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Writing a children's book gives central Queensland cattle producer hope and chance to follow dream

By Erin Semmler, Monday April 26, 2021 - 00:20 EST
ABC image
Willa, 5, is a big fan of her mum's book 'When we wake to feed the cows'. - ABC

A rural bedtime story is providing hope and much-needed income for one family of central Queensland cattle producers, who have survived five years of drought.

Samantha and Josh Comiskey run a cattle stud at Alton Downs, north of Rockhampton, where the odd shower of rain has provided brief relief but not enough to break the dry.

"We are definitely not alone with so many in the same situation. It is a constant thought [and] conversation amongst those in the area," Ms Comiskey said.

The couple had been forced to find additional work beyond their farm operation.

"We needed to generate an off-farm income because it has been really difficult," she said.

Ms Comiskey has written stories and brainstormed ideas from a young age.

"When I did psychology, I thought, I'll go and work somewhere for 20 years, and when I retire, I'll just spend my days writing," she said.

But in December last year, her brother had a serious motorbike accident.

"That for me was kind of like a, 'What am I doing with my life?' [moment] because life is so fleeting," she said.

"It just put everything into perspective for me, and I just wanted to focus more on what I love."

'A proud moment'

Watching her brother come to terms with life-changing injuries on top of dealing with four years of drought motivated Ms Comiskey to follow through on her dream of becoming an author.

Under the name, Aunty Sam, she released her first children's picture book, 'When we wake to feed the cows' in February.

"I sold out in the first month," she said.

"When I first saw the cover of this book, I cried.

"You have a dream, but you have goals along the way, and when you actually do something that you've always wanted to do, it's a big proud moment."

Encouraged by local support

A hundred copies of the book were initially released, but more were printed to meet demand.

"It's been nice to create a story out of something that's been quite difficult," she said.

"When we wake to feed the cows, it's no joke you're feeding the cows during drought all the time.

"It's an everyday occurrence, and it costs a lot of money."

Parents supported the book across Queensland. Aunty Sam even shipped a copy down to a buyer in Tasmania.

Her daughters Hattie, 3 and Willa, 5, love reading it.

"I think it does fill a gap, even for my kids, it's just a picture of what their everyday life is like," she said.

Between feeding bulls, dropping the girls at school and taking care of the paperwork for their cattle stud, Aunty Sam manages to squeeze a couple of hours of writing and designing into each day.

She plans to release another book in May.

"It's called Willa Willa Caterpillar, so it'll be a lot bigger than this one but a similar sort of style as a rhyming story," she said.

"It's about how to spread kindness and how to support people who are in need, and to use your creativity when you're in new settings."

Light in dark times

Ms Comiskey said the extra income had provided some hope, but the property's dams were still bone dry.

"It's not until you have water that you have that little sense of security that the next few months are going to be ok," she said.

"[But] it's that sense of having that little bit of income, even just pocket money, just to know that you're going to be able to afford the groceries or even pay the school fees.

"At the end of the day, this kind of industry is really relevant to the weather.

"The cattle prices have been very good this last six months for everyone, which has been very much a light in the dark for a lot of people, so that's been really nice."


© ABC 2021

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