17 October 2018

Meet the 2018 Scribe Nonfiction Prize Shortlist – Zowie Douglas-Kinghorn

In the lead up to announcing The 2018 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.


Zowie Douglas-Kinghorn, 21, TAS
The Invisible Sea

How did you begin writing?

When I was four I really wanted to be two things: a trumpet player and a children’s author. I tried to teach myself how to write by dotting songs on tissues with texta. I don’t think anyone else could understand my etchings, but that was okay!

Why do you write nonfiction?

I write nonfiction because the truth is such a compelling and elusive thing, and it needs to be woven into a story for people to access and understand.

I always read it hoping that there’s a hard nub of simple fact at the centre, like the chocolate at the bottom of an icecream cone, but there never is. The story becomes a tangle of flexible rubber bands with surprising twists and alternative possibilities.

My favourite nonfiction writers are Anna Krien, Briohny Doyle and Naomi Klein because they write with such honesty – the process of discovery is more important than the pretence of having all the answers.

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

The Invisible Sea is concerned with fracking, water and underground hope. In the 1800s, Charles Sturt went on an expedition into the heart of Australia, when he was saved several times from dying of dehydration by first peoples, ironically while he was looking for an inland sea. What he never realised was that he may have been standing above it.

Underground aquifers make up ninety per cent of the Northern Territory’s water source, and yet gas companies have half of the territory earmarked for hydraulic fracturing. To expand fracking in the Top End would immediately threaten water supplies, and emit more than five times the amount of greenhouse gases of the Adani Carmichael megamine.

Climate change is not fair. Youth, poor people, Indigenous communities, all have the most to lose from global warming – people who have done the least to cause the problem. We might think we’re immune in the “lucky country”, but without urgent collective action we’re going to see a lot of people threatened by disease and drought, especially in the most remote and disadvantaged communities in Australia.

When do you ever hear the human stories of climate change? The Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network and the Australian Youth Climate Coalition are leading the way towards climate solutions. I think as a society we need to have a conversation about intergenerational and social justice when we talk about global warming.

Why did you choose to write on this subject?

I chose to write on this subject when early in 2018, amidst a climate emergency, the moratorium on fracking was lifted in Australia’s most impoverished state. Our current Prime Minister and then treasurer Scott Morrison threatened to withhold GST revenue from the territory if they didn’t allow fracking companies onto their land. It was horrifying, and I felt like no-one was talking about it – except for the amazing Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network. Check them out at Seedmob.org.au.

The Northern Territory is an incredibly beautiful and marginal place where first peoples have survived countless wars on their culture, and they continue to fight for their future with resilience. But three degrees’ warming could make remote areas of the NT literally uninhabitable. The stakes are high: Aboriginal communities are at stake; the Great Artesian Basin is at stake; the future of the Pacific Islands is at stake. And if certain areas of cultural erasure and sacrifice zones are going to become unliveable, I want to know where and why and how we can work together to stop this.

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

You don’t have to be good to start, but you have to start to be good.