'Rusty the Tractor'

News - Dec 07, 2021

Courtney Johnston, née Underhill, graduated from Grace in 2011 and has since written a children’s book with a strong underlying message of resilience and determination. ‘Rusty the Tractor who never gives up’ is based on an actual rusty, old tractor that has been passed down through the generations in her husband’s family, and now lives and still works on their dairy farm at Kenilworth.

We chatted to Courtney about what she’s been up to since 2011, and her journey to writing a children’s book.

Hi Courtney! Thanks for taking the time to speak to our Grace community as part of our Alumni news features. Firstly, congratulations on the new book. Is this the first children’s book you’ve written and how did the notion to write a children’s book come about?

Yes, this is my very first published children’s book! I have always been a very creative person and since having kids I needed to find a way to continue my creativity whilst being a stay at home mum. After reading literally hundreds of books to my kids I just had the idea to give writing my own books a crack and I’ve been extremely fortunate with the outcome. 

The idea of the book is genius in its simplicity – identifying enduring items and objects in one’s life that have a story to them that can be shared in the format of children’s book, while conveying important messages such as resilience, loyalty and determination. When did ‘Rusty the Tractor’ as a character first come into your mind?

My husband is a dairy farmer so we live on a 110 acre Farm up near Kenilworth. ‘Rusty’ the tractor is actually a real tractor that gets used on our farm every day.  Rusty first belonged to my husband’s grandfather and we estimate that the tractor is about 60-70 years old.  He is very old and very worn but still gets the job done every day. So, the character of Rusty and the message of resilience and hard work is drawn straight from our farm and the real rusty tractor that ‘never gives up’ no matter what he is faced with each day.

Tell us what you’ve been up to since you’ve left Grace?

After I graduated from Grace I studied Musical theatre and went on to have a great career performing in Musicals all over Australia. I then Met my husband Wade and we bought our own farm in Bollier QLD, built a Dairy from scratch and renovated an extremely old Queenslander.  We have been blessed with 2 children, Poppy and Joey with a third baby joining us in April.   

Tell us about your time at Grace. What were some of your favourite memories, and what were your favourite subjects while at school? 

My time at Grace was packed to the brim.  I was Middle School and Senior School Captain, I was in the Choir, Dance Troupe, Chapel band, basically you name it and I had my finger in it somewhere! My Favourite subjects were my electives, Drama, Dance, Music and Music Extension.  My favourite memory would have to be our Senior School Musical ‘West Side Story’ Where I played Anita.  Grace played a pivotal role in nurturing my gift for performing arts, I will always cherish those memories.

Did those subjects have much of an influence on your life after school, and the writing of the book?

At Grace, I was always encouraged to follow my passions, chase my dreams and to use my creative gifts every way I could and this has absolutely followed me into the real world.  I am always looking for different ways to use my inbuilt creativity and writing this book is a great example of that. 

What’s next for you in your book writing journey? Can we expect some more children’s books in the future?

There is most certainly more children’s books to come. On the farm, I am surrounded by inspiration everywhere I look and now being able to see the farm through the eyes of my children’s means there are endless stories to tell.

Any messages of advice to some of our current students who may be thinking of pursing a career choice similar to yours?

To anyone wanting a career in the creative arts I say, be bold, be brave and take every opportunity that comes your way because you never know where it could take you!

If you’d like to support Courtney you can get a copy online through Booktopia, Amazon or Angus & Roberson or at selected bookstores. 

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