On Writing

Writers, editors, agents, publishers and more share their thoughts, experiences and stories.

What was your training for writing comedy? How did you get started, and how did you get your first big break?

Well, this is embarrassing. My comedy writing training all came from using Twitter. I’ve written nearly 15,000 jokes and observations on it since I started my account five years ago. Though, I’m pretty sure that’s how Mark Twain started too.

I view social media in the same way I view flossing my teeth; I understand the benefits but most of the time I can’t be stuffed. I regard online crowdfunding with even less reverence. In fact, I can often be found screaming at my computer screen, “I just don’t think a Veronica Mars movie needs to be made!” or “I’m not interested in funding your online homeopathic/dog hair reading business! You still owe me money from Christmas!” But last year one of my internet-based dreams came true.

I’ve been wearing my actor hat of late, having spent the past few weeks rehearsing a play. In keeping with an almost accidental trend in my career, it’s a comedy. And it’s my favourite kind: lots of laughs served with a generous dollop of heart.

When I released my first book, ‘The Floatation Tank’ in 2007, I thought I’d send it to some of my favourite writers. I can’t say that first effort was art; it meandered for half a book before it hit its straps and is – if anything – a bit of fun involving cults, nympho­maniacs, the media and (of course) the Collingwood Football Club.

Of the writers I know, few make a living from their work – or not much of one. No holiday pay. No super. Precious little savings. No shouting the bar at Christmas. They write to be published, but it rarely happens. They write to assume their modest place in the palace of arts and letters, but the doors are often closed or no one answers when they knock.

headshot of Lee Kofman

Even a writer is not an island. Most of us mix with other writers, either out of want or necessity. However, unsupervised encounters between writers may result in unintended injuries – external and internal. So here are some suggested rules for harm minimisation when associating with fellow scribes.

headshot of Bethanie Blanchard

Our interview with WV tutor and mentor Bethanie Blanchard, a freelance writer and critic based in Melbourne.

The jester has been around since ancient times. In the Middle Ages jesters used to amuse the aristocracy with their quick-witted, cutting humour. They had a privileged position that allowed them to insult and openly criticise the elite and their extravagant lifestyle (something that would surely have landed any other social commentator in a dungeon). Not only was this behaviour accepted; it was expected as part of their role, and it was respected, too. 

headshot of Alison Croggon

Alison Croggon is one of Australia’s best-known theatre critics, as well as a poet, playwright, fantasy novelist and librettist. She spoke with us about where she writes and what the life of a theatre reviewer is really like.

headshot of Lee Kofman

In some writers’ residencies, the duties of the resident writer may include appearing at local writers’ groups. In one such a group I attended, a writer read weekly from her novel-in-progress. On my first visit, she explained that the chapter she was reading introduces a pivotal plot twist where a protagonist reveals a shameful secret during a family dinner. However, it took two more weeks of reading instalments until we were finally let into the secret. Meantime, the dinner went on and on. For three weeks we listened to conversations about football and weather, and numerous requests to...