Slice of Life Story- Wise Words of Winton

Enjoyed the privilege of hearing iconic Australian author, Tim Winton talk about his writing life on Friday. He also discussed the writing of his latest memoir instalment, ‘The Boy Behind The Mirror,’ chronicling aspects of his earlier life in Western Australian and the influences on his writing life.

My library has many of Winton’s books from the iconic fictional saga of ‘Cloudstreet’ to ‘Dirt Music’ and 'Blueback' to one of my personal favourites, ‘Land’s Edge,’ a coastal memoir, in which the author writes about his obsession with what occurs where the water meets the shoreline. It is a homage to the ocean and his childhood and the thread that links the two. It is for me, a book to which I regularly return, to experience the joy of discovering literary treasures.

I hold two copies of this book in my library. The first copy came complete with a catalogue of colour photographs. It was reminiscent of a coffee table book. It was later republished in a trimmed back version paying all due attention to the memoir. There was no ambiguity the second time. It was this version I wanted signed, for it is this book, I frequently pull from the shelves. The words wash over me; swirl around me, each time I open it. He smiled as he graciously signed my much loved, time worn copy.

During his presentation, Tim recounted stories and reflected on life, informing and entertaining his audience over the course of an hour. His most telling comment related to the very act of writing:

‘Anyone who has been a child has enough to write about for the rest of their lives.’

This reminded me of something another Australian author, Paul Jennings once said. ‘There are a million stories inside each of us just waiting to be told.’
Tim was asked, from where did the inspiration for writing emerge and his response underscored the importance of being a reader.

‘I started writing because I loved reading. I wanted to be in it.’

It underscored the critical importance of ensuring young learners are supported in developing a love of reading. As writers, they need to understand the infinite power reading possesses to influence the writing they produce. You cannot hope to be successful in your attempts at writing unless you allow reading into your life. It generates the fuel which energises writing. It influences word choice and delivery. I am reminded again by a famous quote attributed to Walt Disney, ‘There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island.’

 ‘I find it hard to read as a civilian. I tend to read as a writer.’

When Tim mentioned how he read, I nearly leapt from my seat shouting, Hooray! How wonderful it was to hear these words. Those who write read words differently. They celebrate the craft of writing, they hear the unique magic of certain combinations of words. They allow themselves to be informed by the writing of others. When you read like a writer it allows one to delve below the surface of page. It is a passport to deeper understanding of how the text has been constructed and why the writer has made certain choices.

When asked the perennial question about where his ideas come from, the answer was quite revealing.

‘I start from a place, a background, a landscape and this create the characters.’

This comment reminded me of the line in the movie, Field of Dreams- ‘If you build it, they will come.’

 In this instance Tim Winton creates a setting in which certain characters can operate, live out their lives, perform actions. The writer is challenged to create an emotional response within a landscape.

Writers share. They willingly share unique aspects and learned truths about their writing lives. I hung on every word. I was as ever, a curious learner in the presence of a master story teller. I soaked up those affirming words of wisdom from Winton.


  1. Starting from the landscape of childhood (mixing up the quotes here on purpose) is a rich vein of writing experience. I love hearing writers talk or write about their process. There are always ways in which we are similar and very different. All ways make sense to the writer.

  2. I found that first observation so powerful and true - it's what I hope to tap into with the children in my classroom.

  3. What an evening to savor! His words simply reaffirm the importance of allowing children to write.

  4. I love hearing what writers have to say. I, too, sometimes find it hard to read as a civilain. I read like a teacher.

  5. Process is the reason I write. I love learning about your process. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Do you read as a teacher who writes perhaps?

  7. Thank you Kimberley. Each of us has a unique process and that is what makes writing so fascinating.

  8. It was indeed an occasion to savour. Choice is critical for our young writers as it is for all writers.

  9. I have no doubt you tap into this in your classroom Tara. No doubt whatsoever.

  10. This sharing of process is so instructive and affirming Kevin. Similarities and difference add to the richness of this writing life we pursue.


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