The Wheeler Centre
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Reading Your Mind: Neurodiversity and Writing
In 2013, Graeme Simsion published his first novel, The Rosie Project, and the world fell in love with its big-hearted, socially inept protagonist, Don Tillman.
Though some readers and reviewers read Don as a character who was ‘on the spectrum’, Simsion himself has resisted labels in public discussions of his wildly successful series of romantic comedy novels. The Rosie Project and its sequel, The Rosie Effect, have sold millions of copies in 40 different countries.
Simsion's third and final book in the series, The Rosie Result, centres on Don's son, Hudson, and deals more directly with the issue of autism.
In conversation with Clem Bastow – who has written about her own recent autism diagnosis – Simsion and Yenn Purkis – an autistic and non-binary author, blogger, presenter and mentor – discuss neurodiversity and writing. How has the public conversation changed? And what are the responsibilities of writers who choose to portray neurodiverse characters or address their own diagnoses in their work?
Yenn (formerly Jeanette) Purkis is an autistic and non-binary author, blogger, presenter and mentor. Yenn is active in the autism world and the wider community. They have a strong presence on social media, posting a daily meme and weekly blog. Yenn has facilitated a support group for autistic women in Canberra since 2011, featured in the ABC documentary Alone in a Crowded Room and was named the 2016 ACT Volunteer of the Year. Yenn lives in their art-filled home known as Whimsy Manor with their feline friend, Mr Kitty.
Clem Bastow is an award-winning cultural critic whose work appears regularly in The Saturday Paper, Fairfax newspapers and The Guardian. She has written about film and television for journals including The Lifted Brow and Kill Your Darlings, and books including Investigating Stranger Things (Palgrave Macmillan), ReFocus: The Films Of Elaine May (Edinburgh University Press) and Copyfight (NewSouth Publishing). She co-wrote and co-presented the 2017 ABC podcast Behind The Belt, a documentary “deep dive” into professional wrestling.
Based in Melbourne, she holds a Master of Screenwriting from VCA, and teaches screenwriting at University of Melbourne. Clem is currently undertaking a PhD in action cinema and screenwriting at RMIT University.
Graeme Simsion is a Melbourne-based novelist and screenwriter. The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect have combined global sales approaching five million copies.