16 November 2017

Meet the 2017 Scribe Nonfiction Prize Shortlist – Lou Heinrich

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.

Lou Heinrich, 28, South Australia
In the Name of the Mother

How did you begin writing?

Ever since I was a child I’ve found great joy in reading, and in transposing life into words. You could say I have followed my vocation.

Why do you write nonfiction?

I find it a more approachable form to write than fiction. And you know those wonderful conversations you have with people – perhaps late at night, perhaps after a few wines – where you bounce ideas off of each other, and there is electricity between you, and you jump out of your chair to stab your finger in the air for emphasis, and you tell stories about your childhood and reveal your heart so much that it’s a little embarrassing? Well. Sometimes the best essays are a sort of conversation with the reader – where you discover deeper truths, together.

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

It’s about marriage, women and creativity, and my last name post-divorce, and I’ve written it as a tribute to my grandmother.

And! I managed to squash in as many quotes from authors I admire as I could: Helen Garner, Ijeoma Umebinyuo, Simone de Beauvoir, bell hooks, Shulamith Firestone, Margaret Atwood, Laurie Penny – it’s also a tribute to the women who have come before me, in the literary tradition.

Why did you choose to write on this subject?

I began writing with this question in mind: in a world that passes surnames down through fathers, what does my name mean?

Rebecca Solnit writes: ‘In essays, ideas are the protagonists, and they often develop much like characters down to the surprise denouement.’  

I use essays as a way to interrogate ideas, to tunnel down to the heart of things. The deeper question of my essay is: how can I live authentically in a patriarchal world? And this pertains not just to my experience, but to those of my sisters, too. The desire to honour the line of mothers who came before us – who have been erased, in the anglocentric tradition of naming – is one I believe sits deep within each person.

So in short: I wrote about my life because the topic speaks to universal truths.  

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

One thing that’s always stuck with me is a line from Bill Hicks, the contrarian comedian from the late eighties: We are the facilitators of our own creative evolution.

Writing is not a straight path. After I graduated, I was desperate for someone to tell me what to do, where to go – in some ways, this feeling never leaves me. But Bill Hick’s idea, that I wrote in my diary back in 2012, reminds me: I have privilege. Resources are available to me. For a woman like me, so many doors are open. If I want to do something – have articles published online, understand obscure French feminist theory (not quite there yet!), write well – I don’t have to wait until someone teaches me. I can discover it myself.

Lou Heinrich is a writer and critic whose work has been published in The Australian, The Guardian, The Lifted Brow and Kill Your Darlings. A Wheeler Centre Hot Desk Fellowship recipient in 2017, she writes on religion, spirituality and feminism, and tweets at @Shahouley. She is currently working on her first book, Holy Woman.