JACKAROO
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My time as a jackaroo is best summed-up in the sub-title which Penguin has used on the back cover: Choirboy to Cowboy. It captures my wussy start to life - hopeless at sport - and being told by another boy's mother at boarding school that I wouldn't survive the year I was to spend as a jackaroo at Habbies Howe in northern Victoria. The initiation was excruciating; they nearly did kill me. For a while it just got worse.

Sixty per cent of my story is about my year at Habbies Howe. I then had a year in our relatives' woollen mills in Yorkshire. But after returning home and starting as a junior woolbuyer, I yearned to be back on my horse. I went to work first as a shedhand, then as a jackaroo at Mortlake (Vic), Augathella (Qld) and finally at Nareen (Vic). I hope you enjoy JACKAROO -- especially if you are, or once were, on the land.

I'm interested in why people attend book talks/signings. I think people attend for three reasons:

  1. To feast eyes on, and to know more about the strange individual who wrote the book;
  2. They enjoyed the book and want to hear and talk more about the story, and maybe (in this case) about their own jackaroo or jillaroo experiences;
  3. They are budding writers who want to talk about writing and being published.

The first point above is self-explanatory -- about being weird! The second, talking about the book, is something I'm doing in bookstores. If you can't attend an event, sign the guestbook or write an email. I try to reply to all who write.

On writing, I'd say that writing 91,000 words can be a daunting exercise. Don't be fazed. Begin by jotting down various story points, which might later become chapters, and then write out one of those topics. Take it bit by bit, section by section, bird by bird. More than anything, keep writing. If you're stuck for a topic, write about the time you broke your arm, finger or leg (everyone breaks some body part, sometime).

On getting published, don’t become dejected if it takes you a while to find the right publisher.

- Gone with the Wind got rejected 38 times
- Catch 22 started out as Catch 17, but the author Joseph Heller got rejected five times
- Harry Potter author JK Rowling apparently got rejected 19 times. Imagine how those 19 publishers feel now.

My advice to budding writers is this: it's a story about former British PM Winston Churchill. In 1941, at the height of World War II, he was invited back to Harrow, his old school, to speak to the boys. The whole town was decked out with flowers. The headmaster made a long-winded introduction speech. The great man stood up, walked to the lectern, looked out across the sea of schoolboys, paused, and said, “Never give in; never give in; never, never, never, never.” Then he sat down.

If you’re a writer, and you want your manuscript to be the one in 1,000 that gets published, never give in; keep revising, keep editing, most importantly, keep on writing.

I am very grateful to Penguin for publishing me.

I hope you enjoy JACKAROO: A Memoir.