Isobelle Carmody wrote her first book at the age of 14, Obernewtyn is still listed in the Dymocks 101 books you must read and it was published in 1988. She was a guest of this year’s Perth Writer’s Festival and I could hardly contain my excitement! She’s an amazing writer, Australia’s very own queen of fantasy, and her first book had a huge impact on my reading life. It was the first time I was completely lost in a book and it ignited a passion for storytelling that has stuck with me for all these years.
I signed up for her 3 hour workshop titled The Power of Fantasy held on Saturday at the University of Western Australia. I swear for the first half hour of the class I sat there thinking: ‘Oh my God that’s Isobelle Carmody, oh my God, oh my God, she’s standing right in front of me’. Her story reached me in a way that no other could, it’s been years since she wrote it and years since I last read it but Obernewtyn is still so vivid in my imagination. It just proves how books can be ageless, it doesn’t matter when they are created, “When you look in them you see yourself it turns into your story, no matter who wrote it.”—Isobelle Carmody.
It was a bonus to spend 3 hours workshopping writing techniques and talking about the craft but I would have been content to just spend that time in her company. She spoke about how she became an author—she was the eldest of 7 siblings, left to babysit while her mother worked nights. These circumstances forced her to live inside her imagination, she used the power of storytelling to keep her brothers and sisters occupied, she learnt to understand her audience and what they responded to.
She told us about the inspiration behind her work and how she used her writing to learn about the world and find her place in it, it was never about getting published. She told us to never do anything in our lives unless we are going to do it with full passion and I appreciated the fact that she wasn’t teaching us to write in a way that pleases someone else, she was teaching us to write in a way that pleases ourselves first. She said the most successful writers are the ones that make the inner journey, if you don’t write about something you care about no one else will care about your writing.
She is passionate, she stood up there and told us these were the most important things as an author and I have always believed exactly that. She has a unique perspective on the world, she shared personal stories and talked about life as she sees it. In fact she talked exactly how she writes, making me feel as though I spent 3 hours in one of her books instead of one of her classes.
Now, I’m not the kind of person to gush over a celebrity, I think I hid it quite well but I can’t deny I was completely star struck. The class was interactive, she spoke one on one to everyone in the group so by the time we were lining up for autographs I’d managed to contain my fan girl excitement.
I looked at the people in the line beside me and saw brand new editions of Obernewtyn but I was proud to have two very worn copies, clearly read to death, and when I handed them over she was thrilled to see the original covers.
I had the opportunity to tell her I was a child who didn’t like reading all that much when my sister insisted I read Obernewtyn. She asked me why I loved it so much, I told her I wanted to believe all the things she created really existed in our world and she said that’s what she wanted as well, that’s why she wrote it. She signed a copy for my sister, after all she’s the one who showed me this path, and I walked out of there with a memory I’ll never forget!