12+ In May 1992, I returned to Australia for a holiday from England, where I'd been living and working for several years. At the time, the literary news in Sydney was full of the success of Tim Winton and his novel, Cloudstreet (Amazon link). And I thought it was an omen.
Winton was thirty-one years old, and I was thirty. He had grown up in Western Australia (W.A.), and so had I. He'd just won his second Miles Franklin Literary Award, and I'd quit my job in England for Australian writers and was about to have a second crack at being a writer!
Among mementos from this period, I have a yellowed newspaper cutting from the Sydney Morning Herald, dated Wednesday, 27th May. Under the headline, "Winton finds selling words the hard part", Winton, who was on a bookselling tour in America, confides:
"Don't let anyone tell you writing or winning awards is the hard work. This part, the promotion, is the hard work."
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My travel diary from then also has several entries about Winton and Cloudstreet. On 7th June, I went for an evening stroll along Bondi Beach and browsed in a bookshop where I found a copy of the book — though I'd merely commented in the diary:
"Bought Cloudstreet by Tim Winton, a W.A. author."
On 25th June, visiting family in Perth, W.A., I wrote:
"Didn't sleep well overnight. Mind racing with Cloudstreet, my short story, England, the future and past, etc." [I wrote short stories almost every day back then.]
And on 28th June, my last night in Perth, I recorded in my diary:
"Finished Cloudstreet. The ending has a similar mystical feel to Ben Okri's The Famished Road." [The 1991 Man Booker Prize winner I'd read before Cloudstreet.] "Doubt I'll ever be able to write as well as either author. Still, hope springs eternal."
(Note to latter-day writer-self: stop using cliches!)
Finally, on 29th June, before heading to the airport for my flight to England, I asked my father to drop me in town and later noted:
"Walked through Hay Street Mall to bookshops. Found more Tim Winton books, but not the one I wanted." [I was searching for his first Miles Franklin winner, Shallows.]
I returned to England, returned to writing, and didn't get published. But I did find Winton's Shallows (Amazon link). And I built a collection of his books over the years in England and eventually back in Australia.
It may not have been an omen that Winton and Cloudstreet were in the news in 1992. However, I found the connections between Winton and me, his characters and setting in the book, and my background in Perth mystical.
And I enjoyed his colloquial Australian dialogue and narrative. Cloudstreet inspired me to keep reading Winton's books — and keep writing.
© 2018 Robert Fairhead
I received Tim Winton's The Shepherd's Hut (Amazon link) for my fifty-sixth birthday in 2018. Given my long affection for Winton's works, dating back to Cloudstreet, was the book another omen or more inspiration? Perhaps both, because it inspired me to write this blog post in March 2018.
However, it took me twelve months to work through my to-be-read pile and reach The Shepherd's Hut. But when I finished reading it, I shared another blog post on Tall And True about the book, aptly titled Tim Winton Wows Again (May 2019).
N.B. You might also like to listen to my narration of Cloudstreet by Tim Winton - Omen or Inspiration on the Tall And True Short Reads podcast.
Robert is a writer and editor at Tall And True and blogs on his eponymous website, RobertFairhead.com. He also writes and narrates episodes for the Tall And True Short Reads storytelling podcast, featuring his short stories, blog posts and other writing from Tall And True.
Robert's book reviews and other writing have appeared in print and online media. In 2020, he published his début collection of short stories, Both Sides of the Story. In 2021, Robert published his first twelve short stories for the Furious Fiction writing competition, Twelve Furious Months, and in 2022, his second collection of Furious Fictions, Twelve More Furious Months. And in 2023, he published an anthology of his microfiction, Tall And True Microfiction.
Besides writing, Robert's favourite pastimes include reading, watching Aussie Rules football with his son and walking his dog.
He has also enjoyed a one-night stand as a stand-up comic.