Dulili is suffering a people drought. Over the years more people have moved away than have arrived to stay in this old New South Wales farming town, and now only a handful of young families and elderly residents are left. The locals put a plan into action to entice newcomers: offering the town’s empty houses to people from anywhere in Australia. Who could resist renting a beautiful homestead for a dollar a week?
Three writers, one town, three stories…
How do you make a collaborative writing endeavour work? Take Catherine Evans, Lisa Ireland and Jennie Jones and have them like each other! Then have them wrangle the necessities of creating one fictional country town in need of help. Give them a few weeks of emailing back and forth across three states and hey presto! Dulili, a forgotten town in NSW is born.
The series A Dollar for a Dream is made up of three stories, each a stand-alone book, but each set in the town of Dulili (which means Together).
All three stories will be available together in a paperback called Last Chance Country in all the usual places at the end of March.
We wondered what kind of inspiration our authors had for writing their story, and they said: ‘being new in town’. We couldn’t resist asking why…
Jennie Jones—A Heart Stuck on Hope
Coming from a countrified town in Wales, my biggest ‘new girl in town’ moment was moving to London when I was 18 to spend the next three years of my life in drama school. London is a big city. It seemed to me like all the suburbs were simply one large town themselves.
And in all the 15 years I lived in London, I only got to know about seven or eight suburbs really well, although I could drive through London without a problem, and without GPS, I might add.
But that was when I was young—and everything is so much easier to handle (mainly) when we’re young, because we’re enthused and adventurous even if a bit shy, like I definitely was.
When I reached what people think of as ‘adulthood’ (I refuse to think I’ve truly grown up—where would the fun be if that happened?) it got a lot tougher.
Remember joining the new book-club group? The mothers and babies group? Or nodding hello to a group of women in the local grocers who were chatting, and having to walk on when nobody asked you to stop and talk because you were the new person and they hadn’t sussed you out yet?
Scary stuff! And yet everyday ordinary stuff that everyone has to go through.
Living in London taught me many things that are valuable to me now as both a person and a writer of small town country stories. For starters, I discovered that I don’t ever want to live in a city again.
But living in a big city taught me to venture out and discover what’s on offer when I moved to smaller towns. It taught me to see, understand and appreciate friendships, no matter how fleeting— even a great conversation in the local deli about the weather makes you feel part of something when you’re the new person in town.
I remember so many fleeting friendships or acquaintances from the varied new towns I’ve had to live in. People in corner shops. Odd characters who lived in my street. The lady I met on a bus. They all touched my life in some way. I thank them for that.
Lisa Ireland—Honey Hill House
When I took up a teaching position in the small town of Longford, Victoria, I wasn’t too worried about moving from the city to the country. In fact, I relished the thought of all that fresh air and beautiful scenery. I was sure I’d adapt easily. After all, I was from farming stock. My dad grew up on a dairy farm and I’d been holidaying in the country all my life.
Turned out, living in a tiny country town wasn’t quite as I expected! (Are you surprised?)
My introduction to the harsh realities of living in the bush came in my second week of teaching. I was at the school’s annual ‘Welcome Bush Dance’ when a lightning strike started a grassfire nearby. The fire siren sounded and half the school’s parent population disappeared to go fight the fire. I had no idea what I was supposed to do in such a situation.
Fortunately the grassfire was short-lived, because of the torrential rain that followed the lightning. Unfortunately this created a new problem—flooding that cut us off from the nearby regional centre. The usual ten-minute drive into town was now a 100-kilometre round trip. The locals were all well prepared for this, but with no groceries, a near-empty fuel tank and no petrol station in town, I was in a spot of bother.
It was then that I learned the true beauty of living in the country. Offers of help came from far and wide for the new girl in town. Sure, I had to cop a bit of good-natured ribbing about being such a city slicker, but my fridge was filled and I had a ride anywhere I needed to go for the few days the flood persisted.
Evolving from a certified city chick to a bone fide country gal took some time, but I had a lot of fun learning and, thanks to some old-fashioned country hospitality, I was never short of company (or advice!) along the way.
Catherine Evans—The Healing Season
When I was preparing to leave home I got some advice from my family that has always stuck with me—not saying it was all good though *big grin*.
Mum’s advice: It’ll take at least three months before anything feels familiar. You can’t come home for 12 months; you have to give it a fair go.
Grandma’s advice: Always have fruit cake in the cake tin so you can offer it to visitors.
Da’s advice: It’s bloody cold in winter so wear thick socks and have a damn good coat.
Those first few months in a new town were hard. Mum was right—nothing was familiar. I could have been in a foreign country for all that was recognisable to me. But I was desperate to learn, so I asked questions, devoured the local newspaper, shopped locally, joined clubs, and went out to events in town.
Almost to the day of being three months in Wagga Wagga, I was doing the groceries and I met a lady from work also shopping. I almost fell over myself saying ‘hello’. She must have thought I was nuts but to me it was a sign that I was beginning to settle in. And that was a huge relief!
Winter was cold, and thick socks and a coat were a good thing. Not so sure about the fruit cake, though it may have been applicable if you were the new bank manager’s wife, as Grandma was in her day. But country hospitality was amazing—it just took a while to kick off. I think Mum’s advice was the best I was ever given…except she should have said those first three months could feel like years!