIT Professional Writing and Editing teacher, Edwina Preston.
Where: Wesley Anne, 250 High Street, Northcote.
When: Thursday 6 September 2012 at 6pm.

Interview / Photo Opportunity

Media enquiries should be directed to the NMIT Communications Officer, James Gardener, on (03) 92691579, 0413 483 182 or

NMIT (Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE) - Situated on six campuses and six training centres throughout Melbourne's north plus a regional campus at Ararat, NMIT delivers vocational training, higher education and lifelong learning capabilities for a global workforce. NMIT forges partnerships with community, industry and government to produce practical, solution orientated graduates capable of making meaningful contributions to their chosen field of endeavour.