Gloucester local Jane Stevenson graduated from Sydney University as a pharmacist and went on to complete a post-graduate diploma in applied nutrition. More recently, Jane decided that “there came a time in her life when she didn’t really want to keep doing what she’d been doing for years, to continue working in suburban Sydney as a pharmacist”. Instead, she “longed to be free, to feel the wind in her face, to live and not just exist”.
Jane wrote to every pharmacy in rural New South Wales, offering her services as a locum, and a new chapter in life quickly began – which has included her writing and self-publishing two books, one of which is Locum on the Loose. Jane’s adventures have seen her traverse the Australian bush with much gusto and enthusiasm, to encounter a myriad of Aussie characters and extraordinary places along the way.
Please tell us about your new book, Locum on the Loose?
Locum on the Loose came into being, because I am curious. I had lived all my life in Sydney, and I was curious about the ‘bush’ and the magic ‘outback’ … it seemed everyone had been there but me.
Curiosity killed the cat, and a few times I thought it would be the death of me as well … the need to go around another corner, the need to do down a different road, the need to see something I hadn’t seen before, led me into some strange and sometimes scary situations.
I started to write down my memories of my trips, just for myself, because that way I could relive the excitement of the adventure. I enjoyed the writing, and I came to think that others might enjoy reading about the adventures that befell me as I trundled around the bush .
What drew you to the bush and eventually to Gloucester in particular?
The bush had called to me for years … beautiful paintings of landscapes, the romance of jumbucks springing into billabongs, the school-day stories of our early European explorers trekking across this vast land and occasionally dying in the attempt … I just had to see it for myself; I had to go.
I fell in love with country life and came to Gloucester because Gloucester was everything that a small town should be. It was small, it was welcoming and friendly, and I felt at home from the moment I saw it nestled at the base of The Bucketts, the hills just to the west of town.
On your website there is a quote which reads: “Battling bulldust, outpaced by emus, there was never a moment’s boredom but plenty of times of near panic, when survival seemed unlikely” … has the adventure lived up to your expectations?
Yes! And more! I had no expectation of adventure when I went to the bush, but the irresistible urge to keep on going when common sense was telling me to turn back meant that I was going to have some pretty scary adventures. I loved every minute, despite the occasional near panic.
City versus the bush: what have been the main differences in terms of what’s required of you in your role as a pharmacist?
Many of the small towns in which I worked had no hospital – only one terribly overworked doctor. The people didn’t like to pester the doctor unless absolutely necessary, so they came to the pharmacist as first port of call. I loved it … with my special interest in vitamins and diet, I was able to help people who would probably not have sought a pharmacist’s advice had they lived in the city, and I felt I was really able to make a difference to their health during the short time that I filled in as a locum.
When you were working at Leeton in the Murrumbidgee irrigation area, you went off exploring, heading to a spot on the map marked simply as ‘The Rock’. Tell us about this experience, which you likened to being like Richard Dreyfuss from the film Close Encounters.
There was nothing on the map to tell me what The Rock was, so I figured I’d better go and see it for myself. The land south of Leeton is a flat plain stretching in every direction. As I drove south, I started to see something sticking up on the horizon, which gradually revealed itself as an enormous pillar of rock sticking up into the sky. It looked like the Devil’s Tower in Close Encounters, and I started to feel like an action hero in the movies as I continued to drive towards it. Just as I was starting to feel really heroic, an enormous Merino ram came charging at full gallop out of the scrub and clean into the side of my car. He must have thought I was challenging him for his territory.
I worried that he might be injured … what on earth would I do? Get covered in blood heaving him into my car and then drive to the nearest vet? You’re joking; I was about 100 km from the nearest town! But he was okay; I think his fleece had protected him from injury, although the dent in my car was a lasting reminder of how hard he hit.
I drove on to look at The Rock itself, which was pretty impressive, but I soon turned back to Leeton … I figured I had had my ‘close encounter’ after all … getting rammed was adventure enough!
What made you decide to become an author, and how has the experience been?
My decision to become an author was really the outcome of my experience as a locum pharmacist. My adventures in the bush led to Locum on the Loose, and my interest in vitamins and diet led to my health book, Get Well and Stay Well.
I wrote Get Well for the person who wants to know how their body works and what to do if it starts to show signs of ill-health … cramps, rashes, tension, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, etc. If we want to get well, we need to be able to recognise the clues our bodies are giving us, so we can fix things before they get serious. Otherwise, we will end up at the doctor’s surgery being told we have to take medication for the rest of our lives. Drugs are not always the answer!
I especially want parents to read my book, because childhood complaints such as obesity are becoming increasingly common. Get Well and Stay Well will help parents keep their kids on the right track as far as their health is concerned.
The experience of writing my books was fun … the hard part was stopping once I got going! Locum on the Loose practically wrote itself, as I relived the adventures in writing them down, while Get Well and Stay Well was a wonderful opportunity to tell people all that I have learned about our bodies and what they need in order to remain healthy.
Endless trips to the doctor, endless expense getting prescriptions filled for drugs we are told we need to take forever … that is not how it needs to be, and if we have the information that we need, we can start to make some changes. Get Well and Stay Well gives the information in a book that I am told is very easy to read … “Not boring, like most health books” is how one of my readers has put it!
How did you go about getting your two books published?
I decided to self-publish, so that I could say what I wanted to say in the way I wanted to say it. Eighty percent of books are now self-published, and it was relatively easy to find people to help with the various stages of type-setting and printing. The time-consuming part was the proofreading … typos are surprisingly difficult to spot! It took about four months from the time the books were written until they were printed as paperbacks, and I am very pleased with the result … they look great, and the type is easy to read.
The books are available as PDFs, as e-books and as paperbacks, and all forms of both books are easily purchased via my website: JaneStevensonBooks.com
Readers can also contact me at Jane Stevenson Books, PO Box 453, Gloucester 2422 if they prefer to order the books by post.
Thank you Jane.
Interview by Karen Farrell.
This story was published in issue 66 of the Manning-Great Lakes Focus