Words have opened many doors since my childhood in the dusty back-blocks of Queensland.

Ever since I first glimpsed their lovely shimmer and dance across the page, I have been entranced by the stories they weave, and lost in the worlds they create.

While my brothers were off ploughing the back paddock, I was poling down the Mississippi with Huck Finn, or shivering in the Yukon with White Fang.

Now, while my children are off living their own lives, I’m escaping into worlds of my own creation.

My best days speed past, caught in the thrall. Sometimes, I am so lost in a story, that the press of a hand on  my shoulder spins me round, startled and disoriented. What are you doing here? What’s wrong? Why aren’t you at school? My children roll their eyes. It’s past three in the afternoon and I’ve missed lunch. Again.

My worst days are a struggle, fighting with words, unruly and stubborn. Sometimes, I curse them for refusing to do my bidding. They stare back at me from the page, charmless and sullen. Daring me to murder my darlings. And with pleasure, I do….

But for the most part, there is a bubbling contentment in creating and polishing, and yes, in the sharp thrill of selling.

In a guilty corner of my heart I know that I am too vain for vanity publishing. I want someone else to believe in my story, enough to take the risk, to buy it a fancy jacket and send it out into the world to find new admirers.

And when this too comes to pass, I discover a fierce new pleasure, in meeting these friends of my books. These people to whom I owe a deep and abiding gratitude.

I discover they have stories of their own. They are writers and readers, librarians and children, parents and teenagers, grandparents and booksellers – they are, one and all, lovers of the written word.

Sometimes they invite me to visit and speak, to share my writing story. And sometimes they do something beautiful. They tell me their stories.

Last week, I visited Townsville for the first time in nearly thirty years. I walked the Strand, my gaze drawn like iron filings to Magnetic Island. I crossed the water to Maggie Island State School, one of many that I visited as part of the Townsville Literary Festival’s Queensland Week celebrations.

I spoke to almost a thousand people from more than forty schools across North Queensland.

If you hover your mouse over the pictures in this post, you’ll see glimpses of my week.

There’s the school windmill that powers Hermit Park’s aquaponics program, its barramundi breeding tank and hydroponic tomatoes.

There are vines planted by children as butterfly habitat for the Cairns Bird-wing and Ulysses Blue.

The netball court at Townsville Central State School can transport you back in time, with its outlines of cramped women’s prison cell walls still visible on the cement slab.

The week brought so many pleasures. Working with wonderful authors and illustators including Matt Condon, Alex Mitchell, Barbara Hannay, James Moloney, Kerry Brown and Lucia Masciullo, and meeting the charming and affable Boori Monty Pryor | Australian Children’s Laureate.

The warmth of Townsville and its people reminded me why I fell in love with the north all those years ago.

Thank you to Shan Boller and her wonderful team at Townsville Libraries for creating such a memorable festival. The pleasure, to be honest, has been all mine. :)

Comments
  1. Karen says:

    Beautiful, beautiful blog, Chris!

  2. Shan Boller says:

    The pleasure was all ours Chris. Your enthusiasm inspired us all, from the kids at the schools who listened to you talking about triple H, those who were inspired in your writing workshops and library staff, thanks for sharing your stories with us. You are welcome in North Queensland any day of the week. :) Shan

  3. What a beautiful post Chris. It all began in Townsville for me, quite literally; I was born there. Your post conjured up warm images of old fashioned school ports, baulking at the ‘waves’ off Magnetic Island (very scary when you’re only 3), and paws paws growing right outside my bedroom window, picked fresh for breakfast…So glad you were able to reacquaint with your love there, and for writing.

  4. chrisbongers says:

    Dimity, I love your old home town. So many wonderful people, and don’t get me started on the weather…I’ve been freezing since I got back to Brisbane!

  5. Really enjoyed your post, Chris. It brought so many memories back for one of my watering holes too – Magnetic Island was a place my sisters and I holidayed once too. What a wonderful trip you had visiting all those schools. Well done, Shan for organising it!

    PS Your words on writing rang so true – aren’t we lucky to have found our calling (eventually). Imagine life without storytelling. :)

    Sheryl x

  6. chrisbongers says:

    Sheryl, we might have come to it late, but writing will keep us happy till we’re old and dotty!

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