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I was thrilled to sit down and chat with one of our recent Compass Flagship graduates, Andra Putnis, about the motivation behind her new book Stories My Grandmothers Didn’t Tell Me. Andra also shares how her time in Compass aided her in finishing the book and has some words of wisdom for women in leadership and navigating their career path.

Tell us about yourself?

I am a writer and researcher with a passion for history and telling women’s stories. Exciting news, my debut book – Stories My Grandmothers Didn’t Tell Me – will be published in July 2024 by Allen and Unwin.  My favourite thing in the world is to read a book while eating salty snacks, preferably outside in the sun.  I live in Canberra with my partner and two kids.


What is Stories My Grandmothers Didn’t Tell Me about?

I grew up close to my two grandmothers but never really understood all they went through to survive the Russian and Nazi occupations of Latvia during the Second World War.  In my twenties, I broke an unspoken family code not to dig too deep into the past and set out to discover their life stories.  I found when I plucked up the courage to ask, the most remarkable tales were shared discovered about their lives in Latvia and Germany during the War and then journey to Australia.  In particular, my Nanna Aline turned out to be a  masterful storyteller!  The most extraordinary stories were sitting inside my ‘ordinary’ grandmothers waiting to be told.


How did the Compass program help you with your amazing journey to publication?

Compass was hugely important in equipping me with the tools to better understand myself, be brave and finally send in my manuscript for consideration.  The program helped me realise that I couldn’t just keep sitting in my study trying to improve my book on my own – I’d already done that for over a decade!  It was when I reached out for help and shared my manuscript with others that exciting things started to happen.


What are you reminding yourself as you head into this next phase of your journey?

So many of the lessons I learnt during Compass are relevant to me now!  The biggest thing is to stop when I am feeling overwhelmed and think about why I feel afraid. Stopping and taking time to reflect helps me to look holistically and identify things that might be unhelpfully manifesting in my relationships and work.  It’s from that point that I can choose useful ways to lean into the experience and discover new areas of growth.


What do you want to share with women thinking about leadership and their careers?

Listening to the stories of my grandmothers helped me better understand where I fit into my family and history.  Having that context has allowed me to put my life into perspective.  While I’d encourage everyone to follow their dreams, there is also huge value in pausing the ‘ever onwards rush of life’ to have important conversations with the women in our families – grandmothers, aunts, mothers and sisters.  It may help you stand stronger on this earth and then be able to forge ahead.


Where can people find out more about the book and follow your journey?

I’d love to share my book journey – all the ups and downs that are inevitably to come. You can find me @putnisandra and  Stories My Grandmothers Didn’t Tell Me is available to pre-order here.

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