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Joanna Atherfold Finn

Official Author Website

'Stories so true, sharp and deeply moving they make you catch your breath.'

Robert Drewe



The shrewdly observed Watermark  refreshingly subverts coastal suburbia.

Robert Drewe

Sydney Morning Herald

In some ways the characters in Watermark  are like the stunted trees often found in coastal heath, hardy yet blighted by the wind, sand and salt. Finn's descriptive precision in this impressive debut accumulates unease: why does life in these semi-paradises so often fail to live up to its promises?

Ed Wright

The Australian

The book is full of rich characters and places who have faced turmoil, immersed themselves in life, taken detours and made hard calls.

Jim Kellar

Newcastle Herald 

In The Press



Joanna has a PhD in English, has taught Creative Writing at the University of Newcastle, and tutors primary and high school students in English and Creative Writing to HSC level. She also works as a freelance journalist and writes a weekly 'agony aunt' column under a pseudonym. 

While working as a Communications and Contracts manager, she completed her Communications degree and was awarded the Herald University of Newcastle Journalism award. 

Changing her focus to creative writing, she completed English honours and was awarded the University Medal.

Watermark was published by Simon & Schuster in 2018 and launched at the Newcastle Writers Festival by Robert Drewe. Joanna has also had stories published in several anthologies and was runner-up in the Carmel Bird Short Fiction Award with two of her short stories published in the 'Amanda Lohrey Selects' series through multi platform publishing company Spineless Wonders.


Joanna has presented papers on Australian literature at conferences and symposiums including the International Conference on the Short Story in English in Vienna. She lives with her family in Port Stephens.


Her second book, co-authored with Rebecca Prince-Ruiz, is Plastic Free: The Inspiring Story of a Global Environmental Movement and Why It Matters

News and Events


Finn's love of the written word is never more succinctly expressed than in the breathtaking masterpiece that is Watermark.

Watermark has all the elements of a big seller and the opportunity to propel the writer into a household name, not only in her hometown of Port Stephens but as far as the raging king tide will reach.

Charlie Elias, Journalist, Fairfax Media

A tender, insightful collection of coastal tales, with voices that are authentic and unflinching, lives that intercept and enfold. Atherfold Finn ably crafts the details, sensations and immediacy of the present, using redolent, skilful language to convey the secrets that dwell within families and between men and women, with humour and striking empathy.
Catherine McNamara, Author

Brilliant writing. The first few stories made me want more, what ever happened next? Then gradually some characters re-appeared, older, changed by time, viewed through different eyes. Through it all the ocean is a constant, offering solace, sustenance and certainty.

Robert Collins, Goodreads 5 stars

We trust the shallows over the deep. You can stand. On an unclouded day, perhaps you can see the bottom. It's where the waves break and drain of their primordial fury. Sharks won't come that close to shore. It's safe to submerge. To play.
Watermark, by Port Stephens-based author Joanna Atherfold Finn, is a collection of stories set against the most unforgiving of frontiers. The ocean, in its ancient vastness, looms as a threat to its characters or stands as a cold, impassive backdrop. But what each of these beautifully drawn works tests is your trust in accepted truths. As you wade through the shallows of 'Lone Shark' or 'Oasis Estate', you may be lulled by the fluidity of the prose, as Finn's depiction of a certain idyllic Australian lifestyle unfolds with gentle familiarity. But you're never as close to shore, or as safe, as you may think. Beneath the surface there are revelations that move towards you (in the aforementioned stories, they're a step-father and husband respectively). This book demonstrates the potential power of the short story. Like our coastline, it can have unexpected depths.

Nick Milligan, Author and Journalist 

Amazingly beautiful, compassionate, heartwrenching stories. I have never enjoyed a collection of short stories more than this. I hope Ms Finn continues to write and publish every year for many years to come and that I have the fortune of reading all of her works.

Azita Rassi, Goodreads 5 stars

At first, the thread running through Watermark, appears to be a loose thematic one: all of the eleven stories all set in small coastal Australian towns. The kind of place where you spent your childhood holidays camping on the beach; the kind you might move to for a seachange; the kind you grow up in, and move away from when the big wide world beckons.
It soon becomes clear though that there is more to this book. The connections between the stories are stronger, more deliberate than expected. But at the same time, it’s subtle. You need to read the stories in sequence, and pay close attention to character names, to get the full effect.
Linked story collections can sometimes feel a little too clever, a little too contrived, but here the technique is handled deftly and with restraint. Individually, these stories are precise and powerful, beautifully drawn slices of life, but the cumulative effect makes this collection even greater than the sum of its parts.

Marchpane, Goodreads 4 stars

Joanna Atherfold Finn’s first book, Watermark is a collection of eleven short stories set in exquisitely depicted coastal areas of Australia. Each piece stands strongly on its own. But as the collection unwinds, familiar names occasionally re-emerge, sometimes years later, throughout the subsequent narratives. The subtle linking of the stories is a satisfying device, with each story building on an often heartbreaking, but sometimes humorous world of characters, locations and observations. It is clear that as a writer, Atherfold Finn is an acute observer, of life, of people and of detail.

Angela Wauchope, Swinburne Journal Other Terrain Issue 5 (extract of full review)

A truly courageous collection, each story is set by the ocean and deals with plunging sorrows so realistic the salt and sand whips out of the pages and stings your skin.

Morgan Bell, Goodreads 5 stars

Finally, I have been able to get stuck into this wonderful collection of short stories. Blown away, I’m trying to limit how many I read in one sitting because each story is its own masterpiece.
Last night, while reading ”Tessellating Shapes” I got goosebumps when a character's name suddenly clicked and my mind jumped back to an earlier story, ”Lone Shark”. Awesome! Clever! And tantalising writing, and thank you, Jo, for treating your reader with so much respect.

Debra Hely, Lecturer,

University of Newcastle


Phone: 0400993965
Post: PO Box 29
Anna Bay NSW 2316

For any media inquiries, please contact agent: Fiona Inglis

Phone: +61 2 9361 6161
Post: PO Box 19
Paddington NSW 2021


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