You can be anything you want to be.
That is the message bestselling author and former Traralgon College student Hazel Edwards had for the school’s current crop of students at a meet and greet on Friday.
Best known for her classic children’s story, There’s a Hippopotamus on our Roof Eating Cake, the author paid a visit to the Latrobe Valley to promote her memoir Not Just a Piece of Cake; Being an Author, more than 50 years after she left the area for the big smoke of Melbourne.
Still, after all these years, the Valley remains close to her heart.
“My first published book, General Store, the setting is based from the Glengarry General Store which I spent about three years at during the late 1950s,” Hazel said.
“It was a wonderful apprenticeship as a writer (working in the general store).
“I got to meet so many people and get a true sense of the community.”
Living in the general store and in Gippsland feature in her recent memoir, which reflects on her life and the creation of her 201 published books – her memoir being the 202nd.
Reminiscing about her teenage years in the Valley, Hazel said career options for girls were limited.
“I remember I was taken to take a career test in the Latrobe Valley where they didn’t have author listed anywhere as a possible occupation,” she said.
“Being an author is a somewhat unconventional career path.”
Following your dreams and breaking the traditional gender career stereotypes was something Hazel was passionate about passing onto the Traralgon College students.
“It’s a way of giving back to the students there,” she said.
“There are opportunities you might not realise, you may choose to take an unconventional career path but that choice is yours.
“An idea can travel much further than you’d think.”
As for her iconic novel, which has been transcribed into numerous languages including Braille and Auslan, you can thank her son for the inspiration.
“I had a leaking roof and my (then) four year-old thought there was a hippopotamus on there,” Hazel said.