Pursuing her passion

Headshot of Nicolette Barbas
Nicolette BarbasSouth Western Times
Dr Donna Mazza is a senior lecturer in the School of Arts and Humanities at ECU Bunbury and a successful author.
Camera IconDr Donna Mazza is a senior lecturer in the School of Arts and Humanities at ECU Bunbury and a successful author. Credit: Nicolette Barbas

If she is not reading literature, senior arts lecturer at ECU South West Dr Donna Mazza is teaching it.

“I studied at ECU Bunbury as an undergraduate student and did a bachelor degree of English just after I finished high school,” Donna said.

“After finishing my degree I went travelling all over the place and worked in all kinds of fields from copywriting to graphic design and even as a cook at Natural Temptation Cafe in Bunbury.

“In 1997 myself and the owner of the cafe, Annie, wrote a cookbook called First Temptation.”

After writing her first cookbook, Donna decided to go back to university where she undertook a creative writing PHD at ECU Mt Lawley.

“As part of my PHD I wrote a novel which was called the Albanian which won the T.A.G Hungerford Award, an award for an unpublished manuscript in WA.

“It came with a publishing contract with Fremantle Press and in 2007, 10 years after I produced my first cookbook, my novel was published.”

Donna said she caught the literature bug from a young age.

“My nanna Jean was a very big reader and writer and she nurtured my love of reading,” she said.

“There used to be a second-hand bookshop in Bunbury next to a second-hand furniture shop, so when we used to go into town during the school holidays Nanna would take me in there and say to me ‘just pick up whatever you want’.

“I used to leave the store with a great big parcel of books wrapped in newspaper. I would choose all kinds of books from comics to science fiction, stuff that was probably inappropriate for a child of 13 years of age but it was fun and got me excited about literature.”

Not only does the two-time award-winning author coordinate the South West arts program at ECU South West, she is also a mother of two.

“It is always challenging to try and juggle your creative life, work life and family life and do them all well,” she said.

“I have children, a house and a full-time job and do creative work on top of that.

“I have had some really supportive and influential people in my life who have made a big difference and given me that push to keep going and I try to do that for other people whenever I can.”

After her first novel was published, Donna moved to Bunbury where she commenced her arts career at ECU South West.

“I love teaching the creative writing and literary units because I’m really passionate about it,” she said.

“Whilst teaching I wrote a short story called The Exhibit which was published in the Westerly and was a joint winner of the Patricia Hackett prize in 2015, an award for best publication of the year. So many people kept telling me how much they loved it and wanted to know what happened next and it wasn’t until I took a six-month sabbatical leave that I had the chance to write my second novel, Fauna.

“If I could give any advice to aspiring writers it would be to keep pursuing your passion.

“I’m very much a believer in life-long learning, I think what makes you better in life is realising that you can be better and to keep pushing yourself to do better.”

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