1 November 2017

Meet the 2017 Scribe Nonfiction Prize Shortlist – Christopher Bryant

In the lead up to announcing The 2017 Scribe Nonfiction Prize for Young Writers, we’re introducing you to every name and face on the shortlist. These are some of the brightest nonfiction minds in the country and they’re all aged 30 and under. Read their profiles on the Express Media blog to learn more about their writing journeys, love of nonfiction and their tips and tricks to writing the best real-life stories.

Christopher Bryant, 29, Victoria

‘The Repetition Compulsion’

How did you begin writing?

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember – I was always encouraged to keep doing the things I loved, and as I child I really loved to write and tell stories. I was also quite atrocious at mathematics and sports, so the English language and writing became a sort of safe-haven for child-me.

Why do you write nonfiction?

In 2014 I began a blog (of course) as a way to stay sane while studying a Master of Writing for Performance at NIDA (and also to force myself to write something aside from my graduate play). From there I became interested in different methods of telling an engaging nonfiction story, adding structure and actual literary techniques (beyond just bashing out a few hundred words into a WordPress document). I also studied an undergraduate degree in Journalism – I’ve been fascinated with nonfiction as a form for as long as I’ve been writing. The topics that I’m most drawn to are all related to memoir or nonfiction in some way – questions of memory and truth, the ways that we relay things that have happened to us. I write nonfiction to try and better understand the things I’m fascinated by.

Tell us a bit about your submission to the Scribe Prize…

I researched and wrote the bulk of this piece during my fellowship time in the Wheeler Centre Hot Desk. It’s sort of a critical response to Judith Hermann’s book Trauma and Recovery intertwined with my own traumatic experiences – it’s really me trying to work out why I had been doing certain things that had seemed really out of character. (For context – in 2014 I was hit by a car in Berlin and received a traumatic brain injury, resulting in the eventual diagnosis of PTSD.)

Why did you choose to write on this subject?

Hermann’s book brought so much sense to my life and my actions at that time. This essay is me trying to write about everything that occurred in 2014, but in a more interesting way than just simply retelling the raw events. I wanted to return to everything that happened, but in doing so give it some kind of broader meaning and context. It’s really me trying to better understand PTSD.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

Two pieces! Firstly, to focus on yourself. Comparing yourself to other people is detrimental and pointless, and the time is better spent working and learning. (This is advice that I’m still trying to learn.)

The second is from my Ph.D. supervisor, Jane Montgomery Griffiths: each sentence should contain no more than two and a half lines worth of words. As a chronic overwriter, it forces me to actually be clear when I’m relaying information. (Though I don’t follow this rule as much as I maybe should. Whoops.)