Tucked beneath Callum Clegg’s writing desk lies a tower of boxes, overflowing with original writings and drafts of books.
The pile of stories tower well over a metre high and cover almost every topic imaginable, from superheroes with special needs to thrillers and his favourite topic, Christmas.
Callum, who was born with cerebral palsy which affects his movement, muscle control and speech, writes daily – not always an easy task when you can use only one finger to type.
Every letter is hard won, a credit to Callum’s passion, vision and determination.
But Callum’s motivation is simple.
“I just like writing,” he said.
At 28, Callum has officially become an author.
His collection of seasonal short stories, My Christmas Tales, was published by Balboa Press just in time for Christmas, fulfilling the dream Callum had nurtured since he wrote his first story in primary school.
The delay in publishing his first book lies not with him, Callum cheekily claims, but with his mother Jenny Coupe-Clegg.
“Every year I promised him ‘I’ll get it edited, I’ll get it edited’,” she laughed.
“But I was a night-shift worker, a nurse, for the last 15 years. I retired five years ago, raising the three kids after their dad died and then looking after my mum – I was just tired.”
Jenny said finding the right editor and publisher was not easy as she needed to ensure whoever worked on the book would preserve, not dilute, Callum’s voice.
“I contacted editors all over the place, I wanted to do it myself but just didn’t have the time,” she said.
“I was quite exact. I wanted it to be his words. I didn’t want them changing too much.”
In the end a mother’s love and a son’s perseverance brought Callum’s dream to life.
“He was so excited,” Jenny said.
“I don’t think he believed he was going to get them published but he is a really good writer, exceptional.
“I always knew he’d get there – I just didn’t know when mainly because I had to put a lot of effort into getting it edited.”
Even before becoming an author, Callum and his dog, Jack, were well known fixtures of Beechworth.
The pair are often spotted motoring down the main roads, Callum in his electric wheelchair, Jack towed along behind in a special dog buggy.
Callum volunteers weekly at Beechworth’s Quercus Community Book Shop where he prices books and attends the Men’s Shed.
He’s also a mad WWE fan, home gym junkie and enjoys stirring up his mother.
His true passion, however, has always been writing, not deterred by the fact that typing does not come easy.
Even so an average a story – always consisting of ten short chapters – only takes him ten days to write.
“He can only use the one finger, and it gets a real work out,” Jenny said.
Callum’s computer is equipped with a program, similar to predictive text, where he can type a single letter and commonly used words appear as suggestions.
Jenny said it was fitting that Christmas-mad Callum’s first book centred around his favourite season.
“Every year, in about October he starts writing Christmas stories,” she said.
“He’s always loved it.
“My parents, especially my mum, were always Christmas fanatics so we’ve always had a raging Christmas - I’m exhausted before we even start.”
Jenny never doubted her son would do something amazing and said knowing that his dream had come true was fantastic.
“I’m pretty proud,” she said.
“Just the things that come into his head, it’s amazing.”
After high school Callum attended a short course at LaTrobe University which solidified his passion for writing.
She said writing had always been a great outlet for Callum.
“His brother followed his dreams and he said to Cal, ‘never let anyone tell you you can’t follow your dreams’,” Jenny said.
“So Callum kept pushing.”
Writing is in Callum’s blood, with Jenny also being a skilled writer.
“I wrote poetry more than stories but then I travelled and lost it a bit,” she said.
“He’s a much better writer than me.”
The book consists of ten Christmas-themed stories including Aussie Christmas, Christmas with Strangers, Dark Christmas, Santa Strikes, The North Pole Race and Orphan Santa.
While his cerebral palsy might affect him physically, Jenny said, it sure hasn’t slowed his imagination – or cheeky nature.
“This book is for anyone aged from seven up to adults,” she said.
“You could read them to little children but there’s a couple of bits that might be a bit naughty, but it would go over the heads of children.
“There’s not anything inappropriate, he just has a few sub-things that make me think ‘oh yeah Callum… I see...’.”
Callum’s first collection is stocked at Beechworth’s Quercus Community Book Shop and in online retailers Amazon and Angus and Robertson.
He will be in Dymocks Albury from 10.30am today (Saturday) signing books.
Jenny said Callum had signed books at markets in Beechworth, selling 12 autographed copies in a single session.
She said the stores were very supportive.
“If he has a big texta he can sign it, a CC underneath his name,” Jenny said proudly.
“Sometimes it is a little bit squiggly but it’s a signature. We’ll only do about an hour, maybe two, of signing because it’s pretty exhausting for him.”
One hundred copies of the books have been printed, with more e-copies available on devices.
Parts of the short stories might be familiar for residents of the North East, with some settings reminiscent of Beechworth.
Jenny said Callum was ecstatic to get his hands on his own book when the publications first arrived, even asking her how she felt having such an impressive son.
“He’s very, very proud, he’s very accomplished and he deserves it,” Jenny said.
Although he’s already got an impressive unpublished catalogue, Callum is still bursting with ideas and writing constantly.
He is hoping to publish another collection of short stories next year about super heroes with special needs.
Many of Callum’s works include someone with a disability, with Aussie Christmas featuring someone who uses a wheelchair.
Callum says that including people with different abilities and needs in his writing is an important part of his storytelling.
“Because that’s who I am,” he said.
Copies of My Christmas Tales are available in Albury on Saturday at Dymocks with Callum autographing copies from 10.30am. It is also available in store at Quercus and online at Amazon and Angus and Robertson.
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