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Early life and career
The daughter of Graham Frederick Brown and Margaret Elsie Brown (née Wicks), Harmer grew up in small country towns in Victoria, including Bendigo, Selby, and Geelong, where she studied Journalism at the Gordon Institute of Technology and became a reporter at the Geelong Advertiser. Her journalistic career took her to Melbourne, where she worked for The Sun newspaper and was introduced to a comedy group performing at the Flying Trapeze comedy venue. This group included Ian McFadyen, Mary-Anne Fahey, Peter Moon, and Jane Turner, who asked Harmer to join the group after performing some of the scripts she had written for them.
Not long afterwards, Harmer was headlining her own shows at the Last Laugh theatre restaurant, owned by entrepreneur John Pinder and later by Rick McKenna. The shows included masterpieces of Australian comedy, including Faking It, Sunburn Bloody Sunburn, and Sunburn the Day After, which included the group from the Flying Trapeze and, amongst others, Mark Neale, Richard Stubbs, and Steve Vizard.
Harmer first appeared on television in The Gillies Report, along with John Clarke, Phillip Scott, Tracy Harvey, Geoff Kelso, Peter Moon, and Marcus Eye. Harmer went on to host her own show on ABC TV, The Big Gig, including, amongst others, performers Glynn Nicholas, Rod Quantock, Greg Fleet, and Jean Kittson.
Harmer is currently Editor in Chief of TheHoopla.com.au, a news and opinion site for Australian women.
A former political journalist, Harmer is the author of seven books for adults: It's a Joke, Joyce (1989), Backstage Pass (1991), Love Gone Wrong (1995), So anyway--: Wendy’s words of wisdom (1997) (a collection of her weekly columns from the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Weekend Magazine), Farewell My Ovaries (2005), Nagging for Beginners (2006), and Love and Punishment (2006). Harmer's third novel, Roadside Sisters, was published in April 2009.
Harmer's books have been described as being in the genre of chick lit or hen lit, aimed at appealing to “women zapping a Lean Cuisine in the microwave and looking for an emotional connection.” They are popular light novels, and very humorous.
Harmer has also written a series of children's books called the Pearlie the Park Fairy series. There are 16 books in the Pearlie series published to date. They are bestsellers in Australia, and have been published in ten countries around the world. The animated series Pearlie has been shown on Australian, Canadian, and American television, and Harmer has adapted the first book in the series, Pearlie in the Park, for the stage. In 2005, this play toured around Australia, performed by the Monkey Baa theatre company.
I Lost My Mobile at the Mall (2009) is Harmer's first novel for teens.
In addition to the Pearlie in the Park adaptation, Harmer has written two plays, Backstage Pass and What Is the Matter With Mary Jane? She also wrote the libretto for Baz Luhrmann’s Opera Australia production of Lake Lost.
Harmer contributed to Marie Claire’s What Women Want in 2002, My Sporting Hero, edited by Greg Gowden and published by Random House Australia, and a volume of The Best Ever Sports Writing . . . 200 Years of Sport Writing.
Harmer was the host of the TV series The Big Gig, had her own TV chat show in 1990, In Harmer's Way, and co-starred in the World Series Debate with Andrew Denton from 1993 to 1994. Harmer hosted the Logie Awards of 2002, and was caught up in widespread media criticism of the event, with some focusing on her personal performance. In 2005, Harmer was the subject of an ABC Australian Story episode. Stuff, a four-part television documentary series which Harmer produced, wrote, and presented, premiered on ABC TV in 2008. The same year, Harmer commenced writing for the animated series Pearlie, based on her series of books. Harmer wrote many of the episodes, acted as a creative producer on the series, and even made a cameo appearance as Astrid the Dream Fairy.
Harmer is one of 28 members of the National People with Disabilities and Careers Council (NPWDACC), whose main goals are to advise the Australian Government on the development of the National Disability Strategy. She is also the ambassador for Interplast.
Harmer is married to Brendan and has two children. She is a co-founder, along with super model Sarah Murdoch, of the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles's Angels, the women supporters' group for the local Rugby League club.
Harmer has two brothers, Phillip Brown and Noel Brown, and a sister, Helen Brown.
- "Speaker Details – Wendy Harmer". Saxton Speakers Bureau. Retrieved 2008-03-09.
- "Fed: Wendy Harmer leaves Vega", AAP, 3 March 2006
- Fowler, Karen Joy (13 August 2005), "Putting the chick into lit", The Age
- "Wendy Harmer's Pearlie in the Park". Monkey Baa. Retrieved 2008-03-09.
- "Plays by Wendy Harmer". The Playwrights Database. Retrieved 2008-03-09.
- Warneke, Ross (2 May 2002), "Ho hum, another night at the dreary Logies", The Age
- "Logies host bites back", ABIX (Australian Business Intelligence), 30 April 2002