Working with Words: Aimee Knight

We spoke with writer and critic Aimee Knight about film sequels, being typecast and the power of live radio to burn through the fear of saying something you can't take back.

What was the first piece of writing that made you laugh or cry?

Photograph of Aimee Knight

The first time I heard ‘Puff, the Magic Dragon’ – potentially on Hey Hey It’s Saturday – I had to walk my four-year-old torso out the loungeroom because that shit cracked me open. (I know it’s not writing in a literary sense but listen to the lyrics, man.) Anything about the loss of childhood innocence is both my catnip and my Kryptonite.  

Did you write during your childhood and during your teenage years? What did you write about?

In Reception I got told off for starting all my stories, 'I, Aimee Knight,' before pivoting to something about a talking dog or whatever. Scholars have been trying for years to find the through-line to the type of writing I do now, though, and it’s just not possible. 

What day jobs have you held throughout your life, and how have those experiences influenced your writing?

I started working at Coles when I was 15. A few years later, I was a Christmas casual at Bras N Things, where I was so wracked with anxiety, I don’t think I spoke to anyone for three months.

Anything about the loss of childhood innocence is both my catnip and my Kryptonite.

In 2012, I started doing digital marketing part-time. Writing copy taught me to be lean (and, conversely, prone to hyperbole). It also got me typecast as Marketing Coordinator #2. Some peers still can’t see me beyond ‘updater of the status bar’, which shapes my critical practice in that it deludes me into thinking I have something to prove. (Thank you for coming to my weird flex.) 

If you weren’t writing, what do you think you’d be doing instead? 

Historically I’ve tested well with kids aged three to six, so I have some very idealistic fantasies about becoming either a nanny or a kindy teacher. But I don’t like mess, noise, smells, obligations or sand pits, so I haven’t yet followed through. 

What’s the best (or worst) advice you’ve received about writing?

If a sentence starts with ‘and’ or ‘but’, you can probably nix that word. See above. 

Have you ever kept a diary? Do you keep one now?

When I was in high school, I had a LiveJournal, but it doesn’t exist anymore so don’t bother looking for it. I’ve never kept a tangible diary, though. I would feel very self-conscious if anyone walked in on me journaling.

Which classic book/play/film/TV show do you consider overrated? Or which obscure, unsung gem do you think is underrated?

Grease 2 is the superior Grease. Gremlins 2 is the better Gremlins.

I would feel very self-conscious if anyone walked in on me journaling.

Have you written anything in the past that you now wish you could go back and change?

Oh, mate. My first paid writing gig was at a churnalism site that’s now defunct. When Doc Neeson from The Angels died, I was told to publish an obituary piece within the hour so, in my haste, I included a comment like, 'Tonight, he’ll be remembered in pubs across the country.' I'd intended it with affection – to recognise Neeson's legacy as a pub rock icon – but readers did not receive it that way. I can see now that it was flippant and reductive. I wish I could Ctrl+Z it.

Feeling like my work has hurt someone is truly gut-wrenching, and tricky territory as a critic. Nothing has helped me burn through that paralysing fear of saying something I can’t take back quite as effectively as live radio, though.

Which artist, writer or character would you most like to have dinner with?

Wouldn’t it be nice to have dinner with famous vegetarian Mister Rogers! I think he’d be able to help de-charge my ‘Puff, the Magic Dragon’ schema.

Portrait of Aimee Knight

Aimee is a writer and critic from Kaurna yerta / Adelaide. She's the small screens editor at the Big Issue and pop culture columnist at the Lifted Brow. Her work appears in the Guardian, Kill Your Darlings, Meanjin and more. She's writing a book about Jim Henson's cultural legacy.

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