Bronwyn Donaghy was trained as a journalist. She learned the basic rules: getting the interviews, getting the facts, checking them, piecing it all together, prioritising, writing an objective succinct story from the headline through to the fine detail. No observations, no opinions, no speculation, no lavish descriptions. She learned the ropes on a regional newspaper and a country TV station, and by the time she was nineteen she was in front of the cameras on Sydney TV, hosting a Sunday behind the news documentary.
A scintillating career as a media personality beckoned; she would be a presenter, commentator, interviewer or entertainer. But Bronwyn’s first love was not reporting nor current affairs. It was writing, creative writing, writing from the heart. She had other ambitions too: to travel, to marry, to have a family, to love and nurture her own children, and to live by the sea. So she gave up TV news and set out to achieve her goals one by one. She travelled, she married, she had a family, and then she started to write on her own terms – from home.
Bronwyn began the long comeback trail by writing magazine articles. In 1979 she applied as an occasional contributor to Slimming, Health and Nutrition magazine, owned and run by Martin and Carol Fallows who became lifelong associates and friends. When concurrently with the Donaghys they also became embroiled in raising pre-and primary schoolers, Slimming was replaced in 1982 by Parents and Children magazine, later Australia’s Parents magazine. Carol tells her story. It was then that Bronwyn began to develop her professional interest in families, children and relationships. With her training she was able to research any topic and produce technically perfect pieces on subjects as diverse as racial prejudice, gifted children and dance classes.
Bronwyn’s writing remained in low gear for most of the eighties, until her youngest child Liam was at primary school. She had always believed there was a funny side to seven days a week of parental frustration, and in 1989 found an outlet for it in the form of a monthly column called Storming Around, under the pseudonym Frances Storm, in a new publication, Sydney’s Child. Bronwyn continued to write about the surreal Storm family, the children Turbulence, Serenity and Thug, and the Good Husband Mr O’Storm, until she died.
Her other main ambition at this stage was to write freelance articles for the Sydney Morning Herald, not an easy objective for any part time writer. In the early eighties the Herald began an “Agenda” page to attract women readers. Commented then editor Jenna Price:
“I was keen to have reader input, and began a column under the title Relations. Bronwyn sent me a short contribution about her life with Turbulence, Serenity and Thug. It was screamingly funny and I knew it would resonate with every other woman with children out there.”
By 1989 Bronwyn had established herself as a frequent contributor to the Agenda page on community, family and children’s topics. Being able to write professionally on almost any subject, she went on to work regularly for a variety of features editors at the Herald, providing commissioned features also to supplements such as Good Weekend, Education, Careers and even the Master Builder Awards. As Jenna said:
“I’d give her tasks that 20 year olds found too tough – and she would come back a couple of weeks later with the story, real people, real names, nothing phoney. Often the people in her story would ring me and say how much they had liked her; one even asked if she would like to do a follow-up when she delivered her next baby (this woman was in her 40s when she had her first, an accomplishment in those days.)”
Even in her most intensive period of book writing and speaking engagements, between1996 and 2001, Bronwyn managed to write more than 70 articles for the Heraldon topics as diverse asyouth unemployment, violence in schools, life coaches, the Sydney Olympics and breast cancer, as well as the topics covered in her books.
Her middle class family was never wealthy and in the early nineties Bronwyn looked for as many other opportunities as possible to capitalise on her ability to pour out words. In due course her forthright views, entertaining style, reliability and professionalism gave her a foohold as a regular and dependable contributor to a host of publications, including Women’s Weekly, Woman’s Day, Family Circle, New Woman and Family Matters. She even wrote for and edited Franchising magazine for a number of years, and produced a number of articles for The Age and The Australian.
In 1997 she won a national award from the Australian Society of Magazine Editors (ASME) for an essay on the change of roles which occurs between adults and their aging parents. She continued to write for Parents magazine until it closed down in 1999, even including a regular series of kindergarten-level stories about Hoot the Owl throughout the busiest time of her career.