8 May 2024

A morning of hope and celebration: Batlow author and cancer survivor to launch book at Biggest Morning Tea

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Sulari Gentill

Sulari Gentill celebrates being cancer-free with the launch of her new book, The Mystery Writer. Photo: Supplied.

Riverina author and renowned Australian crime novelist Sulari Gentill found refuge in her writing during her cancer treatment.

“It [the writing process] was crucial,” Sulari told Region. “Writing has always been my escape and my refuge.

“Whilst I was in treatment (chemotherapy and radiation), being able to write allowed me to stop thinking about cancer and start thinking novels and plots.

“It gave me the mental and emotional break from the process I needed at the time.”

With more than 15 books under her belt, the mystery writer is used to meeting publishing deadlines, but the launch of her latest book is a little behind schedule.

The Mystery Writer, a novel about a young Australian writer in the US who finds herself caught up in a murder mystery, was officially released on 6 March. Two months later, Sulari is finally launching it.

“This is a really late launch … I was in hospital in March, undergoing the final surgery after a battle with cancer for the past year and a half.”

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The Batlow-based author shared her personal experience of adapting her writing process during cancer treatment, highlighting the therapeutic value of writing in maintaining mental and emotional wellbeing.

“My most recent surgery was on my pelvis, and I couldn’t sit, and it’s very difficult to write when you can’t sit,” Sulari explained.

“I had to work out writing methods while walking, writing on my side and one hand.

“I set my laptop on the dining table, walked around the table, stopped, and wrote a sentence … it was a good eight weeks before I could sit.

Sulari said her cancer experience had taught her the value of the “quiet family” that a small town provided.

“One of the things you realise when you deal with something like this, coming from a small town, is the number of people who are ready to help, who make lasagnas, who come and help you in the garden, who drive you places when you need to get to appointments.

“It’s a really wonderful awakening to the kind of quiet family that a small town is. They don’t proclaim, but when things are tough, they’re there.”

The Mystery Writer by Sulari Gentill was published in March. Photo: Supplied.

The cancer-free author is now set to celebrate the release of The Mystery Writer with the Biggest Morning Tea at Batlow Library to give back to the community that supported her.

“Many of the townspeople thought launching the book at a Biggest Morning Tea would be a really good idea,” Sulari said.

“It has a double meaning because of what I have just been through and what the whole town has been through. It’s not just me. We have lost a couple of people to cancer this year.

“And there are a couple of Batlownians still fighting cancer. I suppose I’m still fighting in a way, as well. And so, it seemed like a really important, topical thing to bring the town together.”

The event will raise funds for the Cancer Council and will also support local cancer patients.

“On a more local level, we’re putting together little survival packages to be delivered to Cancer Care Riverina.”

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The care packages will contain beanies knitted by the ‘Batlow Grannies’, a knitting group that meets at Batlow Library and will include a non-perfumed moisturiser for chemotherapy patients.

“Nobody tells you how drying chemo is, so you end up with your entire body going absolutely scaly and drying out and your lips cracking.

“I remember sitting in chemotherapy and listening to one of the nurses trying to convince an old farmer that he needed moisturiser. His skin was peeling off, but he was just resisting.

“So I thought if we just made up these packages and gave them to people, it would be easier for them to use them. We want to help people get started.”

Sulari will appear at Batlow Library on Thursday 9 May, at 10:30 am. Visitors can enjoy a cuppa, cake and scones while listening to Sulari’s warm, engaging and funny stories.

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