THE BEGINNING OF MY SECOND SPRINGTIME
I was familiar with being a mature aged student and had found it an exhilarating experience, but postgraduate study? I’d toyed with the idea but never seriously given it much thought. My play Here Today, Gone Tomorrow had been produced and I was happily writing a story based on my father’s life about a boy, a great-hearted German Grossmutter and a man caught between two worlds.
The reason we take a different pathway in life can hinge on such trivial things as a word, a phrase in a book or even what a writing friend suggests to you. My foray back into university life began with a brief notice in The Victorian Writers magazine.
Are you a budding novelist?
A blooming poet? Or simply ready for your own springtime?
We can help you grow…
In the Masters of Creative Writing you will develop your editing and writing skills while working with an enthusiastic group of students of all ages in workshops: expand your ideas through stimulating reading and discussion: meet literary agents, publishers and editors: and develop your manuscript on a one-to-one basis with a supervisor.
How could I resist? For years I’d been working on ‘The Book’ and was starting to go in circles. Feedback was definitely needed. My Mordialloc Writers’ Group, organised and run by Mairi Neil were a very supportive bunch of people but I didn’t think I should forever bludgeon them with the trials, tribulations and triumphs of Franki and Grossmutter. They needed a break. I was passionate about the story. I’d gone too far to simply put it into the bottom drawer. Many times, in frustration I’d turned my back and immersed myself in other writing endeavours but something always pulled me back. An incident of racial prejudice, a snippet of German/Australian history or the memories and stories of elderly people who lived through those times. Before I knew it I was up to my ears in research…again. So why not go back to formal study? Melbourne University beckoned and I could not resist.
Two referees. I needed two referees. Who could I ask to recommend me? Who was going to do that? Ray Mooney, that kind-hearted, enthusiastic motivator/lecturer from Holmesglen TAFE. He wouldn’t refuse and old pupil. Liam Davison, at the time was Program Co-ordinator of Chisholm TAFE. Would he remember me? Liam was a brilliant author who supported his students. I grieved for him when he lost his life on Malaysian flight MH17 over Ukraine, which killed all 298 people on board. I wanted to shout out loud what a fine person he was and how grateful I was for his support. Both writers generously gave up precious time and energy to help me achieve my dreams.
Online application completed. Project outline. Sample of novel. Synopsis. Character outline. Anything I’d forgotten? My hand shook when I made the appointment at Melbourne University. Would they accept me?
In the train rattling towards enrolment, I studied a map of the campus. Nothing was familiar. Names leapt out: Economics, Education, Engineering. At last I saw Studies in Creative Arts. At least I knew which building. Checking my folder, I reread what I wanted to do, to achieve. Themes I wanted to explore.
The Old Arts building is a well-hidden gem surrounded by the façade of more recent buildings. Inside, passages branch off in all directions. Which to take? Like Alice in Wonderland I was soon lost and believed the stories of the ghosts of lost academics wandering those corridors still trying to find their way out. People noticed my bewildered expression, took pity on me and pointed me in the right direction.
Enrolment followed, then payment of fees and photographs taken. The student card was my ticket into an exciting world. It was time to take stock of my new writing home.
Beautiful old buildings, vaulted archways, vigorous green grass, sheltering trees, birds happily chirping and a young student frantically lighting a cigarette and drawing the smoke deep into his lungs. I’m a non-smoker, but my tongue was hanging out for a shot of caffeine. If only a café would present itself. Retreating to The Loft study area away from a multitude of students, I felt raw and new. Everything was an acronym. UMPA, SCAR, UNIMELB. Would I ever get the hang of it and actually know what I was saying? I discovered a café called The Deep Dish and retreated to settle my feathers.
Peak hour in Melbourne and the platform was crammed with leg-weary workers. The express train had already travelled around the city link and was packed to overflowing. I moved further down the train, resigned to strap hang for the next hour. Several passengers squeezed up to make a precious space. Precariously perched and clutching my pull – along case my belly churned when I thought of the classes ahead. Could I cope? Would I be able to produce interesting, entertaining stories or would the words lie dead on the page? Ideas began to bubble and boil in my brain. Completely out of my comfort zone, I kept telling myself that’s what life is all about. New challenges are an integral part of the writing journey. I just had to convince myself that I could handle what the course threw at me.
I may not have handled it well, or correctly, or gracefully, or with finesse, but I did successfully complete the Masters of Creative Writing by Coursework and Minor Thesis at Melbourne University and revelled in the joy of learning. It also became my launching pad into a PhD scholarship at Swinburne University.
The completed novel, Pickle to Pie was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, won the Ilura Press International Fiction Quest and was launched by Ilura Press at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival.