On Writing

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

headshot of Lee Kofman

Nine years ago I was awarded my first writing residency in Australia. At that time I was living at a crazy pace, juggling several jobs, studying for my MA and trying to write a novel. Oh, and I also had a husband to attend to. But here I was offered an oasis of two weeks amidst all my busyness – two weeks at Varuna, set in the gorgeous misty Blue Mountains with their spiderwebs and flowers, with no daily hassles (and no husband), just me and my novel.

Photo of Chris Wallace-Crabbe

Chris Wallace-Crabbe has been writing poetry since the age of 18 and continues to write poetry at the age of 80. He shares some of his wisdom with Sharona Lin ahead of his Month of Poetry workshop.

Chris is a Melbourne-born poet who has read and written all round the world. He also taught for many years. His latest books are ‘My Feet Are Hungry’ and the prose volume ‘Read It Again’.

headshot of Lee Kofman

My writing has always been grounded in a strong sense of place. Perhaps this is because places in my own life have been so contingent, so impermanent, that they often got transformed in my mind into mythology, and personal mythology is one of the most powerful drivers in writing that I know.

 “Where you from?” In the 16 years that I’ve been writing for publication I have had the opportunity to work with various editors. When I embarked on co-editing the anthology ‘Coming of Age: Growing up Muslim in Australia’, I understood the process of editing a book, but I didn’t realise the way it would transform my view of the publishing industry. I would soon find out that there is a reason for the saying, Wait until you walk in someone else’s shoes.

“It takes a lot of milk to make a little cream,” says Catherine Deveny. The proverb gives an insight into her writing approach, that of letting everything out on to the page until she gets to the good stuff.

1. Please yourself

When me and my best mate Tama Pugsley set out to mountain-bike 1500 kilometres through the wilds of northern Mongolia from a small town called Mörön to a smaller (and scabbier) town also called Mörön, I wasn’t planning to write a book about it.

When asked about their thoughts on Eddie McGuire’s comments last year about Adam Goodes, the most frequent response I received from my Aboriginal friends was: “Well, you’ve got to laugh”. To an outsider, this might be interpreted as simply laughing the incident off – but there is something very serious about laughing in this context.

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.