Jenny Lanyon spent two years at her computer co-writing the 80,000-word Kissed by a Croc with John Lever, of Koorana Crocodile Farm at Coowonga. Photo Mike Knowling / Capricorn Coast Mirror
Jenny Lanyon spent two years at her computer co-writing the 80,000-word Kissed by a Croc with John Lever, of Koorana Crocodile Farm at Coowonga. Photo Mike Knowling / Capricorn Coast Mirror Mike Knowling

Coast writer thrives on curiosity about people's lives

JENNY Lanyon has decided to give what she describes as the "second phase" of her career over to the written word.

More than anything, the Tungamull-based author, writer and former journalist wants to talk to people about themselves, to learn what drives them, map out their life stories and craft words to tell those stories the way they ought to be told.

The people in question don't have to be celebrities, just people with stories to tell and that, said Jenny, is far more than you might think.

The first major, published work of Jenny's new career path could hardly have involved someone with a more compelling life story.

She has just completed two years of collaboration with world-renowned crocodile farmer John Lever, of Coowonga, on his autobiography Kissed by a Croc: My Adventures with Rasputin, Goorganga and Rocky (published by HarperCollins).

It was her first book.

"What I've loved was working with John. We never had a cross word or a bad vibe in two years and, to me, that says a lot," Jenny said.

She said working on the 80,000-word illustrated volume had been very much a journey rather than a destination and she had never tired of John's anecdotes throughout the process.

"Reading it, I still find myself chuckling at so much," she said. "It's a very easy read, a bit of a Boys' Own adventure I suppose."

Since arriving in Australia in 1980, Vancouver-born Jenny has lived at Rockhampton, on the Capricorn Coast at Tungamull, at Capella and now back at Tungamull.

As a partner for 26 years, until 2007, with her husband in an industrial fencing contractor business, there were limited opportunities to write.

But it was at Capella - where, from 2004, she was a councillor of the former Peak Downs Shire Council - that she said she "cut her teeth" writing life stories.

"It was at the Capella Community Newsletter that I discovered my passion for talking to people and learning about their lives," she said.

One world is barely enough. She describes herself as a "child of two worlds" as she continues to divide her time between Australia and Canada, returning every year.

There she performs carer work with the elderly which, she says, forms a "wonderful combination" with journalism.

"Older people appreciate everything you do for them," she said.

Part of her early education was at an Anglican "alternative boarding school" in Canada, where she built log cabins and helped the native children.

And before coming to Australia, she was an environmental technician on a British scientific expedition aboard the square-rigged sailing ship Eye of the Wind, which went around the world over two years.

Part of that expedition involved several months in Papua New Guinea - where she visited the research farm John Lever was overseeing at that time, more than three decades ago, and which ultimately led to his invitation to share the writing of his book.

After recording more than 40 interviews for Kissed by a Croc, transcribing them, working through the texts and helping arrange them for publication, Jenny Lanyon has become even better equipped to make the most of the story-telling journey this second - and probably permanent - career phase brings.



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