10 June 2015
Spotlight On: Emily Meller
Emily Meller is a writer and editor who just finished a double-degree in Law and Writing and Cultural Studies (but she’s okay). Her writing has appeared in The Lifted Brow, Overland and other places. She is an editor for Seizure’s Flashers and the 2015 UTS Writers’ Anthology.
How old are you?
What state or territory do you live in?
New South Wales
What kind of writing do you do?
‘Ummm’ is my normal response. The next thing is ‘I guess, it’s kind of experimental…’ and that’s when they walk away.
But I’ll do better here because I am meant to be an articulate writer, and also you can’t walk away. I write short fiction, articles, essays (quite a few on legal issues, one actual 12, 000 word law thesis), screenplays, music reviews and right now something that is a mix of video and text and will be on the Internet. Don’t you walk away from me!
What are you currently reading?
Up until last week Law and Social Norms by Eric A Posner.
But now that I am on a perma-holiday (aka ‘real life’) as a graduate, I have a list. First is Infinite Jest so I can watch the new DFW movie/exist without feeling like a total fraud. I’ve also got The Goldfinch, Lion Attack, Sum, How to Be Both and The Last Girlfriend on Earth lined up. I usually end up reading 2 or 3 at once for reasons I don’t fully understand. Always open to suggestions.
How did you begin writing?
I have a box full of ‘journals’ I started after watching Harriet the Spy. It seems that when I ran out of material I’d take some liberties with my journalism (apparently my sister ran all the way to Adelaide on Saturday but got tired and came back. Wild imagination, I know.)
As riveting as those stories were, I started writing more seriously about two years ago. By that I mean trying to make time every (second) day. Turns out, it helps.
How do you remain motivated?
Sticking a lot of inspiring post-it notes around my room. Pink is the best for motivation. “KEEP CALM”. “IT’S FINE”. Also there are pictures of Joan Didion, Lena Dunham and Helene Cixous.
I find that I tend to outsource my motivation. I don’t necessarily recommend it, but I will say that if you’re like me and the idea of making someone angry is nearly unbearable having a deadline with an editor helps.
None of that helps, of course, unless you like writing and feel like you have something to say.
Where do you find inspiration for your work?
Ooh boy. I guess I should premise this by saying I don’t really get ‘flashes’ of inspiration, or believe that is how most writing gets done. Mostly because I used to just wait around for those ‘flashes’ and ended up writing one or two very bad things a year.
I think more broadly – loneliness. I am aware it sounds equal parts depressing, cliched and pretentious. But really, I think it’s at the centre of it. People that connect and mess up those connections and read way too much into things and how people judge people. I find it very funny. It’s probably also symptomatic of being in my early twenties. People change, everyone sucks, dating (??), etc.
Do you think where you live in Australia has influenced your writing?
It absolutely has. Not always for the better. I am from the Eastern suburbs of Sydney, which comes with a certain amount of baggage (hipster, snob, ‘latte belt’ – not undeserved) and for a long time I tried to make sure no one would be able to tell that’s where I was writing from. Which is stupid, because it’s where I am from. The pieces suffered too.
I think the biggest influence on my work is just that I can’t shake the place from my voice. Maybe others disagree, but I don’t know. I like picking up a piece and being able to tell where the voices are from just from how they sound. I hope my pieces have something of Sydney in them besides the references to Taronga Zoo and the beach.
What is the best and worst piece of advice you’ve been given as a writer?
The best advice is usually the in-explicit kind that comes from reading something and learning how it works. Though – actually! I got that idea from a Paris Review interview with Ray Bradbury who advised working out what you want to say and next what you like reading. You learn how to say what you want from imitating those texts. But he said it better, here – http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/6012/the-art-of-fiction-no-203-ray-bradbury
Bad advice? I don’t know. I think anything along the lines of ‘you must breath writing and be writing and not be able to live without writing’ are a bit silly. It always made me feel like – oh, I didn’t write for months, clearly I am not legit. But on the other hand, even if you live to write and it’s all you do, it won’t necessarily lead to a piece that connects with people. Plus it’s not particularly healthy. It’s that fine line between love and obsession, maybe.
What piece of published writing are you most proud of? Why?
Probably ‘How Giraffe’s Die’. I’m not sure why, exactly. I think all writer’s have odd opinions about their own work because the process of writing colours it so much. I really enjoyed writing this one.
What is your goal for National Young Writers Month?
Meet some inspiring writers, and get inspired to write seriously again (it’s been about 6 months off for me at this point.)