“Writing is a passion I have never understood, yet a storyteller is all I ever wanted to be.” – Ruth Park
Born in New Zealand on this date in 1917, Park dived into her passion early, starting writing as a freelance journalist while still in her teens and eventually moving on to a full-time job as a newspaper reporter in Australia. Her writing there caught the eye of a radio producer who enticed her into writing for an on-going children’s radio serial called The Wide-awake Bunyip. By the early 1950s she had made it her own and under the title The Muddle-Headed Wombat it continued to be aired until 1970. Ultimately it also provided her with a series of a dozen highly acclaimed children’s books. In 2008, 2 years before her death, she was awarded Australia’s prestigious Dromkeen Medal for her lifetime contributions to children’s literature.
But it was her first of her 9 novels, The Harp in the South, a story of Irish slum life in Sydney, that earned her worldwide acclaim, even though it was highly controversial because of its candor and graphic depictions. Translated into 37 languages, the book has never been out of print, won many awards, and sold millions. The book and its sequel, Poor Man’s Orange, were also made into Australian TV mini-series and BBC movies.
“The world is full of novels in which characters simply say and do,” Park said. “There are certainly legitimate genres in which this is sufficient. But in real and lasting writing the character IS.”
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