Working with Words: Bri Lee

Bri Lee is the Brisbane-based founder of feminist interview series Hot Chicks with Big Brains – and is the recipient of the inaugural Kat Muscat Fellowship. In her online video series 'What is She Doing?' – produced for Writers Bloc – Bri takes viewers through her journey of leaving her legal career in pursuit of writing full-time. We chat with Bri about 'giving writing a decade' and fantasy adventure novels that turn you vegetarian.

What was the first piece of writing you had published? 

A narrative non-fiction piece called ‘Hunting with Robert’ in the special 100th Edition of Voiceworks ‘To and Fro’. Van Badham edited it and although I cried after one of our phone conversations, she helped me turn my submission into a story I was really proud of. I got to read at Avid Reader for the launch of the issue (and write about how much that meant to me) and then the Wheeler Centre flew me down to Melbourne to read it out at a fancy event! They even gave me taxi vouchers. I felt like a rockstar.

I said it quietly to myself, but felt like a lion roaring.

What’s the best part of your job? 

As Founding Editor of Hot Chicks with Big Brains: I trick incredible women into letting me into their homes and talking to me.

As a general freelancer: Writers Bloc are paying me to make a video diary series called 'What is She Doing?' and so sometimes I dance and flail around and then put it to an awful slap-bass sound clip my boyfriend made for me, and I feel so elated that I live in the 21st century and that these things are possible.

What Is She Doing?

Episode 1 of 'What Is She Doing?'

What’s the worst part of your job? 

Financial insecurity. (Duh.) Everything else is gravy.

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

The moment I realised I was going to quit the legal career track altogether and give writing a decade. It happened mid-2015. I said it quietly to myself, but felt like a lion roaring.

Also, I just found out I'll be recieving the inaugural Kat Muscat Fellowship and I am so honoured and excited about that. I think 2016 will be challenging for me, to do the Fellowship justice, but I'm excited to start the project. It means so much to me.

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

Best: 'Try not. Do... or do not. There is no try.'

Worst: 'Write what you know.' (Fuck that. Write anything and everything and whatever you want all of the time.)

Hot Chicks with Big Brains is 'an interview series determined to challenge the way women are often pigeonholed'

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

I once Googled myself and found a redhead porn star with the same name as me, so hey, probably the millisecond where I panicked and thought it was me.

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

I only truly quit the legal profession four weeks ago, so I’d be almost certainly be a (miserable) barrister.

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

If you worship false gods you’ll end up in hell. Why do you want to be a 'writer'? The only correct answer is because you actually love writing. Separate your idea of what it might be like to live as a writer and consider if putting pen-to-paper/fingers-to-keyboard is the thing that drives your desire. It’s a long, hard slog, and the fuel has to come from within your own belly.

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

See above re Avid Reader. Also I subscribe to periodicals.

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

Miss Marple. By the end of the night a murder would have occurred and that means I would get to stay in a big house with fancy rich people for a few days. So long as I can avoid being the second or third victim, I should have had a lovely long weekend away by the time she solves the whole darn thing.

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

Eragon turned me vegetarian for seven years. Seriously. More recently though, The Natural Way of Things affected me so profoundly. Charlotte Wood writes about things I’ve never been able to put into words, and it makes me feel like my story, as a woman, is worth telling. I pinch myself when I think about her submission for Hot Chicks with Big Brains Issue #1.

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