An Author’s Life

Tomorrow I’m heading into RMIT to talk about “my brilliant career” to students studying YA and Children’s Literature with Simmone Howell. When I started making notes for the session, I realised that 20 years ago, in 1996, I was a student at RMIT studying in the exact same course  – Professional Writing and Editing. Back then, I never doubted that I’d eventually carve out a career for myself as a writer.

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My 20 year apprenticeship

My father was a professional sculptor who made a living from his art. He always said that if you want a career in any area of the arts you have to expect to serve a 20 year apprenticeship. So now I’m finally at the end of my apprenticeship. Although I’ve lectured at literally hundreds of other universities, festivals, schools and institutions there’s something about returning to RMIT that really brought this home.

I’ve learned a vast amount about writing and publishing in the past two decades but perhaps the most valuable thing I’ve learned is that writing well means taking nothing for granted. Not making assumptions and staying humble is important. What makes writing worth doing is it forces you to never stop learning. To stay engaged with the world and to keep your work relevant you have to keep setting yourself new challenges.

One challenge I didn’t take up this month was participating in Instagram’s #authorlifemonth. But I have been following YA author Lilli Wilkinson’s Instagram posts and it made me realise that sometimes I do take for granted what I’ve learned. I love Lilli’s snapshots of her writer’s life. Those little insights into how she balances writing with domestic life and the real world are so important when you’re starting out as a writer – or even when you’re decades in. They put everything into perspective.

Next week I’ll begin teaching writing every Wednesday night at the Faber Academy in Melbourne. There’s nothing like communicating what I’ve learned to new authors to make me reflect on what it means to live an author’s life. Lucky me.

Kirsty is an Australian author of books for children and young adults.

“Books are windows into other ways of being.”

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