Why did I choose to write this story?
The truth is I didn’t choose. As corny as it sounds, it chose me.
I was trying to move on but I was anchored to a spot from which I hadn’t managed to release myself.
I thought I was doing everything possible to leave it all behind.
Despite having no education past year 8, when I left the homes at 17 years old I decided to go back to school and do my VCE. A few years later I gained a place in my dream course, Professional Writing at Deakin. It was a crazy, brilliant and confusing time where my knowledge gaps appeared like giant potholes of failure, tripping me up at every turn. Living in the homes I had learnt plenty about the world but not much of it was helpful at university. Even the way I talked was wrong, too street.
However I discovered that I harboured great will power – call it stubbornness – and I wasn’t giving up. I graduated from Deakin University and went on to be a reporter at the Herald Sun and then a senior media officer for the union movement.
I wrote plenty. Articles, speeches, media release, opinion pieces ect…
But when I sat down to write on my own the other world surfaced.
Characters with problems, homeless, angry. Misfits who weren’t taking the bullshit anymore. Love discovered at the edge of a cliff. Much of that initial writing was me working out what I wanted to say and how to say it. The only thing I was sure about was… it had to be said. I had to write the story of the home’s kids before I could write anything else.
And it couldn’t be just ANY story. I couldn’t keep it safe just because some people might be offended. I had to write the truth as I remembered it. The world rising up against you not because it’s evil but because of your place in it. Your luck. Your circumstances. The intensity of friendship. The figuring out of your place in the scheme of things.
That’s what I remember most from my time in the homes: kids trying to figure out the world on their own. No adults, just their own grit, often against extraordinary adversity.
Stone Girl may or may not have achieved this. I think and hope it has. But it’s not my book anymore. Now it belongs to readers and they will have their own opinions about it, something I can’t control and in a way is none of my business. This is something I’m still struggling to accept but really have to learn to do.
It’s. Not. My. Book. Anymore.
I wrote it. I lifted that anchor and now I need to move on. By walking in Sophie’s footsteps I understand what happened.
No kid who lives in the homes should be ashamed, yet I bet many feel as I felt.
Please… Be kind. Don’t judge too quick. What you see in this moment is the culmination of many previous events. Most people deserve a second chance.