Working with Words: Alice Wasley

Alice Wasley grew up in Adelaide, built her career in Sydney and is now a New York-based entertainment writer. She’s the contributing editor of News Ltd’s Sunday Style and her work has appeared in GQ (Australia), the Sydney Morning Herald, Miss Vogue and more. Alice told us about her love-hate relationship with writing and what it's like to interview Yoko Ono.

Photo: Kate Potter

What was the first piece of writing you had published?

During a uni internship, at the Messenger community newspapers in South Australia, I was dispatched to write about a boy with a disability who had a wheelchair with big floating wheels that could go in the ocean. We went to the beach with his mum to test it out. It was pretty impressive. Career-wise, it’s pretty much been downhill since then, I think. 

What’s the best part of your job?

Seeing movies in the middle of the day and calling it work. Being able to justify googling things that interest me all day in the name of ‘research’. Oh, and meeting lots of accomplished people who are obliged to answer my questions. 

Be prepared to pursue [writing] relentlessly. Think Liam Neeson in Taken but with more average-looking people and hopefully less gun violence.

What’s the worst part of your job?

Transcribing. Also, asking famous people questions they don’t want to answer about their personal lives can be excruciating.  

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

I’m not sure how significant it was but interviewing Yoko Ono was certainly the most memorable. It felt like talking to Yoda.   

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

I can’t remember any specific advice but I think a common misconception about writers is that they enjoy the process of writing and spend their days dreamily scribbling into notebooks. A lot of us have a love-hate relationship with it. Um, how many more questions are there?

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve ever heard or read about yourself? 

I’m constantly surprised when people tell me they have read a story that I’ve written without me having forced them to read it.

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

If I wasn’t writing this, I’d be drinking wine. Oh, you mean as a career. Well, I was almost an architect but I dropped out of architecture at uni when I realised writing felt more natural to me. But probably just being a disgruntled employee of some sort. Luckily for me, journalism is one of the few careers that encourages a healthy disregard for authority.   

There’s much debate on whether creative writing can be taught – what’s your view?

I think writing can be improved with the right kind of guidance but you need to have a knack for it, or an exceptional story to tell. 

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

Don’t have expensive taste. And be prepared to pursue it relentlessly. Think Liam Neeson in Taken but with more average-looking people and hopefully less gun violence.

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

Both. I love having actual books but I often read on the subway, so I also have books on my iPad because it fits in my handbag. 

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

Off the top of my head, I think Holly Golightly would be a good wingwoman on a night out in Manhattan. The discussion would happen the next day. We would piece together the events of the night before over mimosas.

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

I think reading everything, from books intended for teenagers to proper books for grown-ups, has influenced me more than any one book could. Having said that, Roald Dahl’s singular imagination certainly helped me get hooked on reading as a kid.    

 

 

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