Working with Words: Bridie Jabour

Bridie Jabour is a Sydney-based journalist who has written on politics, social affairs and breaking news for Guardian Australia. She spoke with us about discovering literature, the power of first drafts and keeping writing in perspective.

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

Photo of Bridie Jabour

Photograph: Tiger Webb

The first piece of writing that made me cry would have been Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things or Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, for obvious reasons. I can’t remember which I read first. It was at a glorious time in my reading life; I was about 14 and discovering literature.

I read those books and Gabriel García Márquez and Isabel Allende in quick succession. I had always been a voracious reader, but that was when my world was really opened up.

Did you write during your childhood and during your teenage years?

Yes. I wrote thinly disguised fiction. I wrote a book of short stories for a year 12 project, but it was lost in a fire at my father’s place, perhaps fortunately.

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

I have worked in a pizza place, at a restaurant (where I wasn’t paid!), at Coles, strawberry picking and at a currency exchange. From 18, I worked as a journalist. My writing has been more influenced by my relationships with other people and my reading life than my jobs.

It was a radical revelation for me, that I could write something and change it before my parents ever read it.

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

You mean what’s my plan B? Midwifery.

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

The best advice triggered the first page of my first novel – it was out of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. Write your first draft as if nobody is going to read it. It was a radical revelation for me, that I could write something and change it before my parents ever read it.

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

Yes! Sporadically, since I was a child. I write in it when something happens that I want to remember or when one of my sisters has really pissed me off.

Which classic book do you consider overrated? Or which obscure, unsung gem do you think is underrated?

The Catcher in the Rye. The indulgence is breathtaking, and worse, it’s boring.

Do you have any strange writing habits, customs or superstitions?

A lot of writers have a tendency to carry on about it – they make the process excruciating, liken it to giving birth. I can assure you it’s nothing like giving birth.

My strange writing custom is to not pretend writing is the hardest thing I have ever done. A lot of writers have a tendency to carry on about it – they make the process excruciating, liken it to giving birth. I can assure you it’s nothing like giving birth.

I come from a family of nurses, and I cannot look my brother in the eye and say writing is so difficult as he comes off a night shift in the intensive care unit. 

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

I could edit my book for the next 20 years.

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

Kanye West. We would talk about the writing process, Devil In a New Dress, our kids, Kim Kardashian, identity politics, race and what we’ve been reading. 

Portrait of Bridie Jabour

Bridie Jabour is a Sydney-based journalist who has written on politics, social affairs and breaking news for Guardian Australia. She appears regularly on ABC’s The Drum, ABC Weekend Breakfast, Sky News and Triple J’s Hack. Her debut novel, The Way Things Should Be, will be released in May.

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