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Working with Words: Chloë Reeson

Read Monday, 10 Sep 2018

Chloë Reeson is a writer and editor and the co-creator of Homecoming Queens. They spoke with us about discovering writing, relationships between women on screen and the coming crash in astrology. 

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Photograph of Chloe Reeson

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

When I was in year five I saw the New Zealand film Whale Rider. Not only did I cry during the film, but when we got home from the cinema I still could not stop crying. I was ten years old and I had to excuse myself from family lunch to go into my room and sob into my Tweety Bird bedspread about it.

I remember my mum coming in and sitting on my bed and asking me what was wrong. I said, ‘I don’t know what’s going on but I’m still crying about that movie.’ She put her hand on the side of my face and said, ‘you’re going to be a really wonderful adult.’ I think about that all the time. She’s a good mum. 

Did you write during your childhood and during your teenage years? What did you write about?

I didn’t write until I got to university. I was such a bored teenager and the only reason I discovered writing was because a new friend I had made at university was taking a poetry class one semester and I decided to take it as an elective too. I had been studying journalism but found it very shallow and disappointing.

That there was an audience for obsessively analysing moments and that you could slow things right down with writing was revelatory to me.

This poetry class was taught by Bronwyn Lea at the University of Queensland. In lectures she would dim the lights really low and just talk to us, in her soothing voice, about language, and tell stories about writers that she liked. Maybe it was the ASMR but I think about those lectures as such a hopeful time in my life, and the accompanying workshop classes were so supportive. I made a bunch of friends in that class that I am still close with today. That there was an audience for obsessively analysing moments and that you could slow things right down with writing was revelatory to me. I changed my majors to creative writing and film studies after that. 

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

I have worked in hospitality, of course, and customer service, and whatever odd publishing or design jobs I can find. The best influence my day job has had on my writing is when it can provide just enough that I’m not worried about money but I still get time to write. I’m always hunting that 0.8 FTE.

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

I might have ended up as a therapist. Psychology was the other major I was considering. I just love emotions. I’m a triple water sign, but maybe I shouldn’t mention that because I feel like astrology is heading for a major crash. 

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

I asked my friend once if it was bad that I always based my writing on my real life. I said, ‘what if I run out of stories?’ He said, quite simply, ‘real life happens enough for that not to be a problem.’ It was a big relief at the time.

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

I’m a triple water sign, but maybe I shouldn’t mention that because I feel like astrology is heading for a major crash.

The most consistently I have ever kept a diary was when I was having chemo for breast cancer, but I am mostly too scared to read over what I wrote. I write quite a bit about illness and my show Homecoming Queens was based heavily on that time in my life, so I have revisited it in short bursts – but I feel like whenever I open the pages they sort of scream at me in a frightening way.

I think that being able to talk to yourself as though you are your own friend is an important skill in life and writing, and diary writing has always been good for that. It’s just a bummer that the times in my life when I have needed myself as a friend have been when I am very sad and I never want to look back on those conversations too much, you know?

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

I was talking to someone recently about the 2000s romantic comedy Kissing Jessica Stein. It’s about a conservative newspaper subeditor who uncharacteristically answers a personals ad from the ‘Women Seeking Women’ section of the newspaper because it quotes Rainer Maria Rilke and she feels drawn to respond. It’s not an incredible work of cinema, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a highly underrated romantic comedy.

I have watched it so many times throughout my life because the relationship between the two women is just so playful and honest. Relationships between women are really important to me in literature and cinema. Even beside the queer or romantic aspects of the film, I just think the friendship and chemistry between Jessica and Helen is amazingly done.

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

I need to read things out loud or have them read out to me to hear how they sound. Sometimes I record myself saying them or I get the voice in my computer to do it. If I get distracted when I’m listening to it I know I need another edit.

Chloë co-created and wrote Homecoming Queens, currently available on SBS On Demand. Chloë also writes a TinyLetter about transitioning:

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