Diving into Traces edition 13, contributor Belinda Murrell shares the prologue of Searching for Charlotte – The Fascinating Story of Australia’s First Children’s Author, written by Kate Forsyth and Belinda Murrell.
A family of storytellers
‘For that is the use of all learning: to make us wiser and better.’ – Charlotte Waring Atkinson.
I first fell in love with Charlotte as a child. My maternal grandparents, Nonnie and Papa, would tell us enthralling stories about our great-great-great-great-grandmother Charlotte de Waring Atkinson and her family. In my memory, Charlotte always shines as being clever, beautiful, rebellious and fiercely independent. Like a Jane Austen heroine. Even her name was romantic – de Waring, a reminder of her French aristocratic forebears. It was only later that we discovered that the ‘de’ in de Waring hadn’t actually been used in centuries, but family stories are like that: romanticised, exaggerated and embellished.
We grew up in a family of storytellers and book lovers. Both my parents would tell fascinating, colourful anecdotes about their lives, their adventures and the people they met. My grandparents also told tantalising tales of long ago. Famously, our family motto was ‘Never let the truth get in the way of a good story’.
Our mother, Gilly, always encouraged us to write. Almost from the time we could hold a pen, we wrote poems, plays, stories and novels, which we illustrated by hand in exercise books or typed up on our clackety old typewriter. Mum commissioned us to write poems for dinner party guests or stories for our grandparents for Christmas presents.
My sister Kate and I played wildly imaginative games, where we dressed up as characters from our favourite books and had sword fights up and down the stairs or
raided our mother’s wardrobe for costumes for our theatre productions. Nick, our long-suffering younger brother, was dressed up and ordered to play the parts we required.
To continue reading, pick up a copy of Traces edition 13 at your local newsagency, or subscribe to edition 14.