Welcome to my website. It has been a long time coming, and I’ve finally relented to joining the e-universe. I’d not put much thought into how I’d like my e-identity to be e-presented, but I suppose this section of my website is titled “about” so I’ll do a brief writing-life biography.
I’ve always wanted to write. At seven I was channeling Enid Blyton and writing a five-find-outer novel. And at 15 I was desperate to be a ‘Lois Lane ‘ reporter. My school principal advised my mother that I should leave school – I think the principal was very relieved to see me leave – find a job, learn about the world and write about it.
So in 1954 (can’t believe I’ve lived so long) I hawked my brown paper covered essay book to the newspapers of the time –The Age, Argus, the Herald and the Sun – and I landed myself a job at Woman’s Day, one of the Herald’s fleet of magazines as a junior. (I could type and do shorthand.)
My starting pay was 3 guineas; 3 pounds and 3 shillings. I quickly learnt I could also earn this amount by writing freelance articles for the Young Sun. I spent my extra pay on a second hand typewriter which cost 40 pound and of course the clothes and shoes which I lay-byed.
I continued my education at night school. I had a wonderful exciting time working at the magazine. There were no challenges in the 50s – you just made mistakes you had to fix quickly.
I was mentored and immersed in writing of all kinds at the Herald. My last assignment for the magazine was when I went to interview Hayes Gordon who was the star of the musical Kismet playing at the Princess Theatre. I was a 17 year-old Lois Lane in my handmade grey nip-waisted suit (my grandmother was a bespoke tailor), high-heeled patent leather shoes and of course the hat bought from Collins Street, gloves, notebook and pencil. And I had my own photographer! Hayes Gordon (famous actor) gave me my article heading ‘Beard Sheared’.
After two years at Woman’s Day I was offered a position on the Herald Social pages. I thought about it during the holiday break and decided I wasn’t cut out for a life-time of writing ‘the bride carried lilies and looked regal in ivory satin The bridesmaids were wearing apricot tulle and carried bunches of violets’. (General reporting at this time was not accepted for women. It was considered too dangerous without superman nearby.)
So I walked up to the Education office in the Treasury building and enrolled to go to Melbourne Teachers’ College. Madeline Albright, first woman to be US Secretary of State, says women live their lives in segments and looking back this is how my life has worked out.
I never picked up my writing career for 30 years. I was an RAAF officer’s wife (this is now an accepted label i.e. Duchess of Cambridge having married Prince William is labeled as a RAF officer’s wife). I was married to a test pilot, mother of four children and we lived in 28 houses in 3 different countries. When my husband left the RAAF I’d resumed my studies and teaching career as a primary teacher, teacher-librarian and educational consultant.
When my chicks had flown the roost – for the first time –I decided it was now or never to pick up my writing career.
In my 50s I left my 20-year old career as teacher-librarian and started writing – but with no ambition to write a novel. I was passionate about writing easy-to-access, accurate and attractive information books for children.
I’d written about five children’s novels while I was teaching and Macmillan commissioned me to write an 8-volume encyclopedia plus index to give young readers an absolute overview of topics with minimum text.
The encyclopedia was a huge success and so began my tally of 100 non-fiction books for children. (At this time I was doing old-fashioned research with a pen and paper, moving across libraries to get access to reference books. In1994 the net had just arrived with limited access, in 1998 Google appeared and in 2001 Wikipedia.)
It was when my husband and I made a sea change I took the leap into writing my first adult novel – The Shelly Beach Writers’ Group. I loved writing and escaping to Shelly Beach.