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Working with Words: Rory Green

Read Monday, 18 May 2020

We spoke to writer, editor and coder Rory Green about social media communities, laser tag and remixing text with online tools.

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

Photograph of Rory Green

Before I could read myself, my mum would read the poems of A. A. Milne to me and my sister. She would whisper the last verse of ‘Disobedience until the last two lines, which she would shout (to our delight)! I was able to impress several extended family members with my advanced reading ability, usually because I had read the book enough times to have memorised the words, A.A. Milne especially. I think his poetry, as well as Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes, really shaped my attraction to musical diction and cadence in writing. 

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

I spent all of my high school years writing mostly mediocre poetry on a proto-social media network that does not need to be named here. Those poems would mostly have been about crushes and the unbearable hellfire that is adolescence.

The community there was very supportive and I think I would not be writing now if I hadn’t been encouraged to continue. Actually, I was recently invited to a private Facebook group with members of the community in its hey-day, which has been a fun if somewhat awkward opportunity to reminisce.

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

My first job was at a local laser tag arena. It was extremely cool for the first few weeks, largely just being able to say that I worked there and could play the arcade games for free. The arena used to be a warehouse, and at some point my boss asked me to help move junk out of the attic so he could expand the play area. The work involved a lot of manual labour and became a lot less fun after that. A few months after I quit, there was an electrical fault and the whole place burned down. I watched it from my house and vaguely remember writing a poem about it.

I’m very lucky to be working in learning design now, and as part of that job I get to learn about all sorts of weird topics I wouldn’t otherwise seek out. My head has become a giant rubber band ball of facts, many of which seep into my writing in ways that still surprise me. 

I’m very lucky to be working in learning design now, and as part of that job I get to learn about all sorts of weird topics I wouldn’t otherwise seek out. My head has become a giant rubber band ball of facts.

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

The best and worst piece of advice I’ve received comes from an inscription my friend Stacey Teague wrote in her book for me: ‘Go big or go home!’ I still don’t really know what it means, but her mentorship has had an enormous influence on my writing to date, and I don’t think any other piece of ‘advice’ has stuck with me – I have a terrible memory…

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

Obviously not obscure by any means but I think everyone should read Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red, and I think it could be turned into a great sad gay romantic drama – like Call Me By Your Name but more mythical and less White.

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

I’m generally suspicious of my first instinct as a writer. I usually have Tracery, a computer program for generating and remixing text, open as I write: pulling my sentences apart, plugging their pieces into software, seeing what recombinations emerge, letting unexpected pairings of images take my writing into places less comfortable and more interesting. 

Which artist, writer or character would you most like to have dinner with?

Writing from lockdown, I would just like to see my friends again! Imagine, talking about great books and bad books, face-to-face! Huge.

Rory’s current project is Otherwise Pokedex, an email newsletter aiming to publish a poem for every Pokemon. Find more at:

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The Wheeler Centre acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the traditional owners of the land on which we work. We pay our respects to the people of the Kulin Nation and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders, past and present.