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When I was wandering aimlessly through my last year of secondary school, I was given the opportunity for work experience with a local firm that specialised in producing a magazine called the Australian Stock Horse. I’d never heard of them. If the truth is to be told, I wasn’t that enthused. Several of my teachers had seen something in me that suggested that I might have some ability as a writer. They sort of shoehorned me into the gig and I didn’t have a whole lot of say in the matter.

I was conflicted. Writing didn’t seem to be something that reflected who I thought I was and yet it was as easy to me as falling off a log. So, I went with no great expectations and a certain degree of teenage attitude that wasn’t that healthy.

My attitude changed from the moment I stepped into the business premises located in Latrobe Terrace, just opposite Kardinia Park. John made me welcome and introduced me to his staff. I can’t remember exactly how many there were. It could have been six. It might have been ten. The senior writer, a North American (possibly Canadian) man whose name is long forgotten was given the task of supervising me. I suspect that he didn’t have great expectations either. Nevertheless, he took the time to explain what was required before assigning me some editing tasks. Then, he left me to it.

I liked that. Noone watched me. I was left to get a job done. To my surprise, I found that I could work through the tasks assigned to me pretty quickly. When I was done, I went looking for more. My supervisor seemed a bit surprised but gave me some more and again, left me to my own devices.

“These are pretty good”

I don’t know how long it took, but my supervisor caught up with me and congratulated me on the job that I’d done. “I’m going to talk to John and see if we can give you something else to do. The next day I was given the job of putting together an article Story of an Ad. Again, I wasn’t treated like a kid. I was given a broad outline of what was required and left to my own devices. That felt good.

The week of work experience flew by and on Friday, I had two exit interviews. The first was with my supervisor who thanked me for my work and told me that I was the best work experience candidate that he had seen. I thanked him for his feedback but didn’t really believe him. He probably says that to everyone, I thought. The second interview was with John Loughnan. I hadn’t seen much of him during the week. He had a business to run and seemed to be always on the move. But he made the time, to sit down and have a chat. I can’t remember the conversation In detail, but he handed me my pay packet which was meant to be $10 (work experience rates) but was substantially more. “You’ve done a good job. We would encourage you to pursue your writing.” He didn’t have to do either of those things.

The money was nice. The encouragement was invaluable and although I didn’t immediately become a writer, it was John’s words that kept me thinking that one day I could be.

Life rarely goes to plan

I applied for a couple of cadetships with the majors, but probably didn’t sell myself hard enough, then drifted into a job with the Commonwealth Bank. Writing was never quite forgotten, but something I would do later. My skills lay dormant for years. Every now and again John’s voice would sound in my subconscious. “We would encourage you to pursue your writing.” Eventually, I listened.

It’s been a hard road, but it’s been worth every word and every rejection. I’m now a freelance writer, mainly writing content for small businesses, but with enough time to have written and published my own book. A sci-fi novel is in the works. While I am not destined to appear in BRWs rich list anytime soon, I’m doing OK. It feels good. If it wasn’t for John Loughnan, I doubt if I would have ever made the effort.

Thank you, John. You probably don’t remember me, but you made a difference.

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By Mark

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