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Working with Words: Quinn Eades

Read Monday, 4 Dec 2017

Quinn Eades is a memoirist, editor, academic and poet whose work explores feminist and queer theories of the body. He spoke with us about Kathy Acker, secret science aspirations and leaving no space for regret.

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

Photograph of writer Quinn Eades

The first piece of writing that made me really cry (after Bridge to Terabithia which had me sobbing at age 10) was Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues. I read it in a single afternoon, only stopping to make more tea. I know why I was crying so much now, but I didn’t know then that this book was describing a life I recognised, and in some ways, wanted.

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

I wrote all through my childhood and adolescence. Poems and short stories as a kid, and poetry and furious journalling as a teenager. I had my first poem published in a youth anthology when I was 16, and knew that writing was for me (despite spending much of my twenties and half of my thirties trying to pretend that it wasn’t).

I remind myself to trust Past Quinn’s judgement, and let it go.

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

Dish pig, café worker, handing out magazines on a Sydney city street corner, disability support worker, administration worker, community worker, Auslan interpreter, sessional academic, and now lecturer. (I’m not going to include parenting in this list because that’s a job that isn’t limited to days.) Every job goes some way to informing how I see the world, and then how I write it.

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

If I wasn’t writing I’d be painting, drawing, playing music or practising medicine. I also harboured dreams of being a scientist when I was a teenager. If I wasn’t writing, I’d still be writing …

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

Best advice: write.

Worst advice: don’t write.

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

I’ve kept many diaries but I don’t at the moment, mostly because I don’t like to follow ‘writing rules’. These are rules I have inherited or developed that tell me what a writer should be doing, and journalling every day is on that list. For many years, I thought I wasn’t a proper writer unless I also had a journalling practice. I’ve since discovered that putting words down on a page is the key to being a writer, and that rules are better as guidelines.

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

Kathy Acker’s work deserves a far broader reach than it has. Blood and Guts in Highschool turned me inside out as a 19 year old. Marion May Campbell’s work is not as well known as it should be. Intellectual, poetic, dreaming, muscly – this is writing for now.

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

Putting words down on a page is the key to being a writer … rules are better as guidelines.

Before children, I used to not be able to write without a cup of tea and complete quiet. After children, I’ve developed the ability to be able to write under most conditions, and if there’s a cup of tea involved that’s a beautiful thing, but I don’t need it to start writing. As close as I come to a writing superstition is that if I’m not writing, my mental health suffers.

Have you written or published anything in the past that you now wish you could go back and change?

As a life writer I’ve had to develop an approach to publishing that doesn’t have space for regret. When I re-read work before sending it off, I read with an eye for myself and for those around me, to make sure I am writing with respect and with love, and if later I find myself reading something and wishing it wasn’t so, I remind myself to trust Past Quinn’s judgement, and let it go.

Which artist, author or fictional character would you most like to have dinner with? (And what would you talk about?)

I would have a dinner party with Kathy Acker, Hélène Cixous, Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida, Marion May Campbell, Anna Gibbs, Ros Prosser, Vicki Kirby, Judith Butler, Jack Halberstam, Donna Haraway, Oodgeroo Noonuccal and Gertrude Stein. We would talk about bodies and words.


Quinn is currently working on a book from the transitioning body, titled Transpositions.

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