Kim Kelly

Australian Author

Month: May, 2016



Yesterday I finished giving a series of writing workshops in Bathurst, and what a blast they have been.

Twelve months ago, at the very first Bathurst Writers’ & Readers’ Festival, Jen Barry of Books Plus and I received a lot of feedback from writers craving courses and connection in the region. Boy, were they ready to get down and get writing, and chatting about writing, sharing their experiences and hopes. We’ve had a huge amount of fun together, and I’m going to plan some more such get-togethers for next year.

None of this sounds too remarkable, I suppose, but for me this has all been huge.

Twelve months ago I was only just emerging from a long, long period clouded by anxieties that had dogged me, and prevented me from enjoying these kinds of opportunities for, oh, about thirty years. Followers of this blog have heard all about those struggles so I won’t repeat them here. Suffice to say, two years ago, I couldn’t have attended a writing workshop let alone delivered one.

What brought on the change? It seems too easy an answer, but it comes down to the love and belief of others feeding the love and belief in me, so that I could recognise I wasn’t alone in the game, so that I could dare myself to take what have turned out to be some wonderful risks. Dare myself to step out into the sunshine just because it’s there.

It’s all been proof to me that – with this kind of nurturing and a readiness to accept it and nurture it back – we can change our brains in fabulous ways. We can beat our fears.

But it’s also made me reflect on this bloke, pictured above in his natural habitat and traditional costume: my dad, Charlie.

It was his birthday yesterday, and if he was still here, he’d have turned 85, bless his cotton pillow case.

Charlie is probably the main reason I’ve had such difficulties with anxiety. Messy heads really do run in the family, and Dad had a breakdown just after I was born to test the theory. He suffered under the weight of worries I will never know about, because he never shared them.

But what he did share with me, and with everyone around him, was his love for the magic of words and the way they bring us together. He was the kind of English teacher who preferred bowling a few overs at lunchtime with ‘his’ kids by way of a lesson; the kind of father who performed John Cleese silly walks around the ground floor of Grace Brothers at Bondi Junction on Thursday late-night shopping because, well, why not?

Self-proclaimed Professor of Subjective Logic from the University of Little Bay and captain of the German cricket team, in this photo from 1979, Dad was having his customary 5pm beverage in a hotel room somewhere in that ancestral homeland of Germany. In the morning, having forgotten where he was, he walked out onto the balcony to address his people – naked. And burst into song because, well, why not?

The world is so often a sad and terrifying place, so you might as well have some fun.

Thanks Dad, even for the crazy bits, maybe especially for them. I wouldn’t be me without you. And I wouldn’t get the thrill I do from helping others to test their word wings, either. The sheer delight it is to watch another stepping into the sun.





What would this one say? It looks like a Depression-era snapshot of some ordinary, struggling family.

But it’s my family. My dad, Charlie, is the young fellow on the left gazing whimsically out of the picture with what appears to be a fly on his face.  My grandfather is handsome; my grandmother is disappointed. And little Johnny is calculating his future golfing handicap.

They lived in Coogee, near the beach. Certainly a nice place to be a bit broke, sometime in the mid-1930s.

I saw this photo for the first time last night, my brother, Mark, on a flying visit, whipping it out of his wallet and asking, ‘Have you seen this one?’ I hadn’t, and I fell in love with it instantly, dancing round the kitchen bench trying to get a good focus on my phone.

All of them are gone now. And not gone at all while I’m alive and wondering who they were. How the sand might have felt between their toes, what awful meal Nana had on for dinner (she was the worst cook), how long Pop stayed in the surf that day, avoiding going home (he was the worst husband). Dad practising his modified cursive (for what would become the most beautiful handwriting ever); Johnny scribbling on the front page of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie with a crayon (I still have that book with my uncle’s early masterwork, cherished). Nana knowing, if she could just find her chance in this man’s world, her art and style would clothe every woman in Sydney.

Dreams that echo somehow atomically through me.  Whispers of stories that make up my own.



“Geez, you churn them out,” I’ve been hearing a bit lately from those surprised by my output of scribblings in recent years. And yes, when you look at my novels in a bunch, it does seem I’ve made quite a lot of them – five so far and another due out later this year.

But I wince a bit each time I hear that word ‘churn’. Churning suggests I have some simple mechanism that neatly spins the stories out of me, and this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Each of my stories is driven from within me by love and a mad curiosity that sends me along vast uphill treks through uncharted wildernesses. Each journey through story and discovery is different, and not once have I returned to the real world unscathed or unchanged.

Right now, I’m in the middle of editing Jewel Sea, that next one, and my gathering nerves at her impending September arrival are jangling against a new story that’s already pushed its way into my heart and taken up residence in my mind. This one is so pushy, and such an unexpected visitor, I woke up at five a.m. on Monday morning with a character literally talking to me.

That character is called Richard Ackerman, and he’s a doctor at Canberra Hospital in 1954. He’s also the youngest son of Daniel and Francine Ackerman, the heroes of my first novel, Black Diamonds. And he won’t leave me alone.

This pushy thing is the Snowy Mountains story I blogged about a few weeks ago – a sketch of a tale of secrets and spies I’d almost forgotten I’d written. Somehow – and I don’t know how – it’s insisted it must be written, as in right now.

Pushing aside my 1860s gold-rush novel waiting to be taken to a final draft and the other story I’d just begun on early twentieth-century circuses in Australia, I’m now deep in the Monaro high country skiing and plotting acts of espionage.

This little machine here doesn’t so much churn as send me at some giddying velocity through time, through dreams, through all I’ve learned and am yet to know.

Making me a little bit insane with weariness every day. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.