Wollongong born best-selling Australian author Nikki Gemmell proved one of the best speakers in The Illawarra Connection’s 25 year history last week.
As TIC prepares its silver anniversary dinner in early August the former Keiraville resident had more than 200 business and civic leaders captivated.
In an interview conducted by former Illawarra Mercury editor Nick Hartgerink the author of 13 fiction and five non-fiction books willingly talked about everything.
Nothing was off rthe record and she spoke openly for nearly an hour .
Gemmell covered everything from the story behing her best-selling "The Bride Stripped Bare" and the process of writing it, to sharing her deeply personal story about the relationship with and the loss of her mother.
The events surrounding that have been formative in her views on euthanasia.
At the beginning she went right back to her childhood recalling her time at Keiraville Public School and the Mount Keira bushland near her back yard.
“I remember red-belly black snakes in the gutter and funnel-web spiders in the swimming pool,” she said.
“And I remember coming down to Wollongong library every Saturday. I moved to Sydney in 6th Grade and I have to say the education I recieved at Keiraville Public stood me in such good stead that I became dux of my new school just six months after moving because of that education I got here in Wollongong.”
Ms Gemmell recalled how her father was a coal miner and her mother was a coal miner’s daughter.
They both left school at 16 and they house she grew up in had very few books.
But when she brought back a certificate for a new book she won by being dux of her school she returned to the only book store she knew in Crown Street.
She said her father asked what book she should read and “that wonderful woman went to a book shelf and chose a leather bound volume of Jane Eyre”.
“My dad then walked me up to a little booth in the middle of Crown Central that cut keys and also did embossing,” she said.
“That leather bound book with my name Nicole embossed on it is still on my bedside table.”
“When I read that book at the end of Year 6 I was so transported I felt like I was Jane Eyre. And I thought to have the power as a writer to be able to transport the reader was something I wanted to do”.
“My first ever published piece was in the Keiraville Kookaburra. It was awful. But to see my name in print for the first time ever set me on the path to writing.”
The impressive lineup of speakers continues as The Illawarra Connection prepares to welcome Mark Bouris on August 7 at the Novotel.
Mr Bouris, of Yellow Brick Road and The Mentor, is the special guest speaker for the 25 year birthday celebration.
Prior to that Retail Doctor Group chief executive Brian Walker will speak at the annual TIC lunch on July 11
Mr Walker will talk about some of the major upheaval in the retail industry with players such as Amazon entering the Australian market, and changes in consumer behaviour that impact on all businesses, not only retail.