Keynote 3 – Rosemary McLeod - Why write?
Talking about her personal journey – what made her write. An only child. She begins with a studio portrait photo of herself aged 4. The dress with the little puffed sleeves reminds me of a photo of me presenting flowers to the Governor-General at Sunday School. Both dresses were blue and both of us look angelic… McLeod talks about the ‘deceptive face’ we present to the world.
Rosemary’s parents’ marriage didn’t last, she says that coming from a “broken home” meant things were difficult. She went to boarding school at age 8, which she describes as “Lord of the Flies in frocks”. The matron said she was cheeky and impertinent and the school told her mother they intended to “break her spirit”. Every book they brought to school had to be personally inspected and initialled by the Headmistress.
She talks about her dad’s books, he was fascinated with reading about the war from the ‘other side’ – The Cruise of the Raider Wolf (WWI) and I Flew for the Fuhrer, and his other favourite book was All Quiet on the Western Front. Her father usually communicated via books he had read. She describes both her parents as ‘contrary thinkers’.
Her family were ‘religious’ from different denominations – Methodist and Presbyterian, and her grandmother was what McLeod now sees as a paradox: a devout Anglican. [Big laugh, probably from those of us who are Anglicans in the audience!] She says boarding school ‘cured’ her of religion but she doesn’t like to take cheap shots at it.
The first book she read which made her think she could write one herself was by Charlotte Bingham - Coronet Among the Weeds. What appealed to her was the conversational tone and the way the author dared to say what she really thought. She remarks that when she wrote her first book her father was disappointed – he had hoped she would get a nice job in a bank.
Other influences – poetry of the beat generation. William Carlos Williams, and then Tom Wolfe, The New Journalism.
Tip to young columnists – don’t write about your own family – will cause too many arguments at the dinner table, possibly divorce, more likely you will stop writing the column.
So why write? She writes to make a living and “because I didn’t have the good sense to train for anything else.”
She fears for the future – the fragmentation of society. We’ll all have our own kind of TV channel – the more access we have to these types of technology, paradoxically, the more limited we become.