When the writing bug struck in 2007, it slowly dawned on me that writing was always a part of me. Returning from a two year posting in Singapore in the 80s, Mum presented me with a (very big) box of letters. I'd written to her every week. Sometimes twice.
A few years later I determined they had no value and turfed them out.
It would have been a perfect way to answer, "What would you say to your 16 year old self?" (or in this case 22 year old self).
As a diary writer, letter writer and keen photographer, it was a relief to find a purpose to it all when I began working as a freelancer. Everything fell into place. I wrote about it in The Australian.
But the most surprising thing is the feedback and fun of volunteering. As I thought we were moving this year (thankfully for me we're staying), I wrote this piece for the Star urging others to sieze this opportunity.
"When Ivor Johnson wrote me a reference for entry to a Professional Writing and Editing Diploma, he suggested I could start by writing for the New Woodend Star. It only seemed fair to oblige and return a favour, however the stories he wanted from me about local people were outside my headspace as I washed mashed banana from my clothes and wrangled toddlers.
Instead I gave The Star a short piece on snakes. That was followed by Ride-on Mowers and the Laundromat. This went on for about two and half years. What I’d found was a discipline where I’d committed myself to write a 300 word piece with a monthly deadline. Then I just ran out of words as the kids got older and other work took over.
As I haul out the packing cartons yet again, I reflect on the journey from begging editors five years ago, to sitting in a meeting with the editor of an International Travel magazine in Sydney last month discussing story ideas and travel options.
The hardest part is getting started and the best thing to begin with is a blog and a cv. The best way to get a cv is to get published … anywhere.
Over five years at uni, I was constantly amazed at how rarely, if ever, my fellow students got published. Nobody seemed to know where to start. Luckily, in Woodend, there is a perfect vehicle for that in The New Woodend Star and feedback is immediate, usually hollered across the frozen peas in the supermarket. People would say things like, “I thought that piece was hilarious but Mum couldn’t understand it all.” You can see the list under the ‘published’ link on www.kathymexted.com.au
I urge anybody who is starting a writing or journalism course to consider the commitment of a regular contribution. Keep it to about 300 words, make it locally focussed, and make it your own. So when you go for an interview you can include, “I’ve contributed a regular column to our local community publication for three years.”
The interviewer will note “meets deadlines, has motivation and initiative.”
Nobody ever asked to see what I’d written. Just noted that I’d done it.
On the last day of uni we presented our final assignment. A publishing project. Mine is a collection of the Woodend Star stories and others. It’s called Ride-on Mowers and other things to make you sing."