A few years ago, when I was a broke writer out of film school with no idea of how to make a go of this career, Dan Nixon approached me with an opportunity. He was opening a creative writing studio in Fitzroy to run classes for kids and asked if I would be interested in working there.
I had no teaching experience whatsoever. But I also had no money. This job, I reasoned, was at least writing adjacent. So, acting a lot more confident than I felt, I said yes. I remember meeting up with Dan before the first class and him asking me what I was planning to do with the students. I hadn’t planned anything. I went in with no idea of what I was doing and even less an idea of how to talk to children.
That was late 2016. Two students, one day a week. Quickly, that changed. The weeks filled with multiple classes. School holidays were packed with sold-out workshops. More and more teachers joined. I met brilliant people and made lifelong friends. I was part of a booming community of writers and couldn’t be happier about it.
But despite my initial reservations, what made it special was the students. Some were immediately, obviously brilliant. Others were quiet achievers who found their passion and their voice more slowly but grew to be formidable writers. Some stayed briefly, others were there from almost the start and are still there now, kids who I’ve seen grow into teenagers and adults.
When I signed with HarperCollins in 2019, I was faced with the question of how involved I could realistically stay at the studio. Which I basically dismissed. Things would be fine. And they were, at least until I started having to travel interstate for events and writer’s rooms more frequently. Until it became clear that my suddenly erratic schedule was not fair on the students. So a compromise was reached. I would pull back from most of my classes and focus instead on running the Monday Masterclass, a more involved course for the older kids. Which, luckily, included most of the students I’d grown closest with over the years.
I had big plans for Masterclass, which were largely derailed by the pandemic moving us mostly online for the past two years. Still, we forged ahead, running practice writer’s rooms, hearing from high-profile guests, and working on longer, more ambitious stories, many of which blew me away. Being on Zoom frustrated me, but intermittently we returned to in-person classes and in those times running Masterclass was a highlight of my week. A chance to be reminded over and over of everything I love about writing by seeing it reflected back at me by a room full of passionate, imaginative young artists.
But elsewhere, commitments upon commitments kept piling up. I tried to bring my best to my weekly classes, but all too often my mind was elsewhere, leaving my long-suffering co-teacher Anna Morgan to (expertly) pick up the slack. Finally, I had to make a hard decision. Could I, in good conscience, keep running these classes even as outside pressures increasingly drew my attention elsewhere?
In the end, staying would only be selfish. So I made a call. And last night, doing my best to stay composed, I ran my last Masterclass. After five years, my last class at Melbourne Young Writer’s Studio.
I don’t think it fully hit me until I arrived in Fitzroy half an hour early. I wandered the streets and as I did, reflected back over the past five years. I got to class barely holding it together. I did, in the end, but that didn’t make it any easier to say my goodbyes to the students I have been so, so fortunate to get to know over the past few years. That I have got to be even a small part of their writing lives is a privilege beyond anything I ever could have asked for or expected.
There have been too many names over the years to give all of them the shout-out they deserve. But to everyone who has been a part of my time at MYWS, students and staff both, thank you. It’s meant the world. And in a few years’ time when I’m broke in the gutters and the kids I taught are running TV shows and writing bestsellers, I’ll be sure to hit them all up for a job.
Writing words about writing words.