Q&A with Laura Stortenbeker

LAURA STORTENBEKER is a writer and editor. Her work has been published in Overland, Meanjin, Chart Collective and Kill Your Darlings. In 2016, she was the recipient of a Wheeler Centre Hot Desk Fellowship. In 2017, she was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript. Her Twitter is @andsoyousaid
Her story ‘I Was the Lookout’ appears in The Suburban Review #8.
TJR: You’re currently working on a collection of short stories. Can you tell us a bit more about it?
LS: Easily, it’s about young people living in the suburbs and the close gestures between them. The characters move across stories, have regular lives, regular sadness, do good and ugly things to each other. It’s very much about things that are familiar and repetitive, but also senseless things, unmeasured violence, sweaty nights, relationships that look different in certain lights. I think it’s about stillness that drives you mad and how people move in that space.
TJR: What is your writing practice like? Where do your stories come from and how do you go about writing them?
LS: I make notes every day, then every few weeks I’ll read through them and pull certain lines out if they need to be collected for a story idea, or I’ll move them to a story I’m working on. If I’m lucky, enough of the notes will connect with others and I’ll think of a new story. I think my process is probably the same as everyone’s—I do work when I can, I leave things when I get bored of them and try and come back, I move things around. I tell myself to remember that sometimes it’s meant to be slow work.


For me at least, stories don’t come from any one particular place. They can start from something I’ve seen on a walk, seen online, how someone says a word or how they put their hands when speaking, news stories, misheard song lyrics, sometimes even from colours or light. I feel like an upside of being so quiet is that I notice a lot of small, weird things.
TJR: Your stories are distinctly Australian. What part of Australian culture most fascinates you?
LS: I don’t think any one aspect of Australian culture particularly fascinates me, but I am interested in the rituals between people, trying to work out those puzzles is hard and good. The other day I saw a woman bending a flowering branch down so that the woman she was walking with could smell it and things like that are important to me.