On Writing

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

headshot of Lee Kofman

“What is the most necessary thing for a writer?” I often ask in my writing classes. “A publishing contract,” an occasional smartass might reply. Mostly, though, I get sound answers: a voice, a good ear for dialogue, a compelling narrative. Yet this is not what I am after. I try another tact: “Painters have colours, dancers have their bodies. What are our basic tools?” But every time I am met with a silence that possibly reflects our cultural focus on the macro: goals and their accomplishment.

headshot of Sean McMullen

Writing is a solitary occupation, but professionals are not as isolated as beginners. They are kept company by emails from their agents and publishers, royalty cheques, advance payments, fan mail, reviews and awards. This gives them lots of encouragement, yet they were all once beginners with only rejection slips for company. Assuming that, like professionals, you love to write, what can you do to keep your morale up while still unknown?

headshot of Lee Kofman

All serious writers I know can name literary influences that have shaped their emotional landscapes, linguistic sensibilities, writing themes, literary tastes and perhaps even worldviews.

headshot of Robert Gott

There are two New Yorker cartoons I love. In one, a jaded couple is passing a bookstore and one of them is saying, “I’m tired of people who write first novels”. In the other, a man turns from his computer screen to his wife and says, “I feel I have at least one more unpublished novel in me”. Don’t worry, I’m not going to deconstruct them; I just needed an opening.

headshot of Max Allen

You’ve asked me how I became a wine writer.

I was lucky: I arrived in Melbourne after working in the UK wine trade in the early 1990s. Victoria was coming out of recession, interest in wine was building, a new generation of people was emerging, I was one of very few people who wanted to write about wine, Divine Food and Wine magazine (now defunct) had just started down the road from where I lived, I started writing for them for free (pre-internet days, remember – no such thing as blogs then) and met a photographer who worked at The Age. Through him I got in the back door of the...

headshot of Peter Barry

Peter Barry has had a very successful career in advertising beginning in the seventies, and now works as a freelance copywriter in Melbourne. Peter spoke with Writers Victoria intern John about writing for advertising in the modern day and the need for creative passion to write really good copy.

headshot of Penni Russon

I am thirteen. My best friend since prep, Zoe, has gone away for five months to Europe and America. I get postcards from Spain, Italy, New York. In the meantime, I need friends, quick; a flock I can conceal myself in at recess and lunch, somewhere between the soccer oval and the flat grey river. Protective colouration. Failing that, I will kiss boys.

Cover of Gurrumul: his life and music

We’re on the 13th floor of a glass tower in Elizabeth Street, Sydney, a couple of kilometres as the crow flies from where white settlers first set foot on the Australian continent.

Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, the Yolngu singer and composer, famous – these days – all over the world, is standing beside a long table on which 60 copies of a big, glossy book are stacked in piles of five.

headshot of Lee Kofman

Six years ago, after several years of working on a novel I’d provisionally titled The Russian Book of Lost Love, I discovered that it is possible to kill your own book. If you, too, contemplate murder, here are some strategies I’ve found helpful.

headshot of Lucy Treloar

The writing life is a strange and rollercoastish thing. This time last year I was about to put my first adult novel, 'The Things We Tell Ourselves', away and concentrate on my new book.

It was a hard decision to make after 2011, when I felt I was getting somewhere. I’d been awarded a mentorship through the ASA and an Asialink Writer’s Residency to Cambodia and, while there renewing my love affair with the country and undertaking research, had been contacted by a publisher who was interested in seeing the completed manuscript. Publication didn’t seem an impossible dream.