Scribe Non-Fiction Prize shortlist
I was stoked to get on the shortlist for the 2016 Scribe Non-Fiction Prize. The title of my submission was iGrief: a survivor’s guide to dying. You can read an interview about my entry here or below.
How did you begin writing?
My parents ran pubs across country Queensland. I grew up surrounded by bar flies who were terrific storytellers. It was vital their stories were entertaining or depraved. Otherwise the audience lost interest. Some of the stories were true and some of them were bullshit. Most were a little bit of both. I wanted to do what they did with words, but I had a terrible stutter when I was a kid. Writing was a natural fit.
What’s your favourite work of nonfiction?
A Fan’s Notes by Frederick Exley. He called it a fictional memoir, but the main character is Exley himself. My favourite non-fiction writers are generally the ones that can’t decide what genre they are writing in. Renata Adler and Geoff Dyer are two of the best.
Why do you write nonfiction?
I don’t have a very good imagination. I’ve also had a reasonably dramatic life. The real people around me seem funnier and more tragic than any of the cooked up characters in the books I always start and never finish.
Tell us a bit about your submission to the Scribe Prize.
The title of the piece is iGrief: a survivor’s guide to dying. It’s about a fatal car crash I survived when I was seventeen. I set out to tell a very specific story about how social media affected the way I dealt with grief and trauma. I have a very bad attention span, so I ended up diving down a million different rabbit holes. There are bits about masculinity and family breakdown and social mobility and mental illness.
Why did you choose to write it?
I’d made a conscious effort for a long time to not write about the crash. Then, at the start of this year, I began writing sentences here and there on my iPhone about the ongoing nature of grief. The floodgates opened. Soon I was looking at the start of a book. Keeping the story to myself seemed even more selfish than writing it.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received? And the worst?
‘Stop making it all about you’. It was good and bad advice. Sometimes I need to lift my chin and look at the bigger picture. But I probably wouldn’t write anything if it didn’t centre around some kind of personal tension.
What piece of work, published or unpublished, are you most proud of?
We Begin Again in Voiceworks was the first story I had published. There are some rough edges, but it was probably the point where I stopped writing for redemption or to impress the people reading. I wrote what I remembered and cut out the stuff that didn’t ring true. You can’t go wrong with that strategy.