The power of the Almanac

Two years ago the thought of having my words published in a book was fanciful. I was not a writer, I didn’t have leather patches on my jacket or wear a beret. The average seven year old could spell better. I wasn’t qualified. Last year I appeared in the Almanac for the first time and this year have been lucky enough to get a gig again. I am a fortunate man. We all owe a little something to the Almanac.

For an amatuer writer it is the ultimate thrill to see your words in print. Your words can sit on a bookshelf next to the likes of Dickens and Tolstoy. A bookshelf doesn’t discriminate, it embraces. Ok so Warwick Capper has written a book, but by and large it is a noble craft.

How have we all ended up at the Almanac? Drawn in by friends? That bloke named Harms from the Telly? Stumbled upon it by chance? There are great professional writers in the mix, those we have read in the papers, school teachers, kids, pensioners with a dry wit and acid tongue, footballers tragics and even the odd agitator thrown in for good measure. The Almanac is a weird mob with a collective goal – to entertain and express oneself using the great game as an outlet.

All writers are equal at the Almanac. You don’t need to get a number tattooed on your calf to see where you fit in.

My story started in an office block in East Melbourne two years ago. I used to be the General Manager of Deaf Sports Australia. A great little organisation getting deaf and hard of hearing Australians involved in sport. The challenge of the role was that I sat in an office with 4 staff members who were deaf. Communication was difficult (on both sides). My Auslan (sign language skills) were akin to a Contiki Tour member navigating their way through the Vatican. I felt isolated and needed to find another communication outlet.

The Almanac found me on the Friday before the 2011 Grand Final. A random internet search one lunch time and I came across the site. I think I punched in football and writing into Google whilst looking for a football history book.

I read a little and was hooked. There was an honesty about the writing. No spin. No Bullshit. Dry humour. Passion. A quick look around the site and apparently I could get my words published if they were half decent.

Am I a writer? I once wanted to be. I loved writing in early high school. Wuthering Heights killed me, 6 pages in and I needed air. I was confused, failed an exam and packed it in. Maybe if Heathcliff had a surname I would have gone further?

I didn’t write much for the next 20 years.

I started slowly penning a few articles leading up to the 2012 season, generic stuff, not wanting to expose myself for fear of rejection. I got a few comments from fellow readers and my confidence built. I started to feel like I belonged.

In 2012 I became a father and this opened up a whole new range of writing and emotions. It made me reflect about my own father’s role in my life and how football had been a constant binding force in our lives. The joys of the first footy jumper for my son; life lessons learnt through football and so on sprang to life as contributions. My writing became more personal. I was giving more of myself.

I got the nod that my review of the St Kilda - Swans game would make the 2012 Almanac. Wow. I achieved something. I couldn’t make the book launch due to work so I sent my wife around to the Harms residence to do a book pick up. Not sure the CEO of Penguin would let you lob up at his house. The Almanac doesn’t care for airs and graces.

Sophie arrives and I nervously thumb through the pages until I get to my game review. There it is. I’m in print. I am as proud as punch. I wonder if seasoned writers get the same satisfaction upon seeing themselves in print or does it become a matter of routine?

I think I single handingly underwrote the 2012 Almanac budget. I ordered copies for anyone I knew. My aunty’s third cousin’s postman was half a chance of getting one.

I gave Dad a copy and it genuinely stopped him in his tracks. I think he carries the book around in the car and every person in Wagga has now seen a copy.

Another year goes by and my writing continues, and hopefully improves. Its been a tough 12 months with some illness issues for my son and the support and empathy from some of the fellow Almanackers will not slowly be forgotten.

I’ve found a passion with my writing and for that I owe a deep sense of gratitude to everyone associated with the Almanac.

I’ll be at the Melbourne launch this year. For one night of the year I’ll be a fully fledged writer.

About craig dodson

Born in the sporting mecca that is Wagga Wagga and now reside in Melbourne with my lovelly wife Sophie and son Jack. Passionate Swans supporter and formally played cricket at a decent level and Aussie Rules at a not so decent level! Spend my days now perfecting my slice on the golf course and the owner of the worlds worst second serve on the tennis course.

Comments

  1. Wonderful piece Craig. Your experience echoes my own at so many levels.
    In the last 2 weeks I became a grandfather for the first time, and my 82yo Dad posted on the site yesterday. Both gave me a thrill, because the relationships have not always been this good, and I have found I have grown a lot through sharing and opening up more.
    Look forward to more great pieces like this from you Craig, but keep working on the spelling (Ed).

  2. I have enjoyed reading many of your articles Craig and like you I have enjoyed being a part of the Almanac community (even if just a small part of it). The Almanac has become my “traditional” Christmas present to a group of friends over the last few years. Enjoy the book launch. I wish I could attend. The few functions that I have been to have all been great.

  3. Great stuff Craig. The Knackery is a wonderful non-institution. People having a go like you make it what it is.

    See you at the launch. I’ll be behind the table flogging books. I’m easy to pick; tall, athletic, blond. Some say I look a bit like Nick Riewoldt. Looking forward to it.

