About Mavis Thorpe Clark: 1909-1959

Mavis Thorpe Clark was born Mavis Rose Clark in Melbourne in 1909. As a girl she attended Mont Albert Central School and Methodist Ladies College in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne.

"I was the youngest of five children. The next one to me was a brother eight years older. This made me, in a way, like an only child, and spoilt. My scribbles were encouraged by my family, especially by my mother. And my much-older sister took my stories to her office, typed them out, and brought them home folded into pages like small books."

- The Early Dreaming: Australian Children's Authors on Childhood (1980) page 11.

In the hour before sleep each night, Mavis planned the plot, characters and action of her story.

"I would think out in word-for-word detail what I was going to write the next day. The words and detail stayed with me until I found the time between lessons or homework, chores or play, to put them on paper."

- The Early Dreaming: Australian Children's Authors on Childhood (1980) page 12.

Mavis Thorpe Clark's story, The Red School, was written when she was 14 years of age and published in the Australasian, a weekly newspaper, as a serial for children.

Her first full-length children's novel was written when she was 18 years old and sold to Whitcombe and Tombs in 1930 for the then considerable sum of £30. This novel, Hatherley's First Fifteen, is a boy's adventure story about Rugby football.

In 1932, Mavis married Harold Latham and in 1936 the first of their two daughters, Beverley Jeanne, was born. During this time, she concentrated on writing short stories and articles, and adapting and scripting serials for children's radio programmes:

"Australian newspapers ran excellent Children's Pages, usually featuring a weekly serial of about 15,000-20,000 words. I wrote a number of these which were published in The Age, Argus, Sydney Morning Herald, Adelaide News, Brisbane Courier Mail and Hobart Mercury. It was possible to sell these serials to each state, which meant several sales avenues. Payment varied from £10 to £15 for each serial."

- Trust the Dream (1999) page 65.

Reflecting on this time of her life, she wrote:

"I believe that the writing craft is one that has to be practised constantly if thought processes and word fluency are to be retained. For this reason I am thankful that during this busy time, I kept working at some form of writing, even though it was not books."

- Something About the Author: Volume 8 (1976) page 28.

In 1939, World War II broke out:

"With the war, Children's Pages in the newspapers came to an end. Newsprint was rationed, book-publishing languished. Radio was my outlet now. I wrote serials for 3DB Children's Hour, for that lovable children's presenter, Jean Lawson; and a series of Greek myths and short pieces for the children's program on 3LO. It was desultory, intermittent writing. The six years of war were a wasted period; years of war that exercised their own restrictive influence on creativity, both practically and spiritually. There was a constant fear of the outcome. This demonstrated to me how much our lives are dependent on the future. Take away the future and there is nothing. It did not matter to me during those years whether I wrote or not. That is why we must return a future, a hope, to our young ones of today."

- Trust the Dream (1999) page 67.

The effects of the war continued well after the Japanese surrender:

"Peace came in August 1945, but anything like pre-war publishing was slow, a shortage of paper being a major problem. It was to be at least four years before the publishing world was back to normal…

As (Ronda Faye, my second daughter who was born in 1944) grew into a sturdy little girl and book-publishing began to revive, my interest was roused again."

- Trust the Dream (1999) page 68.

Towards the late 1940s, with both daughters at school, Mavis Thorpe Clark began to write full-length manuscripts again. Dark Pool Island (Oxford, 1949); The Twins From Timber Creek (Oxford University Press, 1949); Home Again at Timber Creek (Oxford, 1950); Jingaroo (Oxford, 1950); and Missing Gold (Hutchinson, 1951) were published over a three year period. The Brown Land was Green followed in 1956; Gully of Gold in 1958; and Pony from Tarella in 1959.

Continues ... 1960-1999

Photo of MTC, approx 8 years old, with her mother and one brother.

Mavis Thorpe Clark (right) with her mother Rose Matilda Clark and brother Robert (Bob), C1917.

Photo of MTC with 2 sisters, aged approx 13 years, her hair in pigtails.

Mavis Thorpe Clark (right) with her two sisters, Violet (left) and Ruby, C1922.

Photo of MTC aged approx 16 years, with short hair.

Mavis Thorpe Clark as a teenager, C1925.

Photo of MTC, aged approx 40 years, sitting in a chair with a book in her hands.

Mavis Thorpe Clark in 1948.