WQ is proud to present a series of interviews with writers from across Queensland. We have approached novelists, playwrights, freelancers, memoirists, short fiction writers, songwriters, game writers, poets, debuts, old hats, traditionally published authors and self-publishers, and asked each of them the same eleven questions. Read individually, each writer’s answers reveals their unique approach to their craft. Read as a group, broad patterns begin to emerge. All of it to answer the simple question: what is the Queensland Writer’s Life?
New Queensland Writer’s Life interviews will be posted to writingqueensland.com.au on a weekly basis.
Why do you write? What drives you to do this?
I write because it is an important way of me being in the world, unpacking my thoughts, and releasing my imagination and soulfulness. I just can’t imagine being without writing as a tool of discovery and creation.
I love telling stories, and creating beautiful writing pieces to make people happy, reflective, and to provoke thoughtfulness and mindfulness.
How did you come to writing?
I began writing from a young age due to being given an ongoing project of a school journal, and just kept going from there and never stopped. I was an avid letter-writer, journal-keeper, poet, and then much later when I had children, a blogger and life writer. I was always encouraged by my teachers, and often asked to read work aloud to my fellow students throughout my schooling. In year ten I attended the Tasmanian poetry festival and began to perform outside of the classroom.
I also loved reading and would read up to ten books a week from the library from the age of nine, and was keen to one day become an author.
What were your greatest obstacles starting out? How did you overcome them?
I think the biggest skill I have developed over time is the ability to effectively draft and edit my work. I can sometimes leave a promising draft for years but have learnt to come back to things and do that in a much shorter time span and with a sense of purpose and audience.
How do you keep yourself motivated and disciplined?
I set myself goals and make lists of what I would like to write, or am in the middle of writing, and when I’d like to finish it. I like to swap between two projects at once, if one is having an off day. I try not to make it more than two or three projects as then I sometimes find it difficult to finish projects.
I find poetry is a mainstay to keep myself writing even if it is a short first draft of a poem and I chip away at my other writing projects.
How do you manage your writing time with everything else you do? How has that changed from when you were starting out?
I think however busy I have been, I have always tried to keep writing. When I was doing post-graduate studies, my creative writing did suffer a bit as my writing was mostly academic. I couldn’t write normal-sounding dialogue. But somehow I managed to keep up with my journals and poetry. I didn’t have much time for anything more extended than that, and missed some opportunities that were offered to me in playwriting in particular.
I have moved more into the creative writing field and after years of being an academic felt a huge sense of relief to have a break from that kind of writing and explore different writing styles.
Where do you write? How do you arrange your working space?
I can write anywhere, but I like my desk, which is just across from the kitchen in a small study at the back of my house. I have photographs and illustration on the wall that inspire me as well as an array of soft toy creatures that remind me of Far North Queensland.
I love writing when out on walks in nature or in the city as well.
What are your essential writing tools?
My essential writing tools are observation, research, imagination, notebooks and photography. I became much more visually observant when I took up photography about eight years ago and have taken that into my writing. I like to try and make use of my other senses as well.
What’s the one thing you wish you’d known when you were starting out as a writer?
I wish I had kept trying more genres at the beginning of my career rather than just writing poetry, and had realised I could take poetic style into any genre and have a go at it.
I’ve since become much more flexible about my genres, and am working on picture books, young adult’s fiction and a memoir. I’d love to start writing essays and short stories again too.
What do you read and how do you read as a writer?
I read a lot for my tutoring work at QUT and this has expanded my horizons and refreshed my love of some aspects of academia, as well as introduced me to some writers I might not have otherwise come across.
I especially enjoyed some of the short story, writing for youth, popular culture, and poetry units I was tutoring my students in because of the wonderful books on the set courses. One of my favourite recent reads was The Boat by Nam Le, a collection of short stories.
How do you overcome ‘writer’s block’?
I really don’t suffer from writer’s block; I suffer more from editor’s block, where I have to get beyond first and second drafts to make my work fully polished and finish things off. But my writing mentor from the ASA (Robyn Sheahan Bright) has helped me tons to get over that this year and I polished quite a few picture books that needed more work.
I have piles and piles of writing to polish, and am making a check list of which ones attract me the most! Setting goals has helped me in the last few years to produce books although Magic Fish Dreaming is my first truly solo book. The others were collective works.
What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?
It is helpful to try lots of writing genres to find one that suits you best (it might be several) and don’t become too set about which genre until you have experimented and explored with many of them.♦
June Perkins is a published multiplatform storyteller/ writer. Her latest crowd funded book, Magic Fish Dreaming, is a poetry quest for families and children. She worked as a moderator/editor on 500 Words for ABC Open and guest blogger for Aftermath. At the end of 2015 she won an ASA mentorship for emerging writers, for picture book writing.
Published March 23, 2017
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