Arts & Culture

Riverina author’s return home results in release of new novel

Edwina Mason
Gabrielle Tozer

Author Gabrielle Tozer has returned home to the Riverina and is now celebrating the release of her seventh title. Photo: Supplied.

Catherine Edwards, Margaret Ryan and Peter Cox are three Riverina teachers who can take a huge bow as one of their former students publishes her seventh title.

Gabrielle Tozer, an award-winning, internationally published author of three young adult novels, has recently released her fourth young adult literary work, Can’t Say it Went to Plan.

Born and bred in Wagga Wagga, Gabrielle returned home with her husband and young daughter in 2019 after 16 years away, having studied at the University of Canberra, then pursuing a career in the magazine and publishing industry.

In that time she notched up significant achievements including State Library Victoria’s 2015 Gold Inky Award for her debut novel, The Intern (2014), which gave young readers a behind-the-scenes insight into the publishing world, backdropped by themes of young adulthood.

A sequel, titled Faking It (2015), gained Gabrielle further critical acclaim.

Her third novel, Remind Me How This Ends (2017) – a boy-meets-girl love story – was followed by her first illustrated children’s book, Peas and Quiet (2017), and a contemporary short story, The Feeling From Over Here, which featured in Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology (2017).

Melody Trumpet – the story of a daughter of a musical family who couldn’t sing or play instruments – is written for children aged eight and above and was released in 2019.

Gabrielle Tozer

“It’s been so lovely returning home,” says Gabrielle Tozer of her move back to the Riverina. Photo: Supplied.

Gabrielle has appeared at festivals, schools and conferences around Australia, including the Sydney Writers’ Festival, Bendigo Writers’ Festival, National Young Writers’ Festival and Somerset Celebration of Literature. She’s also featured on Weekend Today, Triple J and ABC Radio, as well as in The Sydney Morning Herald, Dolly, Girlfriend, TV Week and Cosmopolitan.

She’ll be the first to tell you she was a quintessential goody-two-shoes at Kootingal Public School.

A voracious reader, Gabrielle daydreamed about writing as an author and journalist.

After university, she scored her first full-time magazine job at Australian Consolidated Press.

“Yet, I would stay up late after work, or wake up early, and write creative stories for fun – always hoping that one day I might have a go at writing a book,” she says.

Gabrielle puts her success down to hard work and luck coming together at the right time.

A chance meeting with a non-fiction publisher at a weekend creative writing course eventually led her to a young adult and children’s publisher.

“I pitched a few ideas that had been simmering away, they asked me for sample chapters, I wrote a rough draft and the rest, as they say, is history,” says Gabrielle.

Her books connect with unexpected audiences.

“I write my YA [young adult] books with a teenager in mind, but there are plenty of adults who adore reading YA fiction, too,” says Gabrielle.

“And it’s wonderful seeing young children with copies of my picture book, Peas and Quiet, too. The love of reading can start so early.”

Gabrielle’s inspiration comes from personal experience, song lyrics and music, current news and events, and even the simple question of ‘what if?’.

Cover of Gabrielle Tozer book, 'Can't Say it Went to Plan'

Gabrielle Tozer’s latest novel is an ode to that great post-HSC tradition, Schoolies Week. Image: Supplied.

“I am working on my eighth book right now and forever learning that each story comes to me in a different way,” she says. “Sometimes I’ll get an idea for the plot first; other times it’s the characters who speak to me. Sometimes there’s just a ‘feeling’ that I want to explore on the page.”

As city lights gave way to a tree change, memories have come flooding back for Gabrielle.

“I have fond memories of my childhood in the Riverina,” she says. “I grew up by Lake Albert so spent many afternoons after school hanging by the willows, riding my bike with friends, doing ballet, playing the piano or holed up in my bedroom with a stack of books.

“I adored living in the thick of it all in the city, but it’s been so lovely returning home during this season of juggling work while parenting young kids, and if there’s anything I’ve learnt from 2020, it’s that you can truly work anywhere if you have internet access and a computer.”

That work has her writing and editing for SBS, TV Week magazine, and as editor of Eastern Riverina Arts’ 2020 anthology, Ash Dust Air.

Can’t Say it Went to Plan, an ode to that great post-HSC tradition, Schoolies Week, has already garnered excellent reviews.

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