As of last night one house had been lost and others were under threat but the extraordinary men and women of the Country Fire Service were doing extraordinary things - and I do not use the word "extraordinary" lightly. They take risks. Those risks may be calculated but they are nevertheless risks. They do it to save lives and property. It is NOT fun.
I have written a book about two children who escape from a bushfire by hiding in a railway tunnel. It is not the first book I have written but it is the first book I have made a serious attempt to interest an agent or publisher in - so far without success. I know it may never succeed.
It was based on a story told to me by someone in their twenties. At the age of eleven he had, with his sister, packed the family car and then driven out of danger. They were lucky to survive.
Perhaps one of the problems with the story is that, for many adults, this sounds too unlikely. In rural Australia however many young boys in the 1960's (when the story takes place) could drive. No doubt many young boys in rural Australia can drive now too - most of those who live on farms and stations can drive at an early age. It is not just because of the location they live in but because it is a survival skill in remote areas. Girls would sometimes learn as well, although not as often.
My brother spent weekends on a dairy farm at that age. One of the first things he was taught to do there was to drive both a tractor and "the ute" - the vehicle with the open back into which farmers and workers put everything imaginable. I tried to imagine how he would feel with his hands slipping on the steering wheel in the intense heat.
I wonder too whether what I have written is considered to be "too confrontational". Is the subject matter something adults believe children should not be reading about? There is death and destruction in the story - but death and destruction happens during bushfires. It happens in other books too - but often in "fantasy". Is it less real in "fantasy"? I don't know.
The experience of writing it was brought back to me as I was reading the media reports of the fire behind us. We know people in the area. Fortunately we know that they, and their properties, are safe. It might easily have been otherwise. I wonder if I would feel differently about what I had written if they were not. Somehow though I think I would feel even more determined to find a way of letting more children read it.
Of course it might just be that the book is "not good enough". I don't believe that or I would not have written it or tried to interest others in it. How long should I go before I give up? I think the answer has to be that, like the firefighters, you cannot afford to give up until the fire is out.