My journey from a kid who “needs constant practice in reading and story writing” to now write and publish books.
I started life from very humble beginnings. We spent some time living in a caravan, tent and cottage until we eventually built a house, literally with our own bare hands from concrete, rocks, recycled timber and other materials my dad collected at the scrapyard or demolition sites. Any childhood friends reading this blog know that we eventually created a beautifully unique, if not alternative, home.
I loved the sense of adventure and resourcefulness of my childhood. And these are two values that hold firm in me to this day.
However, there were tough times. Financially, we could not always afford educational resources. In year one, the teacher frequently wouldn’t involve me in the class activities as I didn’t have my own pencils. And I shielded my parents from this by not telling them, as I knew they were struggling financially, and I didn’t want to put more pressure on them.
So, our financial hardship and moving meant that my preschool and first two years of schooling were incredibly lacking, and there was little time for reading or learning together at home.
As a consequence, I had to repeat year two and never learnt my times tables. Nor did I ever become all that masterful at spelling. Even to this day, I can get confused and misspell words when I am writing at high speed or under pressure, such as writing on a whiteboard or signing a book.
However, I learned to be resourceful, to work hard and apply my imagination to solve a problem.
Learning through understanding
When it dawned on my parents that I was not learning at school, they took my sister and I out of school and home-schooled us for one year while we travelled the east coast of Australia.
I flourished that year.
I flourished as I could apply my learning to real-life situations and I could learn outdoors.
When I returned to school the following year, to year 4, I was proficient at reading and mathematics. I began to understand the application of what we were being taught. Learning at school became less rote and more about how to apply skills. I thrived at school, and my grades reflected this. I went on to win a writing competition and become the school captain of my primary school.
Reading to understand why
I was never much of a reader—I was slow (and still am).
Unlike me, my sister was an avid reader. She could read books fast and enjoyed spending her weekend in her pyjamas with a book. There were times where I had to read a book for English class, and I would ask her to read it for me. And she did. I actually can’t remember reading many fictional books at all.
However, I loved going to the library. I loved being around books. I loved to flip through a book and think; a person thought the words that are now in my hands. I would often check out books that I never read but just wanted to be close to.
The books I read were the ‘how to’ variety: how to knit a jumper, how to breed mice, how long does a foal gestate (it was pre-Google!), how to make a topiary tree. I wanted to be the creator. It was, and still is, imagination and creativity that brought me joy.
Writing my first books
I even wrote some ‘books’. I wrote a few on our typewriter and bound them with string or staples, and stuck pictures in the spaces I had left.
Yet these were never shared. They were only ever for me and planted the seed that one day I wanted to write a book.
Wanting to write a book had been on my mind for many years. However, I got swept away with academia and work. I did write a lot of assignments, theses, scientific articles and reports. However, none of these truly tapped into that creative essence that I wanted to let out. For that, I tried painting and later art therapy classes.
Writing for joy
I suppose I got into the serious adulting phase of life and forgot about joy. I had thought that creating something purely for joy wasn’t a worthy pursuit.
It seemed like a more worthy pursuit to save the planet (I am a qualified environmental scientist) or promote good health (I then studied as a nutritionist).
However, although I am passionate about our health and the health of the planet, I have come to realise that I need to do something that fulfils me within, which is what writing enables me to do.
My first book, Joyful Eating: How to Break Free of Diets and Make Peace with Your Body, is a self-help book that explores why diets don’t work and how we can learn to listen to and trust our bodies and ourselves to nourish and care for ourselves.
Although it is a serious book that involved extensive research and reflection, it was the catalyst for my career as an author. I realised that it was not just the topic of the book that I was passionate about, but the process of writing and publishing a book.
Pursuing a career as an author
When I published, Joyful Eating, the idea for a novel came to me. I have always enjoyed fictional stories with life lessons and have thought there aren’t enough of them in the world—so why not write one? Why not write a fun, bedtime read version of Joyful Eating?
So, I slowly started to write a novel, without much idea of how to do so. Then while I was working on that, the idea for a children’s book came to me, which is intended to push against the constant pitting foods against one another (the constant search for the next superfood).
In both cases, I didn’t know if I was writing something that would be publishable. I wrote because the idea was there, and the process of writing brought me joy.
I didn’t realise it while I was writing. But I was discovering my passion and a new career direction, which has resulted in not only immersing myself in my work as an author but also now working for a publishing company, Shawline Publishing.
Oh, how life has changed.
Who could have ever imagined that the little girl who was not considered worthy of teaching because she lived in a caravan and couldn’t afford pencils would one day be writing and publishing books that would be shared with children and adults? I am overjoyed!