Working with Words: Michelle Dicinoski

Michelle Dicinoski’s memoir, Ghost Wife, about love, secrets, and same-sex marriage, was published by Black Inc. this month. It’s her second book; her first was the poetry collection Electricity for Beginners. Her poems and essays have appeared in journals, newspapers, and anthologies including the Australian Literary Review, Best Australian Poems, Meanjin, the Australian, and Cultural Studies Review.

We spoke to her about self-belief, persistence and talking Dirty Dancing with the narrator of Tom Cho’s Look Who’s Morphing.

What was the first piece of writing you had published?

A prose poem, in a now-defunct online journal called Dotlit.

What’s the best part of your job?

When the writing goes well and you feel like you’re soaring.

What’s the worst part of your job?

Every single part of it takes about 27 times longer than I would like.

What’s been the most significant moment in your writing career so far?

When Chris from Black Inc. contacted me last year to say they were interested in publishing Ghost Wife.

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

Be persistent. Boring, but true.

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

Hmm … Ideally, something that involved less sitting down.

There’s much debate on whether creative writing can be taught – what do you think?

I think it can be taught. Mostly, writers teach themselves, slowly, over many years, but it’s possible to learn in a more formal context, too.

What’s your advice for someone wanting to be a writer?

Write, show your work to people who are also writers (or who want to be), find yourself a supportive community, aim for publication, don’t be too shy, and keep going! Also, try to believe that you are good enough to make it. You need a lot of self-belief and persistence to keep going.

Do you buy your books online, in a physical bookshop, or both?

Both.

If you could go out to dinner with any fictional character, who would it be and why? And what would you talk about?

Today, I’d go out to dinner with the narrator of Tom Cho’s Look Who’s Morphing, because you wouldn’t know in advance who you’d get or where you’d end up. We’d talk about Dirty Dancing and Dr Phil.

What’s the book that’s had the most significant impact on your life or work – and why?

Like everyone, I’ve been influenced in one way or another by every single book I’ve read, and I suspect that some of my greatest influences are quite invisible to me. But I can tell you that Margaret Mahy’s The Changeover meant a great deal to me as a teenager. And for reasons outlined in Ghost Wife, I was also scarred/shaped by David Reuben’s 1969 sex manual Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask).

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