Writer and editor Ellen van Neerven is a descendant of the Mununjali (Yugambeh) people from Beaudesert; her father was Dutch. She grew up in Brisbane, where she attended Albany Creek High School; in 2010, Van Neerven graduated with a degree in Fine Arts in Creative Writing Production. In 2011, she was granted a mentorship with black & write! Indigenous Writing and Editing Project as an editing mentor, after which she was appointed as a black & write! Indigenous editor.
It was in her twenties that Van Neerven began to take writing seriously, although her love of writing began when she was six, encouraged by her grade one teacher. In 2013, she won the David Unaipon Award for an Unpublished Indigenous Writer in the Queensland Literary Awards for her short-story collection Heat and Light. In addition to the Unaipon Award, the collection has won the Dobbie Award and the Indigenous Writer's Prize (NSW Premier's Literary Awards), and was shortlisted for the Stella Prize, the Glenda Adams Award for New Writing (NSW Premier's Literary Awards), the Queensland Premier's Award for a Work of State Significance, the Steel Rudd Award (Queensland Literary Awards), and the Prize for Indigenous Writing (Victorian Premier's Literary Awards).
Her second book, the poetry collection Comfort Food, was published in 2016, when it was shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry (NSW Premier's Literary Awards).
'Following on from the success of her award-winning fiction debut, Heat and Light, Ellen van Neerven announces herself as a talented poet with this intoxicating collection.
'Moving between places and cultures, Comfort Food explores identity, sovereignty and the restless quest for love. Using food as her inspiration, van Neerven offers a cross-cultural vision of the exotic and the familiar. This sensuous volume sets a new benchmark in contemporary Australian poetry. ' (Publication summary)
'In this award-winning work of fiction, Ellen van Neerven takes her readers on a journey that is mythical, mystical and still achingly real.'
'Over three parts, she takes traditional storytelling and gives it a unique, contemporary twist. In ‘Heat’, we meet several generations of the Kresinger family and the legacy left by the mysterious Pearl. In ‘Water’, a futuristic world is imagined and the fate of a people threatened. In ‘Light’, familial ties are challenged and characters are caught between a desire for freedom and a sense of belonging.'
'Heat and Light presents an intriguing collection while heralding the arrival of an exciting new talent in Australian writing.' (Publication summary)