Woman of her word

Thu, 21st Apr 2016

Coolum’s Wendy O’Hanlon quit her job as a journalist to follow her creative passions and is bringing the Coast’s newest literary festival to life.

First job? 

When I was 15 washing big saucepans at the Cane Tram Café in Howard Street, Nambour. Great incentive to go to uni.

What are you currently working on? 

I am the founder and director of the brand-new and very exciting inaugural Sunshine Coast International Readers and Writers Festival Inc, which will be held in Coolum from September 9 to 11 this year. The annual festival’s main two themes celebrate our Sunshine Coast region’s rich Aboriginal heritage and our acclaimed surfing culture layered over our rich literary and songwriting talent. The festival brings together Australian and international writers (including journalists, environmentalists, photographers, poets, performers and musicians) on a world stage – creating a space for conversation and connection across cultural and geographic divides. We will remain grassroots – that is our niche.

Your family includes. . .  

Two younger brothers and two sons. My folks, Bill and Beryl, have sadly passed on.

Do you have a nickname? 

‘Wohdee’ (from my WOH initials) or just ‘Wendo’.

First car? 

A 1971 Ford Escort four-door sedan. I raced it in the ‘Reso Rally’ at my uni in Rockhampton (1979) and was coming first until the engine’s welch plug blew. We came last and won a brick.

Favourite book? 

To Kill A Mockingbird and The Power of One. Both had equal impact when I read them at different ages.

What are you reading now? 

Phil Jarratt’s From Bali: Heaven and Hell.

Favourite song? 

KD Lang’s Hallelujah.

Best advice you’ve been given? 

My dad had a saying: “The day you stop learning is the day you die”.

Can you nominate a day in your life that turned out to be a turning point?  

The day I quit mainstream media (April last year) and focussed on my creative passions – hence the birth of the Sunshine Coast International Readers and Writers Festival. In 2011, I attended the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival as a media guest. I returned last year as a fully paid-up person. This Ubud festival, now in its 13th year, started as a healing process after the Bali bombings and is so inspirational. I have unashamedly styled our festival on the Ubud spirit and we are so blessed that the Ubud festival founder Janet DeNeefe will officially open our inaugural annual festival this September.

How long have you lived on the Sunshine Coast? 

Born and bred. Born at Nambour Hospital and raised on a cane farm on the Maroochy River, Dunethin Rock Road overlooking Mt Ninderry. I was always aware of our region’s Aboriginal Dreamtime stories. I was fascinated by these stories and the artefacts we saw as kids.

Why do you live here? 

It is my heartland.

favourite place?

First Bay, Coolum Beach.

If you could change one thing on the Coast what would it be? 

The sugar industry back and flourishing again.

Best day in your life? 

Two days, no competition. January 1, 1992 when my first son Billy was born and January 23, 1994 when my second son Jaye was born.

Your greatest regret? 

It was Naples, Italy in 1989. We were on our way to Pompeii but there was (another) train strike. So we baulked at paying triple the taxi fare to get there. I have yet to get back to Italy and see Pompeii. So close, yet so far.

What achievement are you most proud of? 

Raising two amazing young men as a sole parent.

You are happiest when?

With family and friends – perhaps a barbecue at Coolum’s Tickle Park.

Advice to your 18 year-old self?

Be more questioning of authority in any form. 

Tea or coffee?

Latte, one sugar please. Also partial to peppermint tea with honey. 

NRL or AFL and who do you follow? 

Go the Cowboys and the Broncos!