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Bursting onto the scene in joyous colour and cementing herself as the literary darling of the country, is the Gold Coast’s own Holly Ringland. Raised on the southeast coast of QLD – childhood memories of the Broadwater in the 80s and 90s front of mind as she writes the stories that have captured our hearts.

By Donna Rishton-Potter

With the breathtaking Lost Flowers of Alice Hart gripping us all on page and screen - and with the likes of Hollywood royalty Sigourney Weaver taking up a leading role in the miniseries aired on Amazon Prime - Ms Ringland was never going to slip quietly under our radars.

Effervescent and warm – one must only Look around at the crowds at the writer’s festivals, or at her recent national book launch, to see that collectively, we are enamoured. Her writing itself is indicative of her personality – honest, down-to-earth, open-hearted, and something altogether magical. She’s the self-effacing talent who’s been caught off guard by the overwhelming response to her work, something she’s been slogging at in earnest since 2014 but which truly began as a seed planted by her beloved mother at the age of three.

The enchanting, The Seven Skins of Esther Wildling followed The Lost Flowers as Ringland’s second novel, and now she has gifted us The House That Joy Built, her first foray into non-fiction – encouraged by her publisher, Catherine Milne, who saw she had so much more wisdom to impart. The cover alone bursting with as much joy as the butterflies she wears on her arms and in her hair.

This is not, she emphasises, a step-by-step guide to creativity (plenty has been said on this subject already), nor is it a manual on finding joy for that matter - it purely Ringland’s personal experience about how she discovered joy through her own creativity, and the blocks she had to push through to get there. In saying that, this book is utterly transformative and offers a jump-start for the rest of us whose desire to create is flattened by fear. ‘What if fear wasn’t the first thing we listened to?... What if we didn’t listen to all the reasons we can’t do something?’ she ponders.

Written in just 70 days, Ringland defied her own her own inner critic, pushed through her fears and the looming dred of imposter syndrome, took lessons from a donkey sanctuary (read the book you’ll understand), and forged a glorious multi layered handbook in multi colour. This book is an invitation to become conscious that creativity is a home within us. We all have it. It’s in the clothes we choose to wear each day, the meals we decide to cook. It resides in how we love, how we parent, how we choose to use our voice. Creativity is already there; it is, she says, “what we have to offer each other in a world that’s burning – it’s a powerful act of resisting cynicism and scarcity. To choose to make art when there’s so much grief, despair, suffering, cruelty and tragedy in the world, is to choose to connect with the best parts of ourselves and each other as humans.”

Hitting me square in the solar plexus is Ringland’s notion that creativity is the home we give our grief. It’s a place to rest our hearts and our hurts; “Joy and grief are inseparable” she says. “A house built by joy is one that would give grief a home”. It’s profound in its simplicity and truth. Ringland is one of us. And like us, she too has felt the gripping fear of vulnerability, of criticism and judgement from others, of not being good enough, of having ‘bad’ ideas, of being ‘too much’. Creativity she believes, is our path out of that darkness. The directions we need are hidden inside our choices. This book is an invitation to return ‘home’ to the creative place we resided in with ease in our childhoods.

After living between Australia and the UK for ten years, Ringland has been based in the Yugambeh region of southeast Queensland since 2020. It is here she finds sanctuary; and in a gloriously renovated 1968 Olympic Riviera caravan named ‘Frenchie’, in her mother’s garden, she writes. In all she does, Ringland is warm, relatable, and fully present. She lays her heart out in her work - presenting her vulnerabilities and fears as a gift - and encourages us all to do the same. “When I write about joy,” she says, “I’m not only referring to the kind of joy that feels good… I am talking about the joy that floods us… that moves us to tears. The joy of feeling purpose and meaning… The joy of being understood, of feeling seen… The joy of naming what shames us, and the joy of believing we’re still, in all our imperfections, loveable. I’m talking about the joy of feeling.”

The House That Joy Built is a voice calling to our hearts in slumber. Wake up! We can do the thing that scares us. We can open ourselves to joy in all its facets. It is a way back into our imaginations when we are stuck creatively. After all, “We are never as alone in our strangeness, as we think we are” says Ringland, “and we are often so much braver than we think.”

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