We are excited to be showcasing some great new writers in our Slinkies Under 30s program. Here, Slinkies digital editor, Aleesha Paz asks LIBBIE CHELLEW, some indepth questions about her writing, her aspirations and her wardrobe. To grab a copy of Hard Knots by Libbie Chellew, just click the Slinkies cover below.
1.Tell us about your writing process. (Do you start sparse and widen out, or do you write down every possible association and cut back? Do you research the subject matter you are writing about? is it pure intuition?) Take us through an example if you want.
I usually start with a kernel idea and write around that. This means I end up writing the beginning a few times and cutting it and messing around until I feel like I have a good start. I reckon two out of every three stories I write get buried deep in my hard drive. They should never see the light of day. When it comes to the good ones, I usually know where I want to end before I start. I certainly did with Hard Knots. Even still, I wrote many, many drafts for Hard Knots. At one point, when I hit a brick wall, I left it in the ‘drawer’ for months to try to get some perspective. Some stories are more challenging than others.
A couple of times I’ve sat down to write a story and it’s come out all at once, quite polished and only needing a tidy up. I wish that would happen more often! I’m usually rewriting, changing tense and point of view. Most of my writing is based on instinct. Obviously you’ll have better instincts the more you read and the more you listen. I also love in the old adage ‘write what you know’, probably because it’s vague and elastic.
2. What inspired you to write ‘Hard Knots’?
Sometimes life is a turd, you know? Once, I was having a bad day and had run out of milk, and I spooned milk out of my All Bran and put it in my coffee. I remember starting out with Hard Knots wanting to write about that—about how little things can take their toll on your state of mind.
3. What do you do if you haven’t write anything in a while and you want to get started again? Could you share your favourite writing exercise with our readers?
I’m always writing. I find long train rides help with ideas. Music also helps. Blank pages are intimidating. I’ll write anything the get rid of them. I never expect the first things I write to be in good shape. For an exercise, I’d say write your own version of the Jorge Luis Borges short piece Borges and I.
4. If you could only read books written by one author for the rest of your life, who would it be and why?
What a nightmare. Raymond Carver? He’s my all time favourite. In this hypothetical I’d probably give up on reading all together and just watch great television. Actually, in this hypothetical world you’ll be interested to learn Joss Whedon and I are developing a TV show together.
5. What do you wear when you write? Suit and tie, pyjamas, or birthday suit?
I’ve been doing a creative writing PhD for three years, a long and often lonely project. Days when I feel down and unmotivated I spruce myself up and pretend I’m heading into an ‘office’ and have a ‘staff meeting’ with myself. Insane, but good for the brain, I believe. Fundamentally, though, it doesn’t matter where I am, what I’m wearing or the tool I’m writing with.
How do you think about the role of writing in your life? Is it your job, pastime, etc?
I’m a writer. I see it as a career, even if I’m resigned to the fact I come across others who may not. It’s a wonderful life that I feel privileged to live.
Libbie Chellew is a writer from Melbourne. Her short stories have appeared in Antipodes, Regime Magazine, Going Down Swinging, The Suburban Review, Wet Ink and Voiceworks, as well as online for Verity La and The Literarian. In 2010 she was shortlisted for both the Iowa Review Awards and the John Marsden Young Writers Prize. More recently, her story ‘The Lemon’ was shortlisted for the Cancer Council Arts Awards, judged by Arnold Zable. Libbie occasionally teaches creative writing and literary studies at Deakin University. She tweets as @Libbiec.