Q&A with Em Readman

The background is grey, with soft yellow, orange, and light grey tones. It is superimposed with the cover of The Suburban Review #23 on the left. On the right is a square photo of Em Readman. They wear a black singlet top, have shoulder length blonde hair, and are smiling. They are in front of a room corner, with white walls and ceiling. Below this photo, text reads ‘Em Readman New Issue Out Now thesuburbanreview.com’.

EM READMAN is a writer from Meanjin, Brisbane. Their non-fiction work focusses on the impact of family trauma and healing, exploring through lived experience and research. Their work has been published in Aniko Press, Baby Teeth Journal, KOS Magazine, and others.

Our Intern, Megan Payne, talks to Em Readman about their fiction piece ‘Almost All of It’ published in #23: Puncture.

In your piece ‘Almost All of It’, I loved how your use of the forward slash engaged with the theme of memory, and its relationship to opacity and contradiction. The word pairs and triplets created with forward slashes seemed to move from being more reserved (‘was/wasn’t’) or offering a suite of options (‘three/four/five’) to having raised stakes, and volume and personality (‘offered/declined’). In the last paragraph there are no forward slashes. I’d love to hear your feelings on the ‘narrative arc’ of the instances of forward slashes?

There is a bit of a narrative arc with this one, I try and experiment with structure and form as much as I can with memoir. As the piece moves on, the slashes of memory get more intense and provide more options. The first scene is me as a young child, it’s understandable that there’s some memory gaps. The older I get in the text, the more integral the slashes are to the way the story works, which is how I chose to explain the way trauma fogs your memory. It’s difficult, the fact that an impeded memory is a symptom of trauma, but that’s the way it is I guess. The slashes are a reclamation of memories that could otherwise be discredited.

You mention in an interview with Aniko Press that through your work as an editor you’ve become more self-critical of your writing. What are some of the positive components of your self-criticality, if any (hopefully!)?

I’m coming to the end of my stint as the editor of my university magazine, which has been an immense privilege. I’m definitely writing less now that I’ve been an editor, but when I do write, I’m much happier with the work. I think being an editor has also helped me better frame and pitch my work for the publication I’m writing with. I’ve also stopped looking at the pieces I submit as ‘finished,’ the editing process is half the work in making a piece what it isthe process at TSR has been particularly great.

You’re also a maker of textile and ceramic objectsas with your consent patches and ceramics. Does the practice of creating tangible things that you can hold, and that also have stories and messages, reveal to you or shape anything about how you approach writing?

I like textiles and ceramics as an extension of form. I’m currently working on a ceramic version of an object I described in a micro-fiction piece I wrote for Artz Blitz 2021, a house of playing cards. I’d like to exhibit both pieces together at some point, marrying the two together. 

With visual art, I like how I can make work that is instantly digestible in a physical sense, whereas writing is about digesting as you read. Both have their merits. I started doing ceramics and embroidery as a way of getting off screens during lockdowns, something you can’t do with writing. I’m a bit of a doom-scroller, I can’t stop myself. However, browser extensions to block news sites have helped my writing practice more than I can say.