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Students in Focus

Aspiring author starts new chapter

Macy Groat credits her education at Burgmann Anglican School in Canberra, where she attended from Kindergarten to Year 12, with helping shape her into the young woman she is today.

“There were four or five teachers of mine that were just absolutely brilliant teachers. They inspired me to be a teacher,” Macy, a University of Canberra alumna, says.

“My Year 1 teacher in particular was just the best. It was just amazing the way that he could create lesson plans to engage all the students. In any class, you have kids who are ahead and others who need a little bit of extra help, and that age, I was one of those kids.”

Although she is now an aspiring Young Adult fiction writer, early on, Macy didn’t actually enjoy reading. It was her supportive Year 1 teacher that changed everything for her.

“Reading was really not my thing. So, my teacher suggested my parents should read Dr. Seuss to me at bedtime. Then everything just took off from there,” Macy says.

From these early years, a love of reading bloomed and with it, a passion for creative writing. Some of her favourite stories growing up included Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree and The Wishing Chair, as well as the Harry Potter series, which sparked inspiration for some of her earliest creative stories.

“Since then, I’ve been passionate about writing and knew I wanted to become an author at some stage,” Macy says.

“Fantasy is my preferred genre to write. I like to read fantasy or science fiction. I'm a huge, huge Star Wars fanatic!”

While becoming an author has always been front of mind – and was something she pursued in her spare time – Macy knew that she wanted to be a teacher as well. The good thing was, she didn’t have to decide on one or the other, she knew that she could do both.

“We used to have buddy systems in school, where in Year 5, you would have a kindergarten student to teach activities to. I found that to be such an enriching experience,” Macy says. “I knew I wanted to be a teacher.”

When it came time to decide which university course she would apply for, she applied for both a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing and a Bachelor of Primary Education at UC.

“I ended up receiving early acceptance to study creative writing, so I thought, alright, I'll do that first then! I did the bachelors program and then I got the opportunity to do Honours. Overall, it was a really positive experience. There are some great teachers in the Faculty of Arts and Design,” Macy says.

One tutor in particular gave her advice which has proven incredibly useful, and that she still utilises in her writing process to this day.

“Ian McHugh advocates for finishing a piece in its entirety before going back to edit, because if you continue to edit and reedit the same piece, you’ll never get anywhere. He said, ‘It doesn’t matter how bad your first draft is’,” Macy says.

“I used to struggle with that; I felt like everything needed to be perfect before moving forward, so this particular piece of advice has been invaluable.”

Another piece of advice that’s stuck with her is to read widely in your chosen genre.

“One teacher said, if you don't have time to read then you don't have time to write. Once you know the conventions of the genre, you can subvert them in a new way, or avoid falling into overdone tropes,” Macy says.

The final year of the Creative Writing degree allows students to work on a major piece of writing. Macy was able to incorporate her personal writing goals into the final assessment. She used this to make a start on her historical fantasy novel, one that she continues to develop to this day, and which hopes will become her first published work.

After completing her bachelors, Macy decided to take her studies to the next level, applying for an Honours year – on condition that her influential lecturer, Ian, was her Honours supervisor. In 2022, she embarked on her Honours degree.

“It was such a great process to have a supervisor who was with me from concept to completion. We could talk through different concepts and get editing tips. It's an experience that I would definitely recommend to any aspiring author,” Macy says.

From there, Macy had a number of career and study options. She had completed her honours, which opened up a pathway to study a PhD if she wished. Her studies had also set her up with the skills to pursue her dream of becoming a published author. Then, there was the option to pursue the career that had always had her heart.

“I thought, well, I'd better finally get back to what I was supposed to be doing in the first place! So, I start a Master of Primary Teaching in Semester Two of this year (2023),” Macy says.

From being a child that didn’t want to read, to an aspiring author and future teacher, Macy’s story of growth is a nod to the importance of early influences, and the important role really good teachers can play.

“It's definitely been a twist! If you'd asked me in Year 12, if I thought I was going to go on to do three degrees, I would have said definitely not! And now it's like, yeah, I'll go back for a third one, right?”

For more information on University of Canberra course offerings, visit the UC website.

Story by Kelly White

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