  4. Bravo.

    Remember this first and foremost Craig: YOU went to the keyboard and started tapping away.

    We are better for your stories, and grateful.

    Cooks cook. Drivers drive. Writers write. No matter where we are published – if at all.

    Always learning, always developing the craft.

  5. Neil Anderson says:

    I did wonder if anyone was as humbled and overjoyed as I was being part of the Almanac family. I fronted up to the Almanac launch last year thinking I didn’t really belong with ‘real’ writers. It didn’t take long after people like Cookie introduced me to the other Knackers to realize I really did belong. It’s now a big part of my life and I am extremely grateful.
    If your article above is any example then you definitely are a writer. Having a proud father in Wagga is a real bonus. Look forward to meeting you on Thursday.

  6. Andrew Weiss says:

    Thanks Craig for your insight on how you became a part of the Almanac community. I also are truly grateful for the opportunity to write on the Almanac website and also be published in the book for the first time last year and again this year. It is one of my proudest moments that I could tell people that I am a published writer. I have always wanted to be a sports commentator and writer but knew that doing it as a job was not really an option. Thanks to the Almanac I can fulfil this dream. Thanks to everyone involved with the Almanac for making not only my dream come true but I am sure many of the other contributors dream come true

  7. Phil Dimitriadis says:

    That’s wonderful Craig. Your article reminded me of why I wanted to be part of the Almanackery. Look forward to many more of your stories.

    Dips is the spitting image of Nick Riewoldt’s…little cousin.

  8. My published contribution in Footy Town still shocks me. my name is in print. If I find a bookshop while shopping I wander in, check if they have FT and make sure that their version has my piece, just like my copy at home! It’s been in every one so far! For someone whose working life has been mostly in non-descript public servanthood the buzz of seeing your name in a real book in a real bookshop is enormous.

  9. craig dodson says:

    Thanks for the kind words gents, means a lot.

    John I think the comments above from everyone show what an impact the Almanac has had. You should be a very proud man.

    Peter well done on becomming a Grandfather, another Eagle is released into the wild. Enjoy Christmas mate, the kids make it.

    Dips look forward to having a beer on Thursday, for what its worth I remind people of Harry Madden.

    Djlitsa, enjoy your work too mate. Will have to share a beer next time.

    Neil look forward to having a chat on Thursday. Couldn’t agree more about the Almanac providing an opportunity to pursue another avenue we always wanted.

    Phil appreciate that mate and look forward to your next piece.

  10. Craig,
    Always memorable being published in the book for the first time, but wait until your first Almanac function, especially a GF lunch or a book launch. Chatting with other Knackers is a real highlight; making a connection and catching up at subsequent functions is very enjoyable. A real bond is formed – it’s the equivalent of the footy trip. The word community can be bandied around; it’s very true with the Knackery.
    Looking forward to catching up with everyone on Thursday.

  11. DJ Litsa, my family get a book every Christmas too – some of them don’t like football! A box of books for $200 and I have a dozen people covered, especially good for fathers-in-law. (He may get two this year.)

  12. Craig

    Great stuff. Your story is very similar to mine.

    When I was a teenager and doing HSC, all I wanted to do was journalism. All I remember wanting to be was a writer and be a journo.

    I was talked away from it and to my shame, didn’t have the guts to pursue what I wanted, instead folding to other’s ambitions for me and did economics and arts at Uni.

    I sat on my regret for 20 years, knowing I could write but not getting the chance.

    By luck or fate I heard Paul Daffey interviewed in late 2011 on SEN, about the Almanac, and he said they were happy to receive pieces.

    My first published piece wasn’t even about sport, but I can’t tell you how excited I was to be on these pages.

    Having a piece in this year’s book has made me stupidly and embarassingly proud. Like you, family gifts for many rellies are looked after this year and I hope for years to come.

    Will enjoy finding you on Thursday for a beer and we can congratulate each other on our good fortune

    Sean

  13. Craig,
    That’s a beaut.
    As for many others, you speak for me in your piece above.
    The inclusive and welcoming community, encouraging the idea of “having a go,” the great spectrum of writing styles and stories to be told…
    Exciting, happy times.
    See you Thursday.

  14. craig dodson says:

    Am really looking forward to Thursday night Cookie, will dress a little more professionally than my last footy trip though!

    Andrew you hit it straight on the head about the fact that we can indulge a passion that need not be a career.

    Noel glad to see I’m not the only one sneaking into librarys to see if I’m on the shelf

    Sean looks like we have taken the same path, better late than never to give it a crack.

    E.Regans, really appreciate the feedback mate.

    Looks like there is a long line of good company to share a beer with on Thursday, may need to get my wife to leave the porch light on!

