I grew up in a small suburb in Sydney, Australia, near a river, with my younger brother and sister and a small tribe of lost and found cats. I had an ideal childhood for a writer—roaming the streets, the bush and the mudflats, with plenty of opportunities for daydreaming and adventure. When I wasn’t roving the neighborhood, I could often be found up a jacaranda tree, hunkered down with a book, collecting other worlds, people and places. I loved the way books could give voice to unsaid things, all the ways made-up stories could tell me something real and true.
When I wasn’t reading stories, I was making them up. I spent long hours pretending to be a mermaid in my backyard swimming pool. I could often be found watching a Spanish flotilla sail up the river on a windswept Saturday afternoon, the blur of footie on the radio, waiting for the moment when I could sweep up my crinoline skirt and run down to the dock and stowaway.
I spent many absorbing months pretending I was the last human on earth. I can remember walking to the bus stop, my hand hovering over my trusty invisible laser gun, which was conveniently located in the pocket of my school uniform. I’d stare at Terry, my local bus driver with a fixed, determined gaze. I’d take in the squat mole on his cheek that moved up and down like a little snail shell whenever he wrinkled his nose and I’d know without doubt that he was the leader from Lorg, the big one, the boss of that grey planet from another galaxy. And I’d know, being the last human left on earth, it would be up to me to save the world from certain ruin, to reveal Terry, in all of his green, slimy finery, before the last bus home. No doubt Terry thought I was some weird kid. But in the main, he was too busy dealing with all the naughty boys on the back seat of the bus, half of them busy engraving their names on the seats in front, to ever have a spare moment to shout at me, ‘Will you quit that gawking!’ Even though he spent more time looking in his rear vision mirror, than he ever did looking at the road.
When I wasn’t worrying about Terry though, I had niggling doubts about my mum. I lingered each morning at the breakfast table, waiting for a large alien to come popping out of her body like a giant seed from a pod. Of course, my mother knew nothing about any of this. She just munched her avocado toast and thought I was gazing at her adoringly. All of this pretending though, gave me an astonishing glimpse into the way telling a story, even a secret one, could charge the everyday with grandeur and excitement!
Having said this, it didn’t always work out so well. When I convinced my brother and sister that Dracula and Frankenstein lived behind the green door at the bottom of our rumpus room stairs, they believed me for all of two minutes. Not long after this though, I developed a morbid fear of green doors and could not sleep without the hall light on for the next ten years. And so I learnt early and somewhat accidentally, about the incredible power of telling stories; the way they change how we feel, think, believe, act and sleep!
To become a writer though requires more than a wild imagination. I think what really stirred me to persevere was the intensity of my love for reading as a child. All the memories I carried about the wondrous capacity books had to make room, to open up vistas, to be a portal, a home and a haven.
Nowadays, I continue to live and write in Sydney, with my husband and my family and one woolly dog, not far from the river of my childhood. I still like to linger at the breakfast table, but these days under the quietly hopeful gaze of my three delightful boys!