Writing led to my husband and I meeting one another; it was a crucial element of our courtship, and now 30+ years later it is still a vital part of our lives together. In 1981, the author of two children’s books (both with Penguin), I applied for funding from the Literature Board of the Australia Council to run a poetry reading during the Campbelltown Fisher’s Ghost Festival. Part of the funding agreement was that half of the invited poets should be from the local area. Someone told me about a quiet, unassuming man who wrote hilarious poetry so I followed the lead. On the program were poets of the calibre of Nancy Keesing, John Forbes,
Mansell, Geoffrey Lehmann, Susan Hampton and Max Williams but
the audience favourite on the day was that local, Bill
A short time later
joined the South-West regional Fellowship of Australian Writers of which I was
the founding-President: soon he was elected Secretary and we worked hard to
raise the profile of writing in the Macarthur region.
For years Bill had written plays,
poetry and short stories while working as a shift-worker in a milk factory: a
few of his stories had been published in a greyhound racing magazine. My
background was in journalism and teaching: I’d been seconded from the latter
for a short period to work on editorial team of the NSW Department of Education
In between working full-time at our respective jobs, and over a period of about six months Bill and I co-wrote a collection of children’s plays which eventually was published under the title Madcap Café and Other Humorous Plays. Although long out of print, we still continue to receive occasional
CAL payments and requests from teachers for
permission to stage plays from the book. We also co-wrote a children’s action
novel, The Slacky Flat Gang, also
published and now out of print.
After ten years as a labourer, and at my urging,
Bill quit his factory job with the aim of becoming a
full-time writer while supplementing his income with part-time journalism at a
provincial newspaper. However he was immediately offered a full-time job at the
paper, quite remarkable considering he had left school in his Intermediate
Certificate year. Meanwhile, I was doing as I had done for many years –
freelance writing and working at a variety of part-time jobs including schools’
performer, writing teacher, bookseller, journalist and advertising sales’ rep
for a newspaper. I was fortunate on four separate occasions to also receive grants
and fellowships for the Literature Board, all of which allowed me to write
full-time and to produce many books for young people. I’m quite sure that
without the Board’s funding I would have given up writing and gone back to
A fantastic change occurred to us and to all (mainly) children’s authors in 2000 when the Federal Government introduced Educational Lending Rights, a payment scheme to compensate authors for books held in educational libraries. This annual payment combined with our annual PLR payments, meant that Bill and I can both work from home as full-time writers without having to undertake part-time work. We have also been able to cease commissioned work (mostly from educational publishers) and instead focus on what really want to write. In 2002, Bill’s YA novel Dogs (Hodder Headline) was awarded the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Honour Book for the Year for Older Readers and a year later his second YA novel No Worries (University of Queensland Press) also won CBCA Honour Book of the Year. The crowning prize for Bill working in YA books was in 2010 when he won the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards for Confessions of a Liar, Thief and Failed Sex God.
Meanwhile, I have had the time and freedom to finish two YA novels (Crossing the Line, Ford Street) and The Girl in the Basement, a verse novel (Nobody’s Boy, Celepene Press, 2012), compile an Australian children’s poetry anthology (Our Home is Dirt by Sea, Walker Books, 2012), and work on a number of non-fiction children’s books (published by Cambridge University Press and Hinkler).
How is it working with another writer in the same house twenty four seven? Wonderful!
I each have our own offices, mine downstairs, his upstairs. Normally we are in
front of our respective computers by 9 am, although I often start very early in
the morning, my preferred working time. We meet for lunch and generally finish around
, but often we will work
at night. Usually when one has finished a major writing project, the other will
read and offer constructive criticism; sometimes we will thrash out ideas for
new stories or scenes in books. Once a week we hold a weekly writing workshop
in our home with other local children’s writers. This is our life: we are truly