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at The Wheeler Centre

Girls Writing About Girls

‘My body was still boyish and small and straight up and down, but I knew that it was interesting to men.’ Abigail Ulman’s short-story collection, Hot Little Hands, features female characters on the brink of adulthood, coming to terms with desire and what it means to be desired.

Such frank, funny and authentic depictions of girls’ sexuality (and its infinite variations) aren’t as prevalent in literature as you might think. What are the other blind spots in writing for, and about, girls?

For our HEY GIRL series, we’re bringing Ulman together with three other writers – Marlee Jane Ward, Jax Jacki Brown and Jennifer Down – to discuss these blinds spots and how, as writers, they’ve tried to address them. Ward’s award-winning Young Adult novel Welcome to Orphancorp, tells the dystopian tale of a rebellious girl in a semi-futuristic orphanage, while Jax Jacki Brown is a spoken-word artist and commentator with a focus on disability and sexuality. Host Jennifer Down is the author of Our Magic Hour, a novel about navigating grief and relationships in young adulthood.

Lust, longing, anger, rebellion, self-surveillance, anxiety, technology, friendship – our panel will discuss these topics and more. What stories do girls want to read? And what stories do they want to tell?


Portrait of Jennifer Down

Jennifer Down

Jennifer Down is a writer, editor and translator. She was named a Sydney Morning Herald Young Novelist of the Year consecutively in 2017 and 2018 for her debut novel, Our Magic Hour, and her short story collection, Pulse Points. Pulse Points received the 2018 Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction, and the Queensland Literary Award – Steel Rudd Prize for Short Fiction. She lives in Melbourne.

Portrait of Marlee Jane Ward

Marlee Jane Ward

Marlee Jane Ward is a writer, reader and weirdo living in Melbourne. She grew up on the Central Coast of New South Wales and studied Creative Writing at the University of Wollongong. In 2014 she attended the Clarion West Writers Workshop in Seattle, Washington. 

You can find her short stories in the Hear Me Roar AnthologyInterdictions and Mad Scientist Journal. Her debut novella, Welcome to Orphancorp, won the 2015 Seizure Viva La Novella Prize and the 2016 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Young Adult Fiction. Its sequel, Psynode, was published in 2017.

Portrait of Abigail Ulman

Abigail Ulman

Abigail Ulman is a writer from Melbourne. She is the recipient of a Wallace Stegner Fellowship in Fiction from Stanford University, and a winner of the Best Young Australian Novelist Award. Her debut short story collection Hot Little Hands has been published in Australia and abroad.

Portrait of Jax Jacki Brown

Jax Jacki Brown

‘We must adopt an intersectional approach to understanding the experiences of the LGBTIQA+ community with disabilities. Intersectionality provides us with a political framework to understand how multiple forms of discrimination are experienced and lived ... our identities don’t exist in a vacuum, they overlap and inform each other.’

Jax is a passionate activist committed to addressing the disadvantages LGBTIQA+ people with disability face. They adopt a social model perspective where disability is created by structural exclusion and ableism. Through their extensive work as a writer, workshop and forum presenter, university lecturer, spoken-word performer and theatre producer, Brown aims to challenge disability stereotypes and spotlight serious issues for change.


It’s possible Beyonce called it a little early when she declared, Who run the world? Girls! But if girls don’t (yet) rule the whole planet, they will at least rule the Wheeler Centre for one week in October. HEY GIRL examines the experience of girlhood through a feminist lens – from race, identity and sexuality to development and mental health, the role of social media, to the representation of girls in fiction and more broadly in the media.

What defines girlhood and how is that changing? How do experiences and representations of girlhood vary? Join us to explore the challenges that girls continue to face and let’s hatch some plans to kick those obstacles to the kerb.


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