FitzSimons impresses in the Whitsundays
AT two metres tall, former Australian rugby player Peter FitzSimons made an impressive entrance to the Cannonvale Marine Club on Saturday afternoon.
Wearing his trademark red bandana, black shirt and jeans, FitzSimons was in Airlie Beach for the fifth annual Writers Festival at which he was a special guest.
The sportsman turned author and journalist with the Sydney Morning Herald, regaled the audience with a presentation on his favourite topic, “me, my life and what I think”.
The youngest of seven siblings, from Peat’s Ridge, FitzSimons grew up on what he described as “a diet of pretty good literature” before rugby “intervened”.
Playing rugby for the Wallabies and representing Australia in seven Tests propelled FitzSimons into the spotlight but it was writing about rugby that would ultimately change his life.
His first book Basking in Beirut was a collection of rugby and travel stories and his third book, a biography of the then Wallabies captain Nick Farr-Jones, sold 45,000 copies – up 30,000 from the previous best-seller on the same sport.
Rugby was also Fitzsimons’ “entrée” to a job at the Sydney Morning Herald, the paper he had grown up with and still loves.
While sports journalism is a field FitzSimons describes as having been good to him, he has branched into other topics for many of his 25 non-fiction books, including biographies on former Opposition Leader Kim Beazley, boxer Les Darcy, aviator Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and war heroine Nancy Wake.
His tips for aspiring writers at the festival included to “show not tell” a story and make it “live and breathe”.
FitzSimons, who is the current Guinness world record holder for the longest interview ever conducted, after talking with Richard Glover from the ABC for 24 hours straight, kept to his time limit of one hour on Saturday.
He also hosted a gourmet dinner as part of the festival on Saturday night.
Describing the event as a chance to meet readers, he was very specific about the virtues of being an avid lover of books.
“It’s very hard to be a dickhead and also love reading,” he said.
SPECIAL GUEST: Peter FitzSimons stayed at Peppers Airlie Beach Resort during his visit to the region for the Whitsunday Writers Festival from October 10-12.