Growing up, my heroes were fish-out-of water girls with a propensity for getting into trouble and slaying dragons.
How exciting to be the spitting image of The Terribly Plain Princess (author Pamela Oldfield), who fought dragons and saved a prince. Then L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables revealed a little girl with bright red hair like me, who also fell into trouble on a daily basis: albeit on Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, an island far from my family’s outback sheep and cattle station in Australia.
I shared Anne’s beloved ‘scope for the imagination.’ My parents encouraged mine through bush yarns, playing mostly outdoors, and bags of library books which arrived on the weekly mail plane. At one stage, Mum sacrificed her town library book order to keep up with the demand.
Anne and I grew up writing naturally. But outback Edwardian fringe rebel, Sybylla Melvin, the bush governess with fire-stung heart and tongue, and stories to tell, inflamed my teenaged literary passion. After watching Gillian Armstrong’s feature film adaptation of Miles Franklin’s My Brilliant Career at the Broken Hill drive-in at age seven, it was a pleasure to discover the originating novel years later.
Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin. What a writer’s name, all those delicious esses[sic]. I practised my flamboyant autograph in case anybody should ever need it, with visions of one day folding my novel manuscript in a Romantic brown paper parcel, tying it with string, and posting it off in the sunset to a city publisher.
I fantasised my way through a series of teenaged crushes, despite my ardent feminism and aspirations to become an Oscar-winning actor, a writer, and Australia’s first female prime minister. Sybylla’s determination to publish her book, even at the cost of True Love, and its sequel, My Career Goes Bung, offered an equally spirited parallel, even if I was yet to discover that such a battle of the heart existed.
Sybylla foreswore the temptations of Mr Almost-Right, to follow her vocation. ‘Field research’ revealed that I too would let no man come between me and my writing. Not for love. Not for anything.
But Anne gives me heart.
c. Kylie Lawrence 2010