I was born on a small farm in central Africa and from the start mine was a life of roving and constant change with masses of different houses, addresses, schools… Many matchless experiences, yes, but inevitable disjuncture and displacement too. I wasn’t far into my adult life before I’d lived and worked on five continents and about twenty years ago I took the time to sit down and make a list of bonafide addresses – over sixty at that stage and there have been a stack more since then.
I wrote my first story when I was eight — and thanks to my mother who kept it along with her precious items in a red zip folder — I have it still. My first short story was published when I was twenty-one. It was called “The Kookaburra’s Laugh” – and I think I intended it as rather a romantic piece. It’s only in the deconstruction of this story decades later that I uncover both a yearning for the blue-blue skies of Perth (I was living in Johannesburg at the time) and an acute loneliness at its centre.
I freelanced while my children were young until I had enough published to knock on doors (literally). One of the first offices I targeted was the Diners Club in Johannesburg, where the house magazine Signature was edited by kind — and canny — Jack Fisch who suggested the best way to become an editor without qualifications or experience was to learn on the job by working for free. In the end he did pay me – not a lot – and in retrospect, he was right: What I learned was far more valuable than anything I might have earned. I adored the job, I loved working with words, and it gave me the entrée to the publishing world that I so desperately wanted. I went from there to work as sub-editor/feature writer for Elders Weekly back in Perth — another steep learning curve — and another job I enjoyed along with a journalistic background that stood me in good stead when the time came to put bread on my own table.
The frustrating year of unemployment I spent in Saudi Arabia in the 70s led to my first attempt at a novel: a handwritten, plot-centric manuscript with a rather unlikely terrorist theme — torrid stuff that fortunately didn’t survive the twists and turns of my life from then on. Perhaps it served its purpose by instilling in me a writing routine along with a steadying hand on my uncertain sense of self during a period when I lived in a place where the laws of the day left me status-less with any attempt to work outside the home threatened with deportation.
From Saudi to Hong Kong where initial freelancing led to an editing position with OFF DUTY — a military magazine that held top-spot as the premier journal for US troops for at least two decades. I worked there for over the next five years enjoying a series of rapid promotions from assistant editor to associate and finally managing editor with a fair amount of travel to US military bases in the Pacific thrown in. Another job it was hard to leave.
I spent the following year in New York — once again moonlighting and freelancing — before returning to Perth. This was the mid-80s when computerisation was making itself felt in the already struggling (always struggling?) publishing world. Once again, like many other journos at that time, I knocked on doors until I found a niche by setting up a publications department in a public relations firm. This was a particularly rocky time with children entering their teen years and a husband (not their father) ill with terminal cancer.
Over to the East for a year and then back to Perth where I managed to stay in one place long enough to fulfill another long-held dream — that of going to university – which led to a PhD followed by another career, this time in academia.
I now write full-time from our home in Salter Point. I’m extremely lucky to have a wonderful husband, two gorgeous children, a lovely extended family, an increasing number of grandchildren … and two rescue Chihuahuas who, along with most of their ilk, run the household. I’m interested in just about everything, but rather passionate about animals – see www.poopswa.org.au – and, of course, good writing.
I hate cruelty in any form and I dislike arrogance. Most of all, I treasure laughter — and being fortunate enough to have the opportunity to laugh.