by Kim Kelly



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.