Western Australian author writes his way through retirement

Variety has proven to be the spice of life for WA author Trevor Todd. And the 73-year-old sees no reason to vary his writing diet.

If anything, he says, he is becoming more prolific as the years roll by.

His most recent work is a stage play, With Fire In Her Heart: The Edith Cowan Story, being performed as part of Perth’s Fringe World in 2021, but his work ranges from children’s books to a psychological thriller feature film Devil’s Gate, to television documentaries and children’s TV.

Trevor says he can’t ever remember not writing.

“At primary school, I would write stories, even if it wasn’t for school, I just loved writing and loved words,” he says.

His writing journey turned to music in his teens when he picked up a guitar, learned a few chords and started writing music.

Trevor was born near Portsmouth in England and migrated to Western Australia with his family when he was four years old.

He doesn’t remember much about his early years in England. The family moved to Guildford on the banks of the Swan River when they arrived in WA, which Trevor says was an ideal place for a child to grow up before beginning a teaching career and starting to write poetry.

“I thought I might be a poet but realised there weren’t any millionaire poets.”

But the variety of his work is not something Trevor says he thinks much about.

“When you’re a writer, you’re a writer, but I did a Bachelor of Arts at Curtin University while I was teaching, majoring in film and television, which gave me the skills to write for the screen.

“Then I moved from the classroom to the audio-visual branch of the department in Leederville which gave me more skills for writing for screen and producing.

The first of 13 books, Mason Judy, about a boy with a magic stone that transports him to the Dreamtime, was written and published when he was around 27 years old.

It was illustrated by the late Robert Juniper, one of Australia’s leading artists, who had been shown the manuscript by friends.

“It was one of the most memorable things of my life.

“The publisher, Methuen, had an option for the next book, which I didn’t have so I had to come up with that and suddenly I was a children’s book writer.”

Trevor has earned a spot in the new Boola Bardip WA Museum in the Innovations gallery where his work is featured, something that came as a pleasant surprise.

“I wasn’t ever taught to write for children – or music. I might have the first song to get out to the public, because as part of my 13th book being published in January, Animal Doctor, people can go to Spotify and download a song which I wrote and sing and play.”

The story is based around a hippopotamus having a hip operation, a giraffe with a pain in the neck, an alligator with a toothache and a woodpecker with a bad neck.

“I love the variety, I couldn’t imagine doing the one thing all the time. I’ve been very blessed to be able to do that.

A selection of Trevor Todd works
A selection of Trevor Todd works

“These things pop into my head and I don’t know why.

“I’ve got a feature film which is under option to David Lightfoot who is based in South Australia and is very experienced. He’s done Wolf Creek and Babe.”

He’s written a comedy series for television designed for production in Covid times which revolves around 10 different famous painters or sculptors.

“So, we look at, say, the Mona Lisa, and suddenly out pops Lisa and she’s saying she finds the colours of the painting a bit dull and she’s trying to convince Leonardo that she should pop home and put on a red dress because it’s more colourful and he’s having none of it.”

Another book, 100 Watermelons will also be released this year, born out of a visit by Trevor’s daughter and two grandsons a year ago.

“We were just parking outside The Boatshed Markets in Cottesloe and there was a forklift truck taking a load of watermelons off the back of a truck, which wobbled and looked like the watermelons might fall.

“I said I might be able to write a story about that and I did.”

Trevor doesn’t believe that getting older has hindered his writing.

“I don’t even see myself as being 73, and I still have all my hair, and I’m not slowing down. If anything, things are speeding up, the ideas don’t stop coming.

“I love it and I’ve retired from teaching, but I couldn’t do nothing.”

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Journalist and public relations specialist Allen Newton has worked across major media organisations in Western Australia and PR locally and internationally. He and wife Helen Ganska operate Newton Ganska Communications. Allen started his journalism career at the long defunct Sunday Independent and went on to become the founding editor for news website PerthNow, Managing Editor of The Sunday Times and PerthNow and then Editor-In-Chief of news website WAtoday. As well as news, he has been an editor of food and wine, real estate, TV and travel sections. He’s done everything from co-hosting a local ABC television pop show, to editing a pop music section called Breakout with Big Al, and publishing his own media and marketing magazine.