Earlier this year, I found out that my short story Yellow by the Flames was to be published in the Mudgee Valley Writers anthology ‘More Than Words’. I then received an invitation to the book launch and quickly made the decision: me and the family were going to Mudgee!
The kids had never been further west than Singleton, so it was about time we showed them what it was like to be inland, away from the coast in a world of farms, coal mines and good old country towns.
We travelled from Newcastle to Mudgee via the gorgeous Bylong Valley Way, along winding roads beneath huge rock faces, through small empty towns, and stopping on the side of the road to look at farm animals gathered in the shade by the fences. We passed mine after mine, stared up at the bucket wheel excavators moving mountains of coal, and raced a coal train with a hundred carriages.
The land was hard and yellow and as we drove over bridges every river was completely dried up. The smoke in the air was a constant reminder of the fires nearby and at one stage a helicopter water-bomber passed overhead. I looked forward to meeting the members of Mudgee Valley Writers and hearing first-hand what it was like to live with these conditions every single day.
The event launched two books, one being the ‘More Than Words’ anthology and the other a delightful book containing 19 life stories of Mudgee locals called ‘Footprints in the Hills’. It was held at Club Mudgee with a turn out of more than 80 people. The Mudgee Valley Writers group created a fantastic display of the 120+ submitted entries to their ‘More Than Words’ competition, and the accompanying photos.
Bob Campbell, local musician and poet, hosted the event and performed a moving poem about a time when a bushfire came through his property. We then heard from other local poets who recited their works, highlighting the challenges and delights of living in or around Mudgee. What came through all of the performances was the connection and commitment these people have to their home towns – the strong message that despite all the challenges there’s no other place in the world they would rather be.
Mudgee Valley Writers – you made me feel very welcome, and I’m loving reading through the life stories in ‘Footprints in the Hills’. Thank you for choosing to publish my story – and for giving me an excuse to show my family your beautiful part of the world.