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Interviewing Celebrities and Reading Australian Books: A Parting Top Ten

Read Tuesday, 10 Feb 2015

The Wheeler Centre’s senior writer and editor, Jo Case, finishes three years in the job this week. She’s decided to take the opportunity to share her (entirely subjective) look back at her favourite ten pieces from our website over that time.

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The Long View on Australian Books

In The Long View series, we commissioned Australian writers to produce long-form essays on Australian writing: Toni Jordan on comedy in fiction,Estelle Tang on how fiction about child abuse can make us feel unlikely (even unwanted) empathyBenjamin Law on Timothy Conigrave’s classic memoir Holding the Man (which will be a film this year), Maria Tumarkin on writing and ‘sentimentality’(and why it’s not always a bad thing) and more. There’s lots of excellent writing and thinking there – and the essays are a pleasure to read.

Anthony Morris on interviewing celebrities

I’ve published quite a few pieces by film and television aficionado Anthony Morris over the past three years, and I always enjoy his intelligent take on popular culture. As a rabid Twin Peaks fan, I was going to make the very subjective pick of Anthony’s 2012 article explaining how Twin Peaks has influenced the golden age of television (and see, I just kind of did). But then I remembered his very funny inside view of what it’s really like to interview your favourite celebrities.

Fatima Measham defending Werribee against ‘postcode superiority’

It’s been terrific working with our Hot Desk Fellows, some of whom have become semi-regular writers for Dailies after their fellowships. Fatima Measham received her Hot Desk Fellowship to work on an essay (eventually published in Meanjin) in eloquent defence of her suburb, Werribee.

The problem is that we do not only expose our sense of postcode superiority when we use places as shorthand for certain types of people. We also abdicate responsibility. Reducing people to the characteristics of their neighbourhood gives us permission to do nothing about the things that make it problematic. Suburbs are ‘bad’ because the people in it are bad.

Joel Deane on disability and discrimination in our schools

The piece that’s had the biggest reaction over the past three years – with good reason – was Joel Deane’s heartbreaking, angry-making, coolly rational article on his experience with a local high school who suggested his Down Syndrome daughter Sophie would be better off at a ‘more mainstream’ school. As a parent of a special needs child myself, I recognised and identified with the lack of empathy and understanding Joel met with – and so did scores of commenters.

Joel Deane's daughter Sophie, with then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Joel Deane’s daughter Sophie, with then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Wheeler Centre staff: favourite childhood books

Judith Kerr's The Tiger Who Came to Tea: a staff favourite.
Judith Kerr’s The Tiger Who Came to Tea: a staff favourite.

In honour of the 2013 Children’s Book Festival, Wheeler Centre staff reflected on their favourite childhood books. Enid Blyton, Bears in the NightHarry the Dirty Dog … it was so much fun to find out the books that had shaped those of us who work at the Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas.

Michael Green on Melbourne and climate change

Michael Green is an environmental and social issues journalist who has appeared regularly on Dailies over the years, writing on topics as diverse as re-reading Breakfast at Tiffany’s (a personal favourite of mine), racialised policing in Victoria and homelessness. A timely stand-out was Michael’s piece on city planning and climate change that considers Melbourne’s future, four degrees hotter,).

Andrew McDonald on Hating Alison Ashley

Robin Klein’s Hating Alison Ashley turned 30 last year, and bookseller and children’s author Andrew McDonald marked the occasion with a lovely look back at this great Australian children’s classic. ‘It’s a triumph of wit and characterisation and is surely one of the most perfectly-formed and under-celebrated children’s novels this country has ever produced.’ Where was I in 1984? Probably on my couch, eating Cheezels and re-reading Hating Alison Ashley.

Ambelin Kwaymullina on Aboriginal Writing and Storytelling for the Young

In this engrossing essay, which doubles as a call to arms, Ambelin Kwaymullina describes what it’s like to be an Indigenous writer, the importance of ‘laughter-stories’ even (or especially) about terrible things, and why writing for young people demands an ‘impossibly high’ standard.

Weather Stations: Storytelling and Climate Change

The Wheeler Centre has been involved in a global project that explores the power of storytelling and climate change since early last year. Australian writer-in-residence Tony Birch contributes regularly to the Weather Stations blog, and we’ve been fortunate enough to co-publish many of his posts on our website.

When the five international Weather Stations writers gathered in Melbourne last year, they took part in a series of excursions and activities – including a visit to University of Melbourne with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, where we heard the scientists’ view on climate change, where it’s heading, and how storytelling might help.

Shannon Hick on Days of Our Lives

My favourite thing is when a great conversation turns into an article (in fact, many of these pieces began that way). One unexpected delight in that area was when the Wheeler Centre’s marketing manager Shannon Hick shared her teenage love for Days of Our Lives at our desks one afternoon … and I managed to convince (some might say bully) her into writing about it for our website. Thanks, Shan.

Jo Case begins as Melbourne Writers Festival’s Program Manager next week. Good luck, Jo!

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