PENinsula is a new annual literary journal celebrating writing from the Mornington Peninsula. It is a collection of nature writing, personal essays, short fiction and photography from Peninsula locals. It was created during lockdown in 2020 by Emily Westmoreland and Celeste Deliyiannis, as a way to encourage a love for home and a sense of community.
We are delighted to be stocking copies of the newly published PENinsula – not only because it is a wonderful new initiative for the Peninsula – both for writers and readers, but also because it is the brainchild of one of our own Farrells’ family, Celeste. Celeste and her co-creator, Emily Westmoreland, had a brief chat for us about how the journal came to be…
E: What does PENinsula issue one mean to you?
C: For me, issue one is a consolidation of what we seem to all collectively feel and appreciate about the Mornington Peninsula. And I know we all feel it, because I hear it talked about often – how lucky we are to live by the beach, to have beautiful nature walks around us and to have a great sense of community here. So, creating a journal to reflect that was actually quite easy. It wasn’t tricky to find writers and photographers willing to share their love for our home. And put simply, that’s what it is: it’s a love letter to our home.
C: Aside from money, fame and all the other glorious things to come out of being a publisher (joking, we all know that doesn’t happen), what’s the best thing to come out of PENinsula?
E: For me, PENinsula has shown me just how vibrant the literary community on the Mornington Peninsula actually is. Growing up, I always thought there was a need to move closer to the city, or for me, to even bigger and brighter capitals, for your writing to be relevant. But the Peninsula has such a vibrant community of artists that is incredibly supportive. We love to live local here, which has been really grounding and humbling in this year gone by. This journal would not have been possible without the support of local bookstores and readers. Anyone that has bought issue one, or plans to, this means you.
E: What was the journey from our conversation on the beach to editing an entire literary journal like for you?
C: I’m going to have to tell that story now, so everyone understands how this happened…
I hadn’t seen you for maybe three, four years. And now that you were back home we knew we were long-overdue for a catch-up/reminisce/review of all the books we’ve read in each other’s absence. I think when we were walking along the beach together we both realised one very important thing in common – that we were frustrated at the lack of opportunity for young people, for creatives and especially for writers down here. Without missing a beat, you somewhat jokingly picked up your pen and said ‘Fine, let’s just do it ourselves then.’ And we suddenly had a plan for a literary journal.
From there, I can’t really explain how the journey happened, other than that it just did. We learnt as we went and we really went based off what the community around us was giving us. It was, of course, busy and stressful at times. But really, we were just the organisers and fundraisers – it really was the Mornington Peninsula community that pushed this along, who were willing to share their art and who funded the process, and who kept us motivated when we needed it. And that journey was pretty wonderful. Knowing we were creating something that not only we felt we needed, but that the community pretty loudly agreed they needed too.
C: You came back from London, a place I know you adored, at the start of COVID to your home on the Mornington Peninsula. How was that transition for you, especially in having to make such a change not wholly by choice, but because of a pandemic?
E: I didn’t realise how much I missed the sea. Throughout the entirety of lockdown I was swimming in the bay – I learned this year the water in the bay doesn’t drop below 11 degrees! Swimming was just one way to feel weightless when the spin-cycle of news was weighing on my mind. The cold shock was also a good reminder to ‘be present’. I always thought living on the Peninsula was too slow *laughs* but that was exactly what I needed for 2020. Walks along the beach kept me sane in 2020, and after reading through the submissions for issue one, I know I’m not the only one.
C: Where do you see PENinsula going from here? What are the plans for the future?
E: Obviously the dream is to be financially viable for PENinsula to be the annual publication we want it to be. But beyond the printing, I want PENinsula to be part of the conversations that ask us to think about how our presence on the Peninsula impacts its biodiversity. I want us to care for the bay; to understand the critical presence of our National Parks and other green spaces; and to learn the longer, Boonwurrung history of our home and other ways we can care for country.
E: Do you have a favourite story?
C: Oof, controversial question! I don’t think I have just one favourite story, because they almost can’t be compared. While everyone wrote within the same setting, each story is so unique and full of character that it’s very hard to choose.
I love the description and sense of camaraderie in Tom Stephenson’s ‘Sacred Waters’. I love Danielle Binks’s deleted scene from her middle grade novel ‘The Day the Whales Came’ (I’m a huge fan of children’s writing and I’ll take any opportunity I can to encourage adults to read more of it). And I love the honesty, simplicity and vulnerability of Fairlie Dunlop’s ‘Riptide’.
But really, I love them all. There’s nothing more exciting than being trusted with someone’s art and seeing it grow into what you know it can be. That was really the greatest gift to be given during a pandemic lockdown – the key to other people’s stories.