In your hilarious and heartbreaking poem ‘Confessions from the Animal Kingdom’ we learn that the octopus has three hearts to keep it going when times get tough. What motivates you to keep going/ keep writing when things seem dreary?
I’m not so good with writing through the tough times – I’m like one of those flowers that only blooms at night, the conditions have to be perfect. But I find it’s good to have a “task” when I’m feeling blue, and writing is an endless task. Experience helps – I’ve always pushed through the dreariness in the past.
Despite only having one heart (we assume), can you recall a time when you have felt like an ‘alien’? Care to share?
High school? Actually, I don’t think I realised how misunderstood I was for a lot of my life, until I finally met people I could relate to on a deeper level. And then I was like, “Oh!! This is what it’s like to not feel like an outsider all the time!”
You’re also a newsreader for Triple J radio station. How do news items inspire your writing?
I think it gives me an understanding of the stories that people do and don’t connect with. There are plenty of ‘important’ events that happen every day, and there’s large scale human suffering out there – but people disengage with that. They need something they can relate to, hold on to. Journalism has sharpened my skill for finding that.
It has also given me a great instinct for the lead, and a sharp opening line is as useful in a short story or a poem as it is in a news item. Amy Hempel is one of my favourite writers and was a journalist before turning to short stories. She says journalism is a great training ground for a writer because, “You are trained to get rid of anything nonessential. You go in, you start writing your article, assuming a person’s going to stop reading the minute you give them a reason. So the trick is: don’t give them one.”