30 October 2015

Spotlight On Scribe: Carly Smith

This week, we’re bringing you daily Q&A’s from our Scribe Nonfiction Prize Long-listed writers. Read on for more information on their work, writing journeys, and all their tips, tricks and advice for budding young non-fic creators.



Carly Smith is currently a Brisbane-based writer, specialising in memoir. She is a recent graduate from  a Fine Arts: Creative and Professional Writing degree at the Queensland University of Technology, and is looking forward to furthering herself in the industry. Her previous writing credits include he publication of a short story in Cow, Hide Journal, and being an invited speaker at both a Room 60 literary salon and a Poetic Therapy  night hosted by Pallet Bar and Brew.


How old are you?


What state or territory do you live in?


How did you begin writing?

I have been writing ever since I can remember – I was always writing stories as a child. However I only started seriously writing after graduating from high school, and throughout the duration of my degree.

Why do you write nonfiction?

I write nonfiction as both a form of therapy and a tool to explore perspectives in a way that fiction cannot.

Tell us a bit about your longlisted Scribe submission.

Chew is a memoir piece detailing the experience I had growing up with mentally ill parents, and how it resulted in abuse and neglect, and also a skewed perception of what is ‘normal’ when it comes to mental health.

Why did you choose to write on this topic as a young writer?

Mental illness is an issue very personal to me and I feel as though it requires more awareness. I grew up in a world where I had no idea what mental illness was even though I was surrounded by it every day, and for a very long time I was exhibiting similar symptoms to my parents without being aware that these symptoms were unhealthy or damaging. I want to spread awareness of the issue so that others in a similar situation know that they are unwell before it is too late, and receive the relevant treatment as early as possible.

How long have you been working on your submission, or where in development was your piece prior to entering the Scribe prize?

I’ve been working on the piece on and off for about a year and a half.  I was quite bitter when I began writing, and I knew that it was affecting the legitimacy of the piece, so I stopped. Over the past few months I’ve resumed writing because I have come to terms with what happened in the past, and am able to write a less biased and more coherent piece.

How important is Australia to you and your writing?

Australia has always been home to me, and this country has definitely helped shape the course of my experiences growing up, and therefore the material in my memoir.

What the best and worst piece of advice that you’ve received about writing?

I learned a lot of good advice during my degree, so it’s hard to think of one particular piece of advice that has helped me. However, a piece of advice that I have found useful is balancing out the description I use with elements of narration and exposition, as when I first started out as a writer I was very description-heavy. Perhaps the worst piece of advice I’ve been given was when someone told me to put ‘and’ in every sentence.

What is your favourite or most influential work of nonfiction that you’ve read? How has it affected your writing?

I think the first memoir I read was Prozac Nation, which definitely heavily influenced me and the way that I write nonfiction, due to the raw and poignant way that Wurtzel portrayed depression throughout the book. It has definitely encouraged me to be brutally honest with the way I write mental illness and tell it like it is.

Can you share a piece of your published nonfiction work that you’re particularly proud of?

I am yet to have a nonfiction piece published, however Steps which was published in Cow, Hide journal (which can be viewed here http://cowhidejournal.com/2014/06/30/steps/) was semi-autobiographical and based around a friendship I once had, so I guess that counts.


The Scribe Nonfiction Prize for Young Writers is a developmental award to foster talented writers aged 30 or under who are working on a longform or book-length nonfiction work.

In addition to a cash prize of $1,500, the winner receives the opportunity to meet with a publisher or an editor and to experience the process of working with an editor on their writing. The winner also receives a year-long subscription to Scribe: each month for 12 months, one new-release title will be sent out to them before it’s in stores.

The 2015 Scribe Nonfiction Prize shortlist will be announced on November 2nd, 6pm, at The Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas. This event is free, but bookings are essential.

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