Reading books soon brought me to my next turning point, yet another book. A child’s book of English history, it was given to me by a friend for my tenth birthday. One chapter told the story of Elizabeth Tudor. After reading this chapter, I watched my tall, broad, bearded father behead another one of our pet chooks for the Sunday roast. It seemed I saw not my father but Henry VIII, a man also good at putting an axe to a bloody use. Far too often, my childhood home was not a happy place. I thought, Henry VIII’s daughter Elizabeth turned her life into triumph, why can’t I? That book started my obsession with the Tudors and put my feet on the path I have walked ever since. I am who am because of my Tudor passion.
Another turning point was my marriage at eighteen. Ten months later I was a very young mother who believed she needed to sacrifice her own narrative core and authentic life, her very identity, to the roles of wife and mother.
The traumatic birth of my second son at twenty-two was my next turning point, leading swiftly to the next. Recovering in hospital, I reassessed my life and struggled to get my head above water; I did not know who I was any more. Lost, confused, I came home diagnosed with postnatal depression.
My older sister, bless her, who, throughout our childhoods and teenage years, had listened patiently to all my hopes and dreams for the future, directed my attention to La Trobe University’s early leaver scheme. I wrote an essay, sat an exam, and found myself enrolled as a Bachelor of Arts student.
At the end of my first year I was pregnant with my third child. I nursed my precious new baby in the midst of study while seeking out constructive and gainful ways to keep two very active little boys occupied. Once, my baby girl grabbed my homework and ate it. Maybe it was an omen; she recently gained her Masters.
Studying at university made me passionate about Education – the key that opens many doors. I had horrible memories of my own primary education; idealistically, I thought if I trained as teacher I could make a difference. Over twenty years later, I am still idealistic. I feel privileged to be a teacher. The children I have taught over that time has taught me more than the other way around.
The next turning point of my life happened after I completed my Bachelor of Arts and Diploma of Education. I started a Graduate Diploma in Arts Education hoping to claim a teaching territory more suited to my belief that creativity is the beating heart of humanity. The course did that and more – after years of reworking the first chapters, I finally finished the first draft of Dear Heart, How Like You This?.
The following turning point to change my life took ten years to arrive. During that time, thinking it was ready, I sent my novel-child out to publishers. I lacked the experience to realise the personal and encouraging rejections I received was a good sign. I was too unexperienced to realise that maybe it would be a good idea to be writing another novel, too, rather than wait for the world to acknowledge me as a writer through the publication of Dear Heart.
There were years when I was so disappointed to have my novel returned I gave up trying for months and months. Released from teaching during the summer holidays, I made time to edit the entire manuscript again. Despite all the deletions, the book grew another twenty thousand during those years.
Turning points are about timing, and life has taught me that things happen when they are meant to happen. Dear Heart was published the same year my father died, in 2002. Watching my father die, thinking that here died a man of such potential whose life had been twisted by his own lack of opportunities, that fear of change is fear of life itself, spurred me into finally signing the publishing contract I was worrying over. To be willing to face failure. Or success.
Yes - the publication of my first book opened my eyes to a hard publishing world, but also that recognition comes in many guises. Frustrated about my agent’s lack of success in finding a publisher for my second novel, I decided to pursue my Masters in Writing via Swinburne University in 2008, hoping that would open new doors.
Now to my most recent turning point. After gaining my Masters at the end of 2009, I was invited to apply as tutor in the same course the following year. By August, I was accepted as a PhD student – with scholarship.
All my life turning points have brought me here – a contented lifelong learner, relishing teaching and nurturing new writers, whether at primary school or university, engaged in writing another Tudor novel for my PhD artefact, making plans to go to London in June to present my first conference paper.
Turning points don’t turn you around, but turn the page of your life story. They point you in the direction of change, of real life. Of learning who you are and what you can become. Turning points make you truly live, and realise that life is the best adventure of all.
Author and playwright, Wendy J. Dunn is obsessed with Tudor History. Her first published novel, the award-winning "Dear Heart, How Like You This?" is described as "one of the best novels ever written about Anne Boleyn's life."
After completing her Masters in Writing at Swinburne University in 2009, Wendy took up a position as a sessional tutor in Writing. She became a PhD Candidate in August, 2010. Her own writing journey continues.