Last week I had the pleasure of attending the last assembly of the term at Camdenville Public School in Newtown. On the invitation of Principal Sue Smith – a fellow lover of fantasy literature – I had the honour of presenting prizes to the winners and runners-up of the school’s annual creative writing competition. It was such a joy to visit, and to have an opportunity, not only to congratulate the best writers of 2015, but also to address an assembly of students from K-6, along with staff and parents.
As well as introducing my own work to the students of Camdenville, it was wonderful to have the chance to reflect upon what it takes to be a writer, and I suggested to the school that persistence, discipline and diligence are just as important values as creativity.
In many respects, my own journey as a writer began thanks to a competition in Year Six, the sadly now defunct “Write Around Australia”. As I prepared my speech for Camdenville, I came across this wonderful article about that competition from the pen of Judith Ridge. It seems I was far from the only writer to have received an imprimatur from “Write Around Australia” at a formative young age.
Of course, the value of such competitions is not in the winning, but in the encouragement offered to young writers. Not only to the winners, but to everyone who enters. Thanks to my own small victory in “Write Around Australia”, I had the opportunity to attend a writing masterclass with Diana Kidd, and it was there I realised, perhaps for the first time clearly, that writing was not only a “real job”, but something I could do myself. I hope I was similarly able to encourage the writers of Camdenville. They were certainly a bright and engaging group of storytellers, keen to share their ideas with me, and with each other.
Perhaps one day some will look back on this moment as one where the possibilities of writing as a passion for life opened up before them. And perhaps one day I will be reading their novels too.