About Valerie




Meet Valerie...

Valerie Volk was born in Glen Iris, a suburb of Melbourne, Victoria, where her writing life began with a set of very predictable fairy tales – it’s embarrassing to look back on oneself as a seven year old.

Writing continued during her schooldays at Mac.Robertson Girls’ High School, where a brilliant English teacher introduced her to the poems of Robert Browning, leading to a life-long love affair with the dramatic monologue. Here she edited both the school newspaper and the annual magazine, followed by the University of Melbourne, where she edited and wrote for the Literature Club magazine, Compass, and became engaged to her co-editor, Noel Volk. During this time her two verse plays were written and produced.

After graduating with a BA(Hons) and Diploma of Education Valerie married and taught in high schools in Geelong and later at Luther College, Croydon, before becoming a lecturer in Comparative Education and Sociology of Education in a number of tertiary institutions in Victoria and Queensland.

She continued to study and holds a Master of Education from the University of Melbourne, an MA in Creative Writing from Tabor Adelaide and a PhD from the University of New South Wales in the field of Gifted Education.

Her career as a Senior English teacher in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia led to an interest in the assessment of English, and an extended period as Chief Executive Examiner for Year 12 English in Victoria and subsequently many years as a supervising examiner in South Australia.

Valerie’s interest in gifted education drew her to the Future Problem Solving Program, which she describes as the most challenging activity she knows for extending able students. From 2000 to 2008 she was one of the Australian directors of the program, and heavily involved in conducting coach training 
workshops in South East Asia, especially Singapore. She has been a key member of the International Board of Trustees, an activity that has given her great satisfaction as well as an excellent excuse for frequent overseas travel.

During these years her writing and publications were mainly academic, both in peer-reviewed journals and in more popular magazines. However, in 2004 she won the Australasian Religious Press Association Award for best feature article of the year for an account of the impact of the birth of a grandchild suffering from extensive birthmarking.

In 2007 Valerie returned to study, this time for a Master of Arts in Creative Writing. After her husband’s diagnosis of cancer early in 2008 she began to write the poems which were to form the published collection In Due Season – poems of love and loss, an unanticipated outcome of the period that led to his death after many months of almost constant hospitalisation. The poems are a chronicle of the year and a record of their lives together. The collection, which has had a 
heart-warming wide public response, won the national Omega Writers CALEB Poetry Prize in 2010 and a number of the poems were set to music as the text of a 2018 choral Requiem by Adelaide composer, Rachel Bruerville also titled In Due Season.

Valerie continues to live in Adelaide, enjoying her circle of friends, reading, writing, food (cooking and eating!), film, music and opera. She has continued to write, with  awards including the Wirra Wirra SA Writers' Centre short story First Prize, the John Bray Roman Poetry award, Studio prizes for both poetry (2008) and prose fiction (2010), and frequent magazine and journal publication. Her second verse novel, A Promise of Peaches, was published by Ginninderra Press in March 2011, and was followed by the collection of outrageously twisted versions of Grimms Fairy Tales, published in 2012 by IP (Interactive Publications) under the title Even Grimmer Tales: Not for the Faint-hearted.Her fourth book, Passion Play -The Oberammergau Tales, was launched by Wakefield Press on October 16, 2013, and has had high critical acclaim in journals and newspaper reviews. This was followed in 2014 by the nostalgic Flowers & Forebears, a slim volume in the Ginninderra Press Pocket Poets series, which explores the way that flowers can trigger memories of the past and the people in one's life. 

Travel is still a passion, though with children and grandchildren in four Australian states it becomes hard to find time to go further afield. However, the long journey through China, Mongolia, Siberia, Sweden and Arctic Circle Norway that Valerie and her partner, David Harris, undertook in mid-winter several years ago enabled the achievement of a long-held ambition, to ride a camel in Mongolia in the snow. When asked why, she confesses that she really doesn’t know, but loved every moment of it. That could almost be the story of her life.

The 2013 extended travel in Spain, a month spent driving all over that wonderful country, led to the very satisfying writing of 'A Poem a Day', her personal capturing of the 33 days of the trip (as well as the obligatory journal and thousands of photographs to record the time.) On return, under David's guiding hand this became the book, A Poem a Day, in which each day's poem is accompanied by a single photo in a coffee table production. The following six weeks in Prague were spent mainly in residence as students at Charles University, taking the summer school in Czech Language and Culture, an unforgettable experience. Valerie admits she may not speak Czech yet, but it's left her with an undying attachment to Prague and Czech culture.

In 2014 she repeated the 'poem a day' during a tour of Ireland, leading to another coffee table book, and the following four weeks in Germany were well-timed, before coming home to finalise publication of her sixth book, prose this time, Bystanders, which was released by Wakefield Press in mid 2015, creating great public interest. 

Since then, further travel has led to the writing of Indochina Days, a poetry record of her time in Vietnam and Cambodia, published by Ginninderra Press in 2015 as part of the Picaro Poets series, and, after a tour of South America, another Ginninderra Press publication in 2017, Of Llamas and Piranhas, a collection of poems written while travelling in South America.

Travel in 2018, mainly in Germany, with some time in Croatia and France, has led to a further collection of travel poems, but on return her focus became the major prose fiction novel, In Search of Anna, set in 1800s Germany and Australia and based on an old family story about her great-grandmother. This was published by Wakefield Press in 2019, and Valerie’s attention turned to the co-editing of the annual Friendly Street Poets anthology Kaleidoscope.

Meanwhile, she has concentrated on the writing and publication of the moving personal collection of poems, Marking Time – A Chronicle of Cancer, a journey through the cancer experiences with her partner’s lymphoma and chemotherapy. Immortalise Press, the publisher, and Valerie are waiting a COVID-19 clear period to launch this book. Recent years have been busy with launching her 2023 companion volume to Bystanders, titled Witnesses, and with research for the 2024 publication of another historical fiction novel. The new book, Finding Emma, is an interesting parallel to In Search of Anna.

In 2024 she was delighted to have Studio produce a collection of her poetry of the last two decades, titled Marking Seasons, an appropriate name for this overview of writing both from published books and other selected works.

Valerie’s on-going interest in the Oberammergau Passion Play has led to her attending the every-decade events in 1990, 2000, and 2010, and the publication of many newspaper and magazine articles about this world-famous production. In 2020 she was thrilled to be invited to be the Australian Press Representative at the opening day – a pleasure that was deferred when COVID led to the play’s postponement until 2022. She was delighted to be there at last, also that Wakefield Press re-issued her 2013 verse novel Passion Play to coincide with the play and also to market in Germany.

Life, she says, is never dull. Unpredictable, true - but there's never been time to get bored. And that's the way she likes it.