Well, what an adventure that was! From Cairns and the sugar cane fields and glorious mountains and rain of the wet tropics, to the harshness of the savannah country, to Karumba on the Gulf of Carpentaria, to Cloncurry and Mt Isa and then across the wide open plains left by the ancient Eromanga Sea to the dinosaurs and roses of Richmond and lovely folk of Hughenden, to Charters Towers where my Nana met her hubby and married him, all the way back to the dry tropics and the bustle of Townsville. All in a little under three weeks.
Thank you, Queensland Writers Centre (QWC) for sending me on this epic tour through rain and storms and mountains and dust and plains so endless we could see the curve of the earth. Thank you most especially too to my dear friend Ivan who did all those long-distance drives, overtaking road trains up to 80 metres long, and grey nomads in their creeping caravans, with glee. He also took some stunning photos that will turn up in a future edition of the QWC magazine – Writing Queensland, featuring stories from the fabulous array of characters I met on my travels.
They say we are partly shaped by our environment, and these wild and beautiful places have moulded some unique and talented souls. It was a pleasure to meet a few of them and be a part of their writing lives.
I have been a member of QWC since 2002. Without them I would not have found a publisher for Thrill Seekers or have learnt so much about the craft of writing, and they continue to support me and other Queensland writers with fabulous opportunities such as this. They offer a range of services and support for writers at all stages of their writing lives. You can check them out and become a member here.
Highlights of the tour were many, but those that stand out now are the beautiful workshop room and big crowd in Atherton, the teeming rain and sugarcane fields of Innisfail – my ancestral home, lovely Tenielle in Georgetown who gave me a kinesiology treatment during our one on one workshop, meeting published author and Karumba local, Sylvia, who first arrived in this wild outstation in 1971 with three children in a caravan when the nearest drinking water was a three hour drive to Normanton, the unexpected beauty of the rock formations in Cloncurry, Porcupine Gorge, the warmth of my welcome in Hughenden (thank you to outstanding librarian and pillar of the community Mim), and coming full circle to familiar faces in Townsville.
In each workshop I wrote along with participants and now have a pile of scribbled stories about moments of joy, bad things that turned out to be good things, and hard times in my life transformed into fairy tales with satisfyingly magical endings. Here’s one of my favourites: a moment of joy in Normanton.
The Norman River, wide and milky green, swayed the pontoon under my feet. I spread my arms wide, the cool morning air tempering the heat of the sun rapidly rising, soft and warm on my skin. Across the way campers sat on the banks with cups up tea but I felt alone with this wild world, the scent of salt and grass, rich and clean.
I breathed deep filling my body with the energy of this place. I thanked the people of this land, who’d loved it and kept it holy for so long. Birds called and my breath drew deep.
Later, as I waited outside the hall, an old, very black man in a cowboy hat and nylon picture shirt walked by. I smiled and said, “Good morning.”
He smiled back, his teeth white-yellow in his shining face. “You are welcome here,” he said, and my heart swelled. I was welcome. Welcomed by someone whose home this was, who had roots deeper than the oldest trees, connected to place.
“Thank you, Uncle,” I said. And my day was already perfect.
With thanks and respect to all the traditional owners of the places we visited, the Indigenous nations of far north and far west Queensland.
If you like the photos here, check out my Instagram account for lots more (I went a bit snap happy).
A great big hello to my new writing friends from my travels.
Write like furies people! Set that timer and go go go!
With lots of love,