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Let it all pour out: turning experiences into literary magic

The inspirational force to write your first work is as individual as each writer, and with Fiona Johnson, Steve Bisley and Hanabeth Luke, there was no shortage of inspiration to go around.

Australian film and television actor and author of the colourful Australian larrikin story, Stillways, Bisley captivated the audience with recounts of a lively childhood growing up on the family farm during the sixties. The lyrical nature of his writing entranced the crowd in the marquee.

Bisley spoke of his journey from actor to author and of the moment he decided to tell his story.

“My job was blowing life into other people’s stories,” he said. “I thought, I’ve got a story I think I want to tell.”

On the writing process, he said it was “indelibly” inside him.

“It tumbled out of me.”

Such a drive to give life to his story was evident in his expression, his memories vivid and eloquent.

The Bali bombings holds memories for many but not quite as vivid perhaps as those of Hannabeth Luke, known as the Angel of Bali, a Bali bomb survivor.  She is also the author of Shock Waves, a heart wrenching account of Luke’s life before and after the Bali bombings of 2002 and the tragic loss of boyfriend, Marc Gajardo.

“The reason that I wrote it, was for me,” says Luke of her motivations leading up to the release of her memoir.

“I wrote this for myself, as a healing process.”

Her powerful journey from despair to author was one of sheer discipline. She described the writing process as the “most disciplined I’ve ever been.”

Shock Waves was the result of 6-8 hours of daily persistence during the writing process.  A truly moving account, Luke’s memoir invites us into her terrifying and heartfelt memories.

The journey through cancer and illness is far too familiar to many, and this trying process was a reality for Fiona Johnson. The author and rodeo star recounted her battle with leukaemia at the age of 25 in her memoir, My Wild Ride.

Johnson originally wrote it as a journal, with no plans for it to be published. Once she began, the story of her struggles and realisations as a cancer patient spilled out onto page.

“I never pictured myself as a writer,” she confessed. “It just happened.”

Her heartfelt account brought emotions to the forefront, the festival audience hanging on her every word. Her suggestion that “You don’t need to know how something finishes, to start it” was an eye-opener for those who shared this inspirational experience.

It was unanimous amongst the panel that unique life experiences were the driving force behind their demand to put pen to paper, and that the voicing of their lives was a method of therapy, development and closure. Memory is the diary we all carry around with us, and the panellists’  expression of memory was an absolute delight to both the audience today and to their avid readers worldwide.

Ashley Colhoun is a creative writing student at Southern Cross University.

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