Surviving fires, floods, Cyclone Ted and the 1970s Beef Crash, author Jenny Old is coming to Inverell to share her story of love, adventure, disasters and good times in the Gulf Country.
Jenny will visit the Moree Library from 10.30am on Monday, July 2, to speak about Back of Beyond, an autobiographical retelling of her life battling through tough times in the bush.
“After falling in love with my husband, Rick, I moved to a property called McAllister in the remote Gulf Country of far north Queensland, where I found myself living in a shed with a 44-gallon drum for my stove and a shower hose and a bucket in a tree for the bathroom!” Jenny said.
At 22-years-old, Jenny didn’t expect the primitive conditions she’d found herself in. Often her only contact with the outside world was through her two-way radio. Her only means of communication with her family was hand-written letters, which were kept by her mother and later compiled and used as the timeline for Back of Beyond.
Now in her early 70s, she said many rural readers facing drought are connecting with her struggles.
“When I speak to people of my age group, you can see people nodding. I don’t believe this is just my story. So many people share my story and have been through similar experiences,” she said.
“So many people connect and can understand what I’m saying and what I’m sharing. I think there’s tremendous interest in Australian stories at the moment, which is great.”
Jenny initially independently published her story as ‘McAllister’, thinking it would only be of interest to her immediate friends and family.
“I sold 2000 copies in nine months – I won the best author of the year for inhouse publishing, which was amazing! I thought, ‘My gosh, people are interested!’” she said.
She sent two chapters on a whim to Allen & Unwin’s ‘Friday pitch’ and the next Monday she was offered a contract.
“The feeling was unbelievable!”
Stretched to the limits as a young woman, Jenny feels she achieved more than she ever thought herself capable of.
With every setback and in the toughest of times when the odds seemed insurmountable, she says she learnt to dust herself off, find a smile and just keep on going.
“My big passion is to spread the word of the role of women in the bush,” Jenny said. She said many of her city audiences didn’t realise how complicated and demanding it is.
Now living in Ashmore, Jenny has poured herself into writing and is an active member of the Gold Coast Writers’ Group.
“I’ve always wanted to write – I left my run a bit late!” she said.
“I always put it on the back burner, I always thought ‘no, that’s indulgence’. It’s crazy because your creative side, you should give that a priority and do things like that for yourself, that’s important.”
She is three quarters of the way through a prequel to Back of Beyond and hopes to write a children’s book version, through the eyes of her schnoodle (schnauzer and poodle).
Jenny is planning a book tour across Australia, raising money for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
“I really like to have something that’s giving back to where I am,” Jenny said.
Jenny’s motto is “life throws many curve balls at us, but it’s how we deal with them that counts”.