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In the Beginning…

February 22, 2010

Willy Badge - compliments Museum of Victoria and donor, Australian Fashion designer, Pru Acton

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?

Jodi Cleghorn is a sucker for the story behind the story – thus she commits atrocities… forcing writers to talk about themselves!  It is all part of the madness which is Chinese Whisperings. Check out Jodi’s Facebook , the new look Chinese Whipserings website or her blog, Writing in Black and White.
  1. February 22, 2010 6:52 am

    Actually, I can remember at school I was pretty good at descriptive essays etc. And once I remember writing some friends a letter about the goings on where we were. They’d left for a few weeks holiday. It was a bit satirical and they loved it. But I never really started writing until I arrived here in Dole.

    One of the problems of being a pastor (which I was at the time) in the church is that you often get so taken up with church people you never get to meet anyone else. So I wanted to join a group where I could do something fun and get to know some new people. The first time was a disaster, as I had completely misunderstood the task given to us to write. But the people were nice so I stayed; and now I’m one of those who lead the sessions. That’s what started me off.

  2. February 22, 2010 7:33 am

    You’ve inspired me to write my ponderings for Wed….

  3. February 22, 2010 7:53 am

    So I’m going to have to wait until Wednesday… is this going to be another of those impromptu theme weeks?

  4. February 22, 2010 8:24 am

    This has been a real eye-opener for me in that I don’t have an origin story for my writing life. I have always written. Trying to remember an event that triggered it is like trying to remember the trigger than prompted me to walk, or speak. As soon as I could write, I was writing stories. Sure, they were rubbish (I was only 4 years old), but they were stories nonetheless.

    Hmmm, I feel cheated somehow!

  5. February 22, 2010 12:07 pm

    Interesting post: I actually have been writing since a teenager, but only recently picked it up seriously again. And am hoping to form a career of it now.

    But now I understand why I write and what keeps me inspired to do so…it is freeing. It is a release of all the thoughts and processes that occur in my head constantly.

    If I don’t put it to (cyber-) paper, things are not right with the world. Everything seems chaotic if I go too long without penning my words.

    I came across this blog through Twitter and will be returning. I can see more thoughts jumbling my brain already…


  6. February 22, 2010 7:17 pm

    Thanks for this post Jodi. For me it started with two words, well one. Actually it’s more of an amalgamation of two abbreviated words which actually has become a rather well known term. Britcoms. In the early 80’s the only exposure we had to British television was on Friday starting at 3:00 with Dr. Who. I would spend the rest of the day and well into the evening watching and studying Monty Python, Allo, Allo, Fawlty Towers, Are You Being Served (an especially hysterical show to a 12 year old boy “My pussy is all dirty” still makes me laugh for hours) and later Red Dwarf. I would watch those shows religiously and study funny, timing, pacing, and of course practice my accent. One night my freshman year in college someone asked me what part of England I was from, to which I answered, “Torquay Madam. You really should make it a point to come see the herds of wildebeest as they graze majestically through the countryside.” Then of course there was Douglas Adams, but really, I’ll just start gushing and what good will that do anyone. Now if you will excuse me I’m off to Ebay to reclaim some of my inspiration in the form of DVD boxed sets. 42.

  7. adampb permalink
    February 22, 2010 8:15 pm

    In the beginning was a pencil and some paper and a word was written. It may have said “cat” or “dog” or “No, I want ice cream for dinner,” but it was a word. Sadly, these things were forgotten and neglected, picked up again from time to time, but not with any great fervour. The words were always there, piled high in the memory like firewood, tipped from the pages of many a good book.
    It was this way for many seasons of The Simpsons until a spark was added to the tinder not too long ago. That spark took hold and made a flame. That flame flitters and spurts but never goes out. It grows and consumes. Fuel is added to the flame to hopefully become a conflagration.

  8. February 24, 2010 10:17 am

    I’ve always written too, but my 5th grade teacher noticed my love of poetry and recommended Langston Hughes’ “The Dream Keeper.” From then on, I was pretty much hooked. I have the bad teenage poetry to prove it! 🙂

    I think my love of writing, reading, and words really stems from my parents, particularly my mother. When I was younger, she was always reading a novel, a magazine, a story. She never deemed a novel “too mature” for me and, consequently, I devoured books from a very young age. I was constantly making up stories and scrawling them into notebooks or acting out imaginative scenarios the were dramaticallystaged in my backyard. In college, I majored in English with a concentration in writing, and now I’m anxiously awaiting replies from MFA in creative writin fiction programs. In the meantime, I’m taking a writing workshop class and still reading anything and everything…

    So I guess teachers and parents have helped, but, honestly, my love of words has always been there. In a way, it’s been the only constant in my entire life.

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