FRANCES Henke is an author and retired journalist, photographer and artist.
Aka Frances Kelly, she has written 23 books, on gardening, local and polio history, now four novels. Her work has been included in six anthologies of garden writing, journalism and social sciences; she is a published poet.
Over the years she has been media adviser for state and federal politicians; member of the Commonwealth Film Censorship Board; spin doctor for Peninsula Health; Community Relations manager for a Community Bank branch.
During 50 years of journalism Fran worked for 3AW, The Border Morning Mail, The Canberra Times, then in the London for a group of arts magazines; as blurb writer for Granada Publishing; and a correspondent in the London bureau for FairfaxMedia. 'George Davis' wrote cookery, travel and poetry when a pseudonym was needed particularly in London when at the time, work wasn't accepted from a woman.
Fran returned to Sydney to join The National Times as arts and books editor. She moved on to be theatre critic and arts feature writer for The Australian before returning to Melbourne to work in the newsroom at SBS Radio. Seeking a more peaceful life with husband Ian, she moved to write for and edit regional newspapers, enjoying nearly 15 years with the Independent News Group as senior journalist and columnist covering local councils with an irreverent column 'Council Watch'.
The Henkes live in Victoria, Australia: at Hastings on Westernport, where they are managed by Tibetan Spaniels.
Fran's community work has focussed on polio issues and taxation reform. Realising the importance of spreading the word on post polio syndrome, she joined Mornington Peninsula Post Polio Support Group in 2001. She became inaugural chair of the Polio Reference Group for Independence Australia supporting Polio Network Victoria and briefly a board member of Polio Australia before being told it was time to cut back. That involved writing a new book for polio survivors, as well as putting out monthly and quarterly newsletters. She is currently vice chair and newsletter editor for Polio Network Victoria, Secretary/Editor MPPPSG.
Her roles included past president and secretary of McClelland Guild of Artists, past secretary Australian Taxation Reform Group – proud member of the Cloud Appreciation Society. She received a Vocational Award for Polio Education in 2006 from the Rotary Club of Frankston; Excellence of Service Award from Rotary Club of Wantirna in 2011; named the inaugural ‘Suburban Superstar’ for Fairfax Community Newspapers for her community work in 2008.
In 2015 Fran received a Flinders Seniors Award from Federal MP Greg for her work over decades to improve the lives of Polio Survivors. In 2016 and 2017 she was recognised for disability advocacy and writing in the Supreme Court of Victoria's Inspire Awards. She was a Mornington Peninsula Shire Mobility Scooter Ambassador, presenting forums on education and safety. Fran runs several Facebook pages: Post Polio Universal to provide information and support to polio survivors in countries where support is minimal, also a page for Polio Network Victoria; as well as her own page showing her passion for photography featuring Westernport and seabirds.
Flying Pony Press evolved when mainstream publishers became focussed on block busters, friends also wanted work published. We have now published a dozen books - novels, a play, cookbook, art history, handbooks for polio survivors and who knows what next. Logo is based on one of Fran's London poems.
Key member of the team is Mike Hast, colleague, friend and meticulous editor.
Fran as seen on ABC-TV in 2015, for Polio Awareness Month, explaining about Post Polio Syndrome. Link to film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MRSTGdwWReg&feature=youtu.be
PUBLICATIONS non fiction, as Frances Kelly
The Tiny Utopia, Terrace Times, 1977
The Perfumed Garden, Methuen, 1981
Garden Crafts, House Crafts, Food Crafts Bush Crafts
Farm Crafts (Republished as Good Work, Rigby) 1978
Balconies and Courtyards, Magman, 1978
A Simple Pleasure, Methuen, 1982
The Faithful Garden, Methuen, 1986
The Illustrated Language of Flowers, Viking O’Neil, 1992
Links With History, 100 years of Flinders Golf Club (with Deborah Morris) 2005
Gardenesque, Miegunyah Press, 2004
The Australian Gardener’s Anthology, McPhee Gribble, 1994
Mother I’m Rooted, Australian Women’s Poetry, Outback Press
Westerly magazine, 1972
Workshop New Poetry, UK, 1972
As Frances Henke
From The Ground Up, A Complete Garden Guide for Victoria, Neutrog 2010
Iron Wills, Polio Survivors’ Stories, Polio Network Victoria, 2012
The Polio Day Cookbook – fine food for the fatigued PNV, 2013
Life Skills for Polios - a light hearted handbook MPPPSG 2017
Growing up Disabled in Australia, Black Inc. 2021
Author: with Peter Batey:
In Yer Face - The Bald Archy Prize, Flying Pony Press, 2015.
The Other Side of the Wind, Flying Pony Press, 2013.
Royboy, a polyunsaturated life, Flying Pony Press 2014 novella
Winds of Rebellion, Flying Pony Press, 2016
An Imperfect Calendar, Flying Pony Press, 2019
The Coriolis Effect, Flying Pony Press, 2022
Recent poetry is largely included in artist's books. But The Legend of Bogong Jack has been used in Fran's latest novel An Imperfect Calendar where Jack figures as a character. 'Bogong Jack' was inspired by the paintings of Grenville James Montgomery. Linocuts for the book were undertaken in the print room at Chisholm Frankston.
'Flashbacks' were written in London in the 1970s with linocuts completed in 2009 at Chisholm. Fran's first artist's book was based on the Ogden Nash poem: Carnival of the Animals with apologies to Camille Saint Saens. Following were: Gippsland, a tribute and a folding book Fleeced.
UNABLE to undertake tertiary study thanks to polio at the age of three, on turning 65, Fran fulfilled the dream and attended Chisholm Frankston from 2008/10 to study for the Visual Arts diploma. She majored in sculpture and printmaking. Having failed almost everything at school owing to family circumstances, she was delighted to pass with flying colours (7HDs).
Her graduating solo show of relief prints was 'Carving Clouds' at Libran Dogma Gallery, Narre Warren North in 2011. She has been a finalist in the Bald Archy Satirical Portrait awards for the past ten years, selling regularly.
In 2015 and 2017 she won the Director's Award at Oak Hill Gallery, Mornington, for Little Archies Portrait exhibitions (see Artist page). Linocuts and iPad drawings illustrate recent books, including Life Skills for Polios 2017 (available now via Polio Journey page on this site!).
2018-19 was focussed on linocuts and drawings for the new novel, with some painting and lots of photography - see page Catching the Light. This year has been about mastering watercolour. Not her best subject, but through painting dogs hopes to get the hang of it, a selection on show in Hastings at Westernport Innate Chiropractic.
2020-21 has been spent writing and illustrating Coriolis, dealing with after effects of a new hip.
The Tibs: Rupee and Timmy, pen, ink and wash drawing for An Imperfect Calendar