Melissa Sussens (Slaughterhouse), Dawn Garisch (Breaking Milk) and Penny Haw (The Invincible Miss Cust) in conversation with Gail Gilbride (Cat Therapy) about women, creativity, the environment and science. Melissa is a vet and a poet, and her poetry is strongly influenced by the two roles she plays in her life. As is the writing of Dawn, who is a doctor and author. Penny’s stories feature remarkable women and illustrate her love for nature and animals. And Gail’s latest work of non-fiction is about a cat who helped her survive a frightening medical diagnosis. The work of these four writers speaks to the interconnectedness of nature, humans, animals, art and science.
DAWN GARISCH, a medical doctor and writer, has published poetry, novels, non-fiction and a children’s book. She has had a short play and a short film produced and has written for television. She won the 2007 DALRO prize for her poem “Blood Delta”. Her novels, Trespass and Breaking Milk, were shortlisted for the 2010 Commonwealth Prize for Fiction in Africa and the 2021 Sunday Times Fiction Prize respectively. She won the 2011 EU Sol Plaatjie Poetry Award for her poem “Miracle”. In 2013, her short story “What To Do About Ricky” won the Short.Sharp.Story competition. Her second poetry collection, Disturbance, was published in 2020. She is interested in trans-disciplinary work in science and art, and between different art forms and teaches life writing and creative method courses with the Life Righting Collective.
MELISSA SUSSENS is a queer veterinarian and poet. Her work has appeared in many publications, both locally and internationally. She placed 2nd in the 2020 New Contrast National Poetry Prize and was amongst the winners of the ClemenGold Writing Competition. She was selected for the Poetry for Human Rights anthology, Between the Silence, in 2021, and has been nominated for Best of the Net. Melissa has performed at the Poetry in McGregor festival, Off The Wall, The Commons and The Red Wheelbarrow, where she also hosts poetry readings. She lives in Cape Town with her wife and their two dogs. Slaughterhouse is her first book.
PENNY HAW worked as a journalist and columnist for more than three decades, writing for many leading South African newspapers (most notably, Business Day) and magazines before yielding to a lifelong yearning to create fiction. Her stories feature remarkable women, illustrate her love for nature and animals, and explore the interconnectedness of all living things. The Invincible Miss Cust is Penny’s debut historical fiction. It was published by Sourcebooks in 2022 and will be followed by a further work of historical fiction, The Woman at the Wheel, in October 2023. Penny is also the author of The Wilderness Between Us, a contemporary fiction published in 2021 and Nicko, The Tale of a Vervet Monkey on an African Farm (2017), a children’s book. Penny lives in Hout Bay with her husband and three dogs, all of whom are well-walked.
GAIL GILBRIDE was born in Pretoria. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Rhodes University and a post-graduate teaching diploma from UCT. In a previous life she taught English, Sound Perception and Communication Skills. She also used to dance and mastering the Tango is still on her wish list. Her novel Under the African Sun was published by Cactus Rain in 2016, and it was selected as a top ten finalist in the Author Academy Awards competition (USA). Cat Therapy is her unplanned memoir. Gail lives on the edge of the Hemel en Aarde valley with her human and furry family, where she swims in the sea, writes, gardens and dabbles in painting.