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“Books change lives,” said publisher, editor and writer Sophie Hamley (1989) at the seventh annual Women of Spirit breakfast, “they also changed this author’s life.”
Sophie was the guest speaker at the breakfast, which took place on Friday 14 October, 2016 at the Crystal Palace Ballroom at Luna Park. Wenona Alumnae President Sally Douvis (Crennan, 1993) and Vice President Juliet Steel (Economo, 1992) opened the event, thanking Dr Briony Scott for her support as Patron of the Wenona Alumnae, and the Wenona Alumnae Committee for organising the breakfast.
Sophie spoke about her professional journey from studying law and working in bookshops, to working in publishing, teaching Yoga and playing in a country music band. She discussed her parents’ influence on her reading life (“they were two voracious readers”), acknowledging her mum in particular: “it was my mother who gave me a book to read when I came out of hospital - Rosie Thomas’s The Kashmir Shawl”.
When Sophie found herself in hospital, she was surprised that on her discharge, the most common question people asked was ‘what did you learn?’ “They weren’t asking for me,” she said, “they were asking for them.” But she did find “in the midst of truly awful experiences, there can still be moments of grace… I learnt that love that had already lasted a lifetime would manifest itself in small ways, not grand gestures.”
In her current role at Non Fiction Publisher at Hachette, Sophie focuses on bringing a broader range of Australian stories to more people. Her aim is to “look beyond the suburbs we can see from the CBD and have a good hard think about what people want to read.” She recently commissioned a children’s version of Robert Hogue’s Ugly, having seen the way children responded to that story.
The breakfast concluded with a raffle draw. Various alumnae had donated prizes including a trip to Thailand, shopping spree, pamper treatment and a dinner date at Café Sydney. The funds raised will go towards the 2017 Barbara Jackson and Wenona Alumnae scholarships.