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. I loved the way books could give voice to unsaid things, all the ways made-up stories could tell me something real and true about life.
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 imagining 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’d walk 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, that 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, to ever spare a moment to shout at me, ‘Will you quit that gawking!’
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 on her avocado toast and thought I was gazing at her because I loved her so much. 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 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 somewhat accidentally, about the incredible power of telling stories; the way stories can change how we feel, think, believe, act and in my case, how I slept!
To become a writer though requires more than a wild imagination. I think the thing that really stirred me to keep going was the intensity of my love for reading as a child. All the memories I carried about the wondrous capacity books had to open up vistas, and to act as portals.
Nowadays, I continue to live and write in Sydney, with my husband and my family, 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!