Life beyond Radford

Last updated 31.10.2018

Leife Shallcross

Class of 1991
OCCUPATION Public Servant
Lives Canberra, Australia
Attendance at radford Years 7-12
House Wandoo
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What does life look for you now?

I’m still living in Canberra with my partner and two children, who are both in high school now. I currently work for the Department of Communications and the Arts, and for the last five years or so I have been building a career in writing fiction. I’ve had several short stories published and in 2018 my first novel, The Beast's Heart (a retelling of Beauty & the Beast), was published by Hodder & Stoughton.

Tell us what you are passionate about?

Writing fiction and the arts. As well as my own writing, I'm involved in a number of literature-focused community arts groups in Canberra, including running writing festivals.

When you were young, what were you hoping to be when you grew up?

A writer!

What is your favourite Radford moment?

Wow. *Sifts through memories* Going to my very first year seven science class and having the hilarious and brilliant Peter Dodd with his giant bushy beard and his labcoat with “Reunite Gondwanaland” written on the back in big black letters.

Having George Huitker show up as a student teacher in my Year 8 English class (he threw minties at us so we’d give him a good score on his evaluation.)

Every single art class ever.

Watching my good friend Isolde running the cross country in Year 12 wearing a graduation robe and mortar board cap was pretty hilarious (she was a great long-distance runner and usually won. She was also in Huon House, so the black robe & cap worked well for her.)

Do you have a particular role model or inspirational figure from Radford or now?

Yep. John Foulcher. Firstly, he was just a bloody brilliant teacher. But he also convened a creative writing circle for students in my senior years and was just generally inspirational about writing creatively. I think in years 11 and 12 I did a double major in English so I could pick up as many of his classes as I could. His RE classes were also some of the most interesting – probably because they focussed less on religion and more on developing a humanitarian approach to thinking through complex ethical issues. I managed to catch up with him very briefly at a poetry reading night at the ANU in 2011 (I think) after he’d just returned from his residency in Paris, and he had barely changed. He was one of those teachers whose influence on me was life changing in terms of my learning to love language and words and writing.

How easy was it to decide what to do in life?

Not easy at all. I had no idea what I wanted to do. Well, I did (write), but I didn’t know how to make a career out of it, so I did other stuff until I finally worked out (at age 37) that if you want to do a thing, you have to do the thing.

Did your further study or career go exactly as you'd planned?

I didn’t really plan it, I just fell into doing stuff. I did manage to wrangle an Arts degree that is about 80% English Literature subjects, because that’s where my passion lies. Then I joined the public service partly because I didn’t have anything specific I wanted to do, but also because I wanted to do work that involved making a difference in people’s lives. That has certainly been the focus of my career so far.

What do you know now, that you wish you'd known when you were at Radford?

That you can make a career out of being an artist. It’s just trickier than more standard career paths. You have to approach it creatively. And start early. And don’t be afraid to do other stuff along the way. It takes time to build these things.

What advice do you have for current students?

Think outside the square. If you don’t have the confidence to do what you want to do, fake it. Find out how other people have done it, and learn from them. And even the most wonderful, fun, fulfilling career in the world can be a thankless slog sometimes. Push through. Keep going.

Where are you now?