On November 17th 2009 I was one of the 8 fortunate facebook fans from New South Wales Australia to win a Facebook fan lunch and book launch competition located at The Bellevue Hotel restaurant in Sydney New South Wales.
When I meet Bryce Courtenay, it felt like I had met a long-time friend. He was so warm and engaging. At lunch, I was lucky enough to sit next to him! It was an amazing experience that changed my life forever ♾
Every now and then he would squeeze my hand when I would say something he agreed with or liked. I talked about how his book The Power of One changed my life.
I have been bullied most of my life for being different and Bryce’s book brought out the fighter and survivor in me. I can not thank him enough for writing it.
When he talked about the Power of One he told us that he had written it and for 18 months or longer it stood as a doorstop.
One day his daughter-in-law accidentally caused the manuscript to dislodge from its position holding the door and she picked up all the papers, re-ordered them and then read the book.
When she was finished reading the Power of One she wept and begged Bryce to publish the book. Thankfully for us he did.
When Bryce’s meal was served it had beetroot on his plate. He told me that he ate a lot of beetroot in the orphanage in South Africa and he didn’t like it one bit. I told him how much I loved beetroot and he put it on my plate.
He kept us enthralled with his stories, his warmth and his kind, generous spirit.
I loved how emotional he was when he talked about his books and the stories behind them. I felt very privileged to be there and it was a very special day.
When he talked about April Fools Day he could barely speak. He said it was the hardest book to write. It was about his son’s life and how he died of HIV after being given tainted blood due to being haemophiliac. When I read it later i understood why.
He talked fervently about The Family Frying Pan, a book close to my heart. Such amazing stories. It’s my goal to one day have every one of his books on my shelves. I’ve given a lot away over the years and I miss them like old friends.
Everyone received a signed copy of his latest book “The Story of Danny Dunn” and some of us brought along other books to be signed.
It was an amazing and surreal experience. Towards the end of the day, I gently said
“I believe you know my Great Uncle”
to which he replied
“Oh? Really? Who is that?”
“Geoff Pike” I replied
He grinned wide at me and slapped his knee and exclaimed:
“Geoff! I know him very well. I was at his house last week! What a small world”
I explained that I had grown up hearing about Bryce and Geoff’s work at McCann Erickson Advertising Agency and their collaborations on “Louie The Fly” advertisement for Mortein, a popular fly spray cartoon and jingle. Bryce wrote the jingle for Geoff’s animated cartoon.
Later they worked on the Yowie Kingdom including the chocolate with a surprise inside. The surprises were plastic figures of Australian animals – similar to Kinder Surprise but featuring common, rare and endangered Australian animals.
Geoff had created the world of Yowie Power years before Cadbury and Bryce were partners. He had struggled to find an investor, someone to help his dream come to life.
With his close friend Bryce’s help, being one of Australia’s most popular authors and celebrities, Cadbury agreed to produce the Yowie chocolates with a surprise inside. Geoff and Bryce created merchandise including Yowie Power books, colouring books, toys and more.
Knowing that my paternal grandfather’s brother had achieved so much helped me to want to aim higher, do more, and like Geoff and Bryce – make a difference!
Cadbury Yowies were very popular and available almost everywhere. People collected the Australian animal figures which (in Australia) you had to put together.
Each animal in a capsule was accompanied by a fact sheet with the name of the animal, its habitat, rarity classification (common, rare, endangered, extinct) etc.
As a primary school teacher, I used the Yowie Power books and figures plus the chart which showed each rarity classification and the animals associated with them.
Children loved learning with the Yowie Teacher Resources and I did too.
After a number of years, they were taken off the shelves and re-appeared several years ago under a different company – Yowie Group.
I told Bryce how much the Yowie Kingdom meant to people around Australia and around the world. He was very happy to hear it and he kept holding my hand and giving it a little squeeze throughout the day.
It was a very special day to meet the author of the Power of One, a semi-autobiographical book based on Bryce’s life in South Africa. When I was buying bullied the book helped me a great deal.
11 years on and I can still see Bryce emotionally and passionately sharing the stories behind his books. He was a wonderful man and a born storyteller. He is very missed.
The essay that I wrote for a competition run by the Bryce Courtenay Facebook page in 2009 to attend the launch of the new book. The Story of Danny Dunn”. I was asked to answer which of Bryce’s books I liked the most – and why
“The Power of One is my favourite Bryce Courtenay book. As a girl growing up with panhypopituitarism (under-developed, under-active pituitary gland from birth) and congenital talipes equinovarus (club feet from birth, both feet), I was not only three years behind in height and development but had one of the worst cases of Talipes in Australia. I had several operations on my feet, the last one when I was 10. I started corticosteroid supplements at the age of 13 upon the discovery of secondary Addison’s Disease.
I grew up always feeling like I didn’t fit in. When I read The Power of One it struck a chord with my situation (always looking younger, shorter, and less developed) than my peers. Your book gave me the strength to overcome adversity and helped me to be a better version of myself. Thank you for that gift. I recommend it to everyone and know that it has helped countless teens over the years as it has me.
I would love to have lunch with Byrce because he is a positive, uplifting role model and through his books and collaboration on the Yowie Power environmental education books and collectables has made the world a better place.
As a primary school teacher, I used them as teaching resources and they enabled children of Australia to become more aware of the Australian Animals, especially those endangered or susceptible to extinction.
I live in Wollongong, just south of Sydney, NSW
Date: 5th November 2009
You can listen to some of Bryce’s books for free on Borrow Box via your library and there are others on Audible
Some of my favourite Bryce Courtenay books:
1. Power of One2. The Potato Factory3. April Fools Day4. The Family Frying Pan
5. Matthew Flinder’s Cat
So many books to choose from. What’s your favourite?