Long Way Home writers Stephanie Haines, Tommy Welham, Jackie Samms and Nadia Smith in conversation with Claire Aman at Grafton Library, April 24.
Mr Curley (not the Leunig one), was a round man in a pinstripe suit, a grey tuft sticking out on each side of his head like a koala. My friend remembers him as a teacher who’d come up behind you and whack you between the shoulder blades for talking. Or a drop of spit would land on your exercise book when he leaned over your desk, and he’d solemnly dab it away with a hanky. But I remember him for reading my story aloud to the class. I forget what the story was about, but I haven’t forgotten the thought that dawned: there was something I could do. I could write. Thank you Mr Curley, thank you.
I’m not the only one. Lots of us loved writing at school. Is this you? If it is, you need to get started again as a writer. All you have to do is buy a notebook, sit down, and write sentences about what preoccupies you until you have a story. It doesn’t matter how long it takes. My first serious attempt at writing took twenty years. It was set in the old Halfway Creek Roadhouse, the one with fairy lights. That shows how long ago I started. It finally got published in a book, Bird Country, along with a whole lot of other short stories I wrote in the meantime.
There are creative writing courses at universities. They are probably excellent, but we should never leave storytelling to the experts. We can become experts by reading often, by doing the odd workshop, but most of all by sitting down writing. Give it attention.
The Clarence Valley breeds writers. Look in the library. Gillian Mears was a brilliant writer. Nobody will ever write like she did. Miles Franklin winner Brenda Walker was born here. So was the poet Geoff Page. Yamba’s Peter Watt has written 28 books. Henry Kendall lived in Grafton for a while. Bridie Jabour is a local.
Don’t fail your imagination. It lets us dress up and dance in ways we wouldn’t try as ourselves. Writing moves us, it says the unsayable. I hope teachers are still giving out the Mr Curley gift of encouragement.