WRITING a book has stood near the top of Maryann Weston’s “bucket list” since the age of nine.
Back then, as a primary school student at Young, she penned a children’s book about farm life, which her best friend illustrated.
The young literati cut it up into small handwritten pages for distribution to eager classmates.
A wealth of life experience, a distinguished journalism career and plenty more manuscripts later, Mrs Weston has punched through the publishing world in a bigger way.
‘Shadowscape: The Stevie Vegas Chronicles’ was released on Monday through UK based Creative Print Publishing.
The story, with its strong social messages, took out a UK literary competition last December, winning a publishing contract and realisation of a dream.
The former Goulburn Post editor has not only ticked that goal off her bucket list, but has also begun work on the second book the Shadowscape trilogy aimed at young teenagers.
“I’m very excited about my first book,” Maryann, who writes under the pen name M.R. Weston, said.
“It was deeply satisfying and it’s a sense of satisfaction no one can take away.”
Shadowscape tells the story of Stevie Vegas, a school kid and skateboarder leading an easy life until forced to stick up for his younger brother Jem, who’s being bullied at school. It has violent consequences.
Stevie is thrown into a different world where his skateboarding skills and a rare gift for extrasensory perception combat the bullying and intimidating behaviour of Jacob Barron and his followers.
Stevie is an illuminator, not just for his ability to read minds, but to shed light on darkness or evil.
“They sense the darkness within others and are able to see the aural light or shadow that surrounds every human being,” as Weston writes.
“They bear the mark of a light bringer – a small star on their right shoulder.”
Shadowcasters on the other hand are consumed by power, riches, greed, manipulation and hate. Jacob Barron and his father, the mayor of Smithson, who lives in a massive mansion, fit the bill, wielding their bullying and possessive ways.
In the end, good triumphs, the bullies are put in their place and Stevie rests easy with his conscience, not to mention his considerable skateboarding skills.
The book is aimed at readers aged nine to 14 but carries strong messages adults and particularly parents can appreciate.
“Every mother has had experience where a child has been bullied,” the mother of three boys explains.
“Throughout my life I’ve always tried to stick up for the person being bullied, whether that was in the adult world or in institutions.
“I was aware with teenage sons that bullying not only extends into the schoolyard but the cyber world and that we as a society don’t have a good track record in dealing with it. Sometimes we have tragic outcomes and for me, if that happens, it’s preventable.”
But it’s also about the getting of wisdom; that we can all be immature, miss the obvious, but still travel the journey to fulfil potential and learn lessons.
The choices Stevie makes are critical. The wrong ones are easy but the right ones are hard. Stevie is helped by his mentors, including a tribal warrior character and his Aunt Bessie, a sage if there ever was one.
And just as bullies have their supporters, goodness overrides and attracts a powerful following.
But why skateboarding?
The sport has always fascinated Maryann, who as Goulburn Post editor from 1999-2003 campaigned for a skate park for the city. Council took up the idea and years later, her son Callum was enjoying the result.
“I used to watch the tricks and marvel at the skill skateboarders have,” the author said.
“It may not be the rugby field or soccer field but that kind of sports requires just as much skill and athleticism.”
Skateboarders were also a bit different in their expression and creativity. As Maryann argues, there’s a strong place for difference and even street art in society.
She wrote the book for her three sons – Erad, now 21, Jack, 19 and Callum, 15, which was the best reason of all to write, she said.
She wanted to engage them and reinforce valuable lessons.
“It was a family project and they certainly were my litmus test. I was writing for them,” Maryann said.
“It was fun and we became a literary household, literally.”
The work is a melting pot of ideas pooled through a varied career from public relations, 12 years at the Goulburn Post starting under Ray Leeson’s editorship in 1988 and interspersed with children.
In 1999 she was appointed the Post’s first female editor, which she described as a “high point.”
In 2003 she joined the federal Department of Agriculture as a policy advisor and for the past few years she’s been head of public relations for Vibe Australia, an indigenous multi media and events group with an office in Goulburn. She keeps her hand in with writing for Vibe’s magazine.
‘Shadowscape’ was the product of three months’ work over spare weekends. There’ll be a few more like that as she embarks on the Stevie Vegas trilogy, including ‘Rise of the Shadowcasters' and ‘Luminous.’ Her ultimate goal is to see the book studied in schools for its anti-bullying message.
‘Shadowscape: The Stevie Vegas Chronicles’ is available to order through local bookshop Town and Country Books in Centro or online through outlets such as Amazon and Book Depository. You can also follow Maryann on Twitter @MaryannWeston.