Man of letters turns to books Liz Bell email@example.com FOR Mt Martha resident, father of three and Melbourne firefighter Rob Newton, the path to becoming an author was anything but conventional. It started innocently a few years ago with a series of funny, lively and “embellished” letters about his life to his brother Chris, in Sweden. It soon spiralled into a whole lot more, as Chris and his friends became intrigued with the crazy made-up tales Rob was spinning and egged him on to send monthly “instalments”. “I was never very good at writing letters, so I just started making things up and the stories just grew and grew,” Newton said. After more encouragement, Newton tried his hand at something more substantial and, drawing on personal experience of his brother's dyslexia at school, ended up finishing a novel about a boy with learning difficulties. His first book, My Name is Will Thompson, drew instant praise, and so came seven more novels aimed at young adults readers. His gift for tackling difficult subjects but infusing his stories with a sense of hope was firmly cemented when one of his next books, When We Were Two, won the 2012 Prime Minister's Literary Award for Young Adult Fiction. Writing might seem disconnected
from fighting fires, but Newton sees the parallels clearly. “I guess I feel lucky in that I try to write from the heart, and I think drawing on some personal experience is good because it resonates with readers,” he said. ”There is a connection between my life as a firefighter and my life as a writer, because they both are unpredictable and challenging, and when I sit down to write I never really know what I'm going to get, just like going to work.” Newton's eighth book, Mr Romanov's Garden in the Sky, is slightly more confronting, but also draws on personal experience and has been described as “heartfelt, evocative and compelling”. The novel is based on a true event few years ago on the 10th floor of an inner-city public housing flat, where a young woman was discovered lying in the corridor, dying from a drug overdose. Newton was on call and arrived with his crew before the ambulance to find a scared young girl wearing pink pyjamas, sobbing and carefully holding her dying mother's hand. That image haunted him for years and, while he never found out what happened to the little girl, the book puts the mystery to rest and is as cathartic for Newton as it is absorbing to read. Mr Romanov's Garden in the Sky was released on Monday 27 February through Penguin Australia.
Paddler dies AN 84-year-old man found underneath his upturned paddle board 200 metres off the Rye sailing club, Wednesday 1 March, could not be revived. The man, a father of three from Rye, was brought to shore by two jet skiers who unsuccessfully tried CPR, at about 11am. Sergeant Paul Dickson, of Rosebud police, said there were no suspicious circumstances in the man’s death, which had earlier been reported as a “medical incident”. The Water Police will prepare a report for the coroner.
Writing tales: From firefighting to writing books, Rob Newton has found his calling. Picture: Yanni
HOW to raise young boys into healthy young men is the topic to be discussed at The Good Blokes Breakfast, 7am, Monday 20 March, at Safety Beach Sailing Club. Speakers include AFL head of partnership Blair Crouch, Victoria Police Acting Inspector Dean Clinton, Peninsula Grammar’s Chris Menage and Melbourne Men’s Group president David Mallard. Everyone is invited to the Q&A panel session which will include videos, posters, resources, stories and events, training, blogs, interactive conversations and “anything else the blokes think might be of benefit”, organiser Lisa Gray said. “There are so many amazing men of all ages who might want to tell their stories, share their experiences, help out their mates, and show their sons and fathers that they love them. “It’s a good thing; we should talk about it more often. Get involved if you like, it’s your journey, too.” Call 0428 829 911 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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