In the Beginning…
What started you writing?
Lots of writers cite books which inspired them to write, but for me it was something totally unrelated to reading or story telling.
It was… sport!
Wind back the clock to 1984. I was living in a small country town in Victoria and Olympic fever was rife.
My teacher was a super cool dude named Mr Chambers who played guitar and taught us songs by Cyndi Lauper, Culture Club and Goanna. He arrived at school on Friday mornings with his surf board attached to the roof racks of his car so he could leave straight for Torquay at the end of the day and always sent us off for the weekend with the Aero-Guard catch cry “And avagood weekend.”
One day he gave us an Olympic worksheet with the Australian Mascot Willy the Koala at the top of the page and some blank lines below. It was a simple task – colour in Willy (who was depicted in true Aussie style, excelling at a number of different sports – discus, swimming, track, etc not at all held back by his size or fur!) and write about what he was doing.
It was a light bulb moment as I strung together three sentences about Willy and the gold medal success in the discus. It was my first ever story. I had created a world and a set of events all featuring Willy. We only had to do one of these worksheets, but I did three, then went home to steal my mothers shopping notepad to scribble a story about a yellow dog.
For years I had been an avid reader but had never considered, until the moment with Willy, that I could actually write my own sentences, create my own stories. As young girl still struggling to fit in at a new school it became the perfect escape for me.
As I was writing this I realised something else special happened within six months of the Willy moment and may, or may not, explain my passion for collaborative writing.
Fast forward around six months from the Willy to the winter of 1985, my final year at primary school. Central Victoria is bitterly cold. Ice would often coat the bitumen on the far end of our ancient school block and become an impromtu skate space, claiming at least one causality before the teacher on duty could put an end to the skidding. When it rained we were forced inside spending morning tea and lunch time in our classrooms.
When you are eleven, you can only playing Master Mind and cows in the paddock so many times before you get bored out of your brain.
Three of us sat down to write one lunchtime, myself, David (also known as Gibbo on the cricket pitch and in the playground) and Sam, a friend who was a year younger and had been in our composite class with Mr Chambers. David and I had a bit of an unspoken crush on each other… and that’s what would have brought me to the same desk as them during lunch time.
Sam and David were huge football and cricket fans it started with a silly sports report and spilled outwards from there, to entertain ourselves through the cold, wet lunchtime. After a few lunchtimes we’d penned a satirical version of the news then sold the idea to our teachers for permission to perform it for the Grade 6 class.
We took time to fine tune, and rehearse. David read the ‘news’ because he was the best spoken of us and the most serious; Sam the jovial sort and a boy, got to read the sports and I was left as the floozy talking about the weather. We came in costume and performed to the delight of our classmates. So much so we wrote and performed a second one.
I cringe when I remember us reporting Mr Chambers had been diagnosed with AIDS when we had no idea what is was… just something being bandied around on the news that we thought we’d include because it was topical and somehow thought it would be funny. Tucked away in Daylesford in the mid 80’s we had no idea what homosexuals were or that where we lived would be come the gay capital of Victoria less than ten years later.
I wonder if David and Sam ever went on to write anything else? We left to go to high school six months later, Sam stayed on to do Grade 6. David got a scholarship to go to a private high school in Ballarat and I saw him from afar once in his school uniform, but never said hello.
As someone, with a sports-aversion, who would rather see the Australian cricket team be sunk on the field than win, I find it somewhat amusing that my writing started with the fictional exploits of an Olympic styled koala and a classroom joke about cricket.
Where do your writing roots take you back to? Was it a book, a person or an event which inspired you first to put pen to paper and get lost in stories?