When I deferred my second year of Early Childhood Education and went to TAFE to study Professional Writing and Editing, I was about 18.
Mum quietly told me how Dad had secretly mentioned that he wished he’d been brave enough to do something he really wanted to do when he was my age. But things were different back then. Dad’s parents were poor and wanted him to be safe and secure. He wanted the same for me.
Writing is neither safe nor secure. But TAFE was not such a dangerous place. It was where I met my future husband, figured out that poetry was more than a historical fad or teenage scribblings in the back of a VCE school diary (you know, with love heart dots on top of all the i’s?). It was also where I started writing my first verse novel – It’s Your World.
Then there was a whole bunch of time – let’s call it ‘Youth’– where there was much partying and quite a bit of trekking around Queensland and South Australia to camp and attend desert eclipse festivals, warming baked beans in op-shop saucepans over roadside fires. Scribbling more stories here and there in notebooks. I left a pillow somewhere in the Flinders Ranges and took every possible beachside backroad from Noosa to Phillip Island.
In retrospect, perhaps this was brave, too. If taking a sharp left off the Nullarbor into who knows where, somewhere near the Great Australian Bite fits the definition of ‘brave’. Brave or stupid. It’s a fine line at times.
Then there was the University Arts degree period – let’s just say, some people caught on fire. No casualties. But lots more stories and lots of writing. More academic than before, of course.
Family illness wrenched me from dreams of a Masters or a Doctorate in something-or-other and back to the beautiful Mornington Peninsula where the ones who mattered most were struggling with secretive Dad’s early onset Lewey-body dementia.
Once home, that old TAFE manuscript came out again. Then there was marriage and babies and building houses, learning to deal with Dementia Dad and toddler taming. But the manuscript was back to stay.
Submissions, submissions, submissions. Rejection, rejection, rejection. Agents who get in accidents and suddenly retire. Disappointment. Interest from acquiring editors at big publishing houses who suddenly fall off the edge of the planet. More disappointment. Inclinations to partnership publish, soon dismissed on the advice of the helpful souls at Victoria Writers. And then, finally, my debut verse novel was published by Guillotine Press.
It’s been a while since I warmed baked beans on a roadside fire, or left a pillow in a national park. But I don’t do the café writer thing either. Instead, I spend as much time as possible sitting in the middle of my king size TEMPUR bed surrounded by books, notebooks and devices. And, stories, because there are always more stories.
I miss school and still love the odd writing challenge, so I’m pleased to have found the Peninsula Writers Group and Poet’s Corner (two local meet-up groups) and the online group, Jo’s Content Couch, to help fill the void and keep me brave (along with my newly found love of Karate and the Peninsula Karate School). I’m still here, on the still beautiful Mornington Peninsula, cohabitating with psy-trance creator, classical/jazz pianist, wine rep, liquor courier and all-round spectacular husband-dad-guy, Jimmy Mook, and our two cheeky little ones.
Dad passed away leaving a combination of sorrow and relief. But, only a few months later, the second cheeky one came along with a combination of joy and intensity and with his blue, blue eyes. And, I’m starting to think Dad may have been right: it’s a brave woman that attempts to juggle building a literary career with the demands of a busy family, and still has the strength to practice roundhouse kicks to Reggae music in the pantry (on a good day, anyway!).