  15. You are the voice of many here Craig, I among them. The great Australian game has a beautiful, sometimes bizarre but always unique sub-culture that I am yet to see celebrated anywhere better than among the pages of The Footy Almanac. An eclectic bunch united through writing about a game we love.
    After my first piece somehow stumbled it’s way into print I wanted to read it from the rooftops. The next day (and sadly, I’m not making this up) I strolled the corridors of work with a pipe I’d borrowed from a smoking friend and a copy of The Almanac tucked under my arm, quoting loudly from its pages to any colleague unfortunate enough to cross my path, such was my pride.
    I hope Messrs Harms & Daffy read your piece and comments with glowing pride.

    p.s I still say there’s a need for matching, bikie style jackets. I have this vision at book launches of us with our 4 door sedans angle parked outside the pub in a show of strength and unity, the “Knackers” milling around inside with light beers and shandys, harrassing local patrons with our perfect grammar and diction.

  16. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Loved this piece , Craig and no doubt the , Knackery unites us and I love , Igors post above there is no doubt what so ever in what a thrill to see yourself in print .
    I loved meating folk at last years launch putting the face to the person who had written the article and a bit of the personality . It is a great community to be involved in
    Thanks Craig

  17. Kath Presdee says:

    I am SO looking forward to this year’s Almanac as it is the first time that my words will be published in a real book under my name.

    When asked about my writing experience, I could point to several publications that, unfortunately, were not under my name and, unfortunately (or fortunately) not reflective of me. I’d been a significant contributor to a number of reports and policy papers when I’d been a public servant, but I was always writing under the name of a Department, a Minister, or the grand title “Commonwealth of Australia”. I could point to my words; could tell you which chapters were written by me and what bits had been edited and why. But you wouldn’t see my name anywhere. So even though it was “writing”, I didn’t feel like a legitimate “writer” and certainly not an “author”.

    The fact that my byline is going to be in a book with a lot of other people who shared their joy (and despair) of the great sporting passion is thrilling. I don’t know whether it’s quite up with having Kevin Sheedy retweet the link to my first piece on the website; but if it isn’t it will be damn close.

  18. Luke Reynolds says:

    Great stuff Craig. I’m waiting with nervous anticipation about seeing my work in print for the first time on Thursday night. Have been to my first two Almanac functions this year, wasn’t sure how I’d fit in with all those famous writers from the internet. Couldn’t have been made to feel more welcome.

  19. Paul Daffey says:

    HI Craig,

    Great hearing your story. Sometimes when you’re writing you feel very alone, but this site offers immediate connection. Glad you could make that connection.

    One thing regarding Thursday night: All writers are expected to wear a footy jumper. We haven’t stressed that during the promos but it’s one of fun aspects of the night.

  20. craig dodson says:

    Appreciate the kid words Igor, Malcolm, Kath, Paul and Luke.

    A jumper it is then Paul, I’ll have to dust off the blue and gold hoops of the mighty Mangoplah Cookadinia Goannas!

  21. Cookie – a box of Almanac’s for $200 – I’ll have to consider that. There are a few Essendon supporters on my list just for Litza’s intro piece alone that I can think of.

    Craig – apart from the enjoyable read above – you have been successful in creating one of the things I love most about this site – the comments section. I love it when when there is some great discussion and banter in the comments. And from the volume of comments that are left on the site and the general nature of them certainly tells a lot about how well the Almanac has bought people together.

  22. I am thoroughly sick of all this ‘hands across the water’ crap that you Melburnians are going on with. Do you all gather in a circle and sing ‘kum bye ay’ in front of the saloon bar fire at the All Nations.
    Over here in Perth all 6 Almanackers gather at my place, because the Freo fans are all homeless and can’t afford beer. I get a rabies shot for Shandy the Wonder Dog in case one of the ferals bites him.
    Zampatti won’t go home while there is red in the house. Jarvis spends all night making George Costanza look like Mr Happy. Sean bores us rigid about his next book project and the AFLPA consultancy fees.
    Les never comes because his AVO won’t let him travel north of Subiaco,
    Its memorable and we hate each others guts as much at the end as the start.
    How things should be.

  23. Peter Schumacher says:

    I’ll just say this, I love writing though “I could do better”. The Almanac gave me the chance try to get fair dinkum. Next year I MUST make the launch! And I agree about being published, it is probably the highest achievement in my life.

  24. Yvette Wroby says:

    Dear Craig and all my other lovely Almanac comrades,

    I always love the comments, the articles, the functions and the friends I have made from the site and book. I write every day, a journal, and as I am away, I am writing a chapter every day of my writing. I write for me, my family and friends, and sometimes my almanac community. I have now been published in three almanacs, had my artwork on the site, and shared a visit in Kentucky with a fellow tragic Sainter from the Almanac. The Almanac has changed my life and I feel blessed, as you all do, to be part of it. As for Peter B, don’t fall for what he says. We’ve had the pleasure of sharing last years GF at my house and he really is very sweet to, despite being a West Coast supporter and from WA. Keep writing, this whole almanac world is gold for our soul

    x
    Yvette

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