I visited the State Library of Victoria with students from my school today to hear Melina Marchetta talk about her latest novel, ‘The Piper’s Son‘. It was a discussion session, artfully facilitated by Penni Russon, a young adult writer (and blogger!). Thanks go to The Centre for Youth Literature for organising the event.
What was most fascinating for me was Melina’s revelation that she did not complete secondary schooling. She left at 15, feeling intimidated by higher achieving students. She said she felt ignored as she lingered in the middle, neither here nor there, but certainly not a favoured student, not recognised for having talent. A remarkable revelation from an award winning Australian author who now writes for a living on a full time basis.
What she did do when she left school was to read voraciously, explore what she was passionate about, and begin the writing of what would become ‘Looking for Alibrandi‘, a hugely successful young adult novel that has adorned many a school’s book lists and been made into a motion picture.
I teach students who I know want to become authors. Our English curriculum in the early secondary years caters for their creative talents, but later on, we’re in the game of fine tuning essay writing skills and ensuring they can analyse issues. Somewhere along the line, we lose sight of nurturing the creative writing talents of many of our students. We lose sight of allowing our students to explore the passion they might hold for something that really interests them, be it manga drawing, or movie production, or jewellery making. And that, my friends, is a darn shame.
Melina also discussed her work as a teacher for a ten year period. Obviously, she did not let her inability to complete secondary schooling stop her from pursuing an academic career. I often talk with my students and discuss the fact that there are many pathways you can take to the achievement of a goal; an enter score is not necessarily the be all and end all of one’s existence.
Lots of food for thought from Melina today. She embodies a great deal of what is occupying my mind of late. More on that in another blog post to come!