Bronwyn Houldsworth - An Australian Author Addicted to Books
Ask any author, and they’ll confirm that yes, they’re addicted to books. This Australian author is no exception. I learned to read aged five, and promptly applied for a library card. In a quiet town on the outskirts of Sydney, there wasn’t much else to do but read, though I tried, really tried, to be sociable and play with my friends. They complained that all I wanted to do was read their books.
Because we could borrow just two books at a time, I was known as the girly swot who, in school holidays, visited the library at least twice a day. There were magazines kept there, too. I loved Vogue for the fashion. Goodness knows why I was attracted to Popular Mechanics.
Blessed with five sets of uncles and aunts and three grandparents, I received books, books and more books as gifts. I wasn’t a snob. I loved comics as well. My father often brought home stacks of them. I read them all, and became addicted to Katy Keene comics. They combined two loves, fashion and stories.
At school, my favourite subject was English. At primary school I won an essay competition about Anzac Day. It was printed in the local newspaper. I still have the (now tarnished) cup that commemorated my win. This success led to vague thoughts about becoming a writer. Like so many other girls, I loved Jo March in Little Women. Jo was a writer. Perhaps I could be, too.
It didn’t happen. I finished high school, spent a year at secretarial college, then went to work in Sydney. Each day I travelled from my town to the city. Long days, but being addicted to books had its advantages. As the trains ate up the miles, I devoured novels, biographies, stories from history. Work was pleasant enough, but I wanted more. If it had to be in an office, I wanted something more exciting than a food importer’s. Reading books took me to other places in my mind, but I wanted my own adventures.
So I joined the Royal Australian Navy. As a writer. Alas, not that sort of writer. Just a glorified secretary/clerk, moving in a triangle between Westernport/Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney. Nowhere I hadn’t already lived or visited. But I have the Navy to thank for turning me into a rabid feminist. The inequality we females suffered in comparison with males was huge. And when I married my sailor husband, it was I who had to “pay off” on the day of the marriage.
I continued to work as a secretary as we moved around. Back in Canberra a few years later, two sons in tow, I kept on with the secretarial work and also obtained, studying part time, a BA from the University of Canberra. By now ensconced in the Australian Public Service, I moved to the administrative side of things. I was promoted to deputy head of the Women’s Unit, which satisfied my feminist side, but there was little opportunity for creativity in the switch from university essays to policy and ministerial briefing papers.
Then I collapsed with a serious illness. Gradually, health returning, I immersed myself in genealogical records and old newspapers in the National Library of Australia. The stories I uncovered fired my imagination. In Sydney, I attended the first conference of the Romance Writers of Australia. I’d found my tribe! Back in the public service, even though now in the Arts section, my creative streak still wasn’t satisfied. I resigned.
My husband, a photographer, also left the Public Service. We set up a press photography business. For several years we’d combined our talents to produce history and travel pieces for Australian magazines and newspapers, and continued to do so. Some of our work was for the Australian Heritage Commission, documenting old buildings. These were our favourite assignments. After we dissolved the business and moved to our farm in Northern New South Wales, we continued with some Heritage work. On the farm we grew bush tucker, beef cattle, and race horses. I worked part time in a museum, in an Australian town where life was very like it had been in the town where I grew up. I was still addicted to books but, alas, the local library was seriously lacking. However, I’d accumulated lots of ideas for stories. It was time (at last!) to start paying serious attention to my fiction writing.
We left the farm, and moved further north to the Gold Coast. I felt like I’d come home when I found the wonderful Hearts of Gold (HOGs) writing group via the Romance Writers of Australia. I discovered I wasn’t the only one in the group addicted to books. We all were! I continued to produce short stories. One was included in an RWA anthology. Another finalled in a national short story competition and was published on the internet. A few years ago, with support from the HOGs, I wrote my historical romance, The Heart Has Its Reasons. At last I could call myself a novelist! And now, aimed at young teenagers, I’ve a fantasy adventure story in development.