In Conversation with Julie Baythorpe
I was born in Sydney and attended early childhood classes in the suburb of Giraween. My childhood was fairly unsettled and I lived long stretches with my grandparents at Narellan. During this time, my imagination developed and I frequently wrote short stories and plays. I enjoyed the escapism. I am distantly related to Jim Sharman of Hair and Rocky Horror Picture Show fame, which might explain the storytelling gene. We moved to Brisbane where I attended Brisbane Central School on St Paul’s Terrace.
2. Who first encouraged your writing and what were your first efforts about?
In the early years, my teachers encouraged me to write. I loved school. It was a surprise to me that I won several writing competitions in primary school. I didn’t find the writing exercises particularly difficult at that stage. During those years, I enjoyed my school time so much I decided to stay on long after the last bell chimed. I attended Mt Gravatt Teacher’s College where I collected a Diploma of Teaching and a Bachelor of Education. I taught across the primary levels in schools throughout south-east Queensland, including Coolangatta and Tallebudgera. During that time, I wrote innovative texts for the students, especially the early learners.
3. You made teaching your career and doubtless saw many Queensland schools. Can you comment on this?
In 2004, I embarked on a new career, still within education, and became a teaching principal in a small, rural school namely Auburn River (now closed). My first novel, The Lavender Principal – a Reid Devron mystery, is based on my experiences there. My second novel Silo Deadfall – a Reid Devron mystery will be published this year (2013). It is based also on my school experience – Tiaro State School – and a provincial Queensland town. I’ve also co-published Love, Lies, laughter and a Few Little Tears in collaboration with the Southern Short Story Group – a subdivision of GCWA. In 2013, I also intend to publish independently, a collection of my own short stories. In encouraging my writing, my family and friends have been inspirational in later years.
4. Will you tell us a little more about the texts you wrote for early learners?
I used nursery rhymes and books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar as inspiration for the children to use the structure but change the text. For example, Baa Baa Black Sheep might become Woof Woof Brown Dog. Children wrote their own innovations and I had them published. They just loved doing it, and the process was good for their literacy and reading.
5. What is your routine during the writing of a novel like The Lavender Principal?
I am a morning person and I usually have a goal of 10 pages, double spaced, per day. When editing I aim to achieve 50 pages in one sit. I look for structural omissions, grammar, spelling and general improvement. My desk is in the family room but ideally I would have a well equipped office overlooking a beautiful garden. I usually take a lunch break of about 45 mins then go back to work. This happens on Wednesdays and Saturdays. I keep the remaining days for other general commitments. I am editing at the moment in preparation for a second run of Lavender Principal.
6. Can you describe ‘your’ Gold Coast?
I have the freedom here to pursue my literary interests on the Gold Coast. The GCWA, and indeed the Gold Coast in general, has provided me with numerous opportunities to hone my craft. Inspiration from the people, places and events is extraordinary.
I also do landscape watercolour painting; in particular scenes from the bush, outback, seascapes, vistas with trees and sea and boats.