People think Donna is living the dream

Days after the devastating storms and floods in eastern Australia, Stormbird’s Commissioning Editor has penned thoughts about her work and what she loves.

For someone who has always loved being immersed in a great book, becoming a Commissioning Editor for Stormbird Press, (and being able to work remotely as I roam), is a dream come true. Saying that always surprises me, because my heart was set on becoming a writer, but the truth is I get an even bigger high out of being an editor, and if I had to choose my career all over again, I would choose Editing—100%! Helping authors put their best story forward is my happy place, and why stories are so important in our immediate future. There is so much to tell.

A big part of the attraction of editing is being able to work for a small niche publisher who defends nature and empowers communities through the power of story. There’s no denying editing for Stormbird is a ton of work. The press publishes a diversity of books by authors, scientists, activists, conservationists and more who all passionately communicate reverence, wisdom, and inspiration about our shared home—Earth. Assessing a manuscript from someone who’s out in the field fighting tooth and nail to save our wildlife and landscape isn’t a simple matter of thumbs up or thumb down. If the story fits the press—for e.g. a struggle of land defenders or a human relating to wildlife as kin—Stormbird commits to giving these writers as much editing help as they need. It’s the story the author is telling that is the core. 

Having worked as an Editor for Stormbird since 2018, I now feel confident in saying ‘I am an Editor’. Editing puts me in the zone. And the type of stories Stormbird publishes, and the wise authors who tell them, offer me answers, comfort, and hope when faced with devastating lows.


Despite carrying-out exhausting fire preparation efforts in the decade preceding the Black Summer fires, Stormbird Press burned down. In the aftermath, our writers, editors, illustrators and more worked hard to get Stormbird Press back up on its feet, but we lost significant ground.

Then, just as we emerged from the bushfires with a plan, COVID-19 swept across to the world. Book stores closed their doors. Indie book sales plummeted. 2020 and 2021 were a slow, hard crawl. 

The year 2022 was going to be a fresh start! How could it possibly get worse?

Then, my little sister, Leisa Russell, an internationally renowned sculptor whose work some of you know, lost her home, gallery and workshop in the Lismore Floods.

She’s no stranger to flooding. But she thought she was safe because her house was raised above the flood line. Like all floods before, she was well prepared. At 4.30am on March 28, she phoned to say, ‘The water is still rising. It’s going to come into the house.” By 6am she was in a fight for her life as raging flood waters reached her waist. With only two boats available, the Emergency Service put out an urgent call for civilians to help. THANK YOU to the good Samaritan in a fishing boat who arrived at Leisa’s window to pull both her and her blue cattle dog, Gidget to safety. Others weren’t so lucky. People were trapped in roof cavities. Some were huddled on roof tops. And as we found out in the days that followed, lives were lost.

Like Stormbird Press in the Black Summer wildfires, my sister Leisa in the rain-bomb Lismore floods, and everyone reading this who has endured the pandemic, we’ve all been blindsided. 

Climate change is magnifying threats such as flooding, wildfires, tropical storms and drought. This means more heat waves and shorter cold seasons for temperate latitudes. In subtropical and tropical latitudes, there will be wetter rainy seasons and hotter dry seasons. Coastal cities and islands will be threatened by sea level rise. The UN science community is yelling from the rooftops that these climate change impacts are escalating rapidly. No-one will escape unscathed. But it’s no longer enough to be ‘well prepared’. We have to adapt to a changing climate now. 

The way I’ve survived these trying times is to put down anchors — things that are critically important to me:

·         Find or create worthwhile work that aligns with my core values

·         Look after my health and wellbeing, and

·         Fight to live the dream. (Which for me is now a small, well-aged, live-aboard sailing boat that Franck and I hope will evolve into a sailing trip around the world).

I wholeheartedly trust the process of setting down anchor to minimise the impact of external forces, and to quell crippling fear.

A great book is a result of good editing, just as life is a direct result of effort (which doesn’t mean I haven’t had days laid in bed comatose by grief). Trudging through the Amazon jungle, contracting a tropical disease, and almost drowning in the river wasn’t easy but that effort led to something magical. It made me happier, more grateful, more resilient and as a consequence a better version of myself emerged. I hope a sailing adventure will do more of the same.

Everybody is so busy trying to keep afloat these days, but please my friends, give yourselves the time to pinpoint the anchors you need to help you through challenging times. And hold tight! With strong anchors, we can weather anything.

I still write, and people who are waiting to read my book about Sailing Around The World, might have to wait a while. I have to learn to sail on the wild, open ocean first! Stay with me though. That journey is just beginning.

Donna Mulvenna
From a wet and storm filled Southern Queensland

Donna Mulvenna with her sister Leisa Russell and one of Leisa’s sculptures.


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