Featured Writers

Short stories, features and poems from our writing community.

The artistic protagonist is a familiar figure in young adult fiction – the performance poet overcoming trauma onstage, the fan-fic writer finding their own story offline, the photographer shooting shadows in laneways … Art in YA, as in life, is bound up in character identity and agency. Emily Gale spoke to Writers Vic about the role of the artist in her work.

I was driving through Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, alone and killing time. The main road was a stranger to me until it started whispering familiar thoughts, and I saw I was only blocks from my childhood home. One of them, at least. Dad worked in sales – we moved around. 

When my friend Catherine moved back to Norway from England, she missed the squirrels that would run along her back fence in Oxford: wary, trembling and unintentionally hilarious. Though she had grown up in ‘the Bible Belt of Norway’, she realised how much she had forgotten its ways. People tended to shiver, like squirrels, at her ideas and opinions. As she tried to both be her true self and behave like a local, she could feel the incomprehension and judgement directed towards her. It was that silent disapproval that finally led her to act out.

And they reached the back of the house, and the sun was getting a bit higher and the heat was coming up a bit and there was wind and some swirling around of the dust out in the paddocks and the galahs were taking a bit of a feed and he could see all this as they were walking along. The dust came up on to his boots and up on to her shoes too, and it kicked up as they walked, and the country looked dry all around, even up on the top of the hill where there were some sheep. And he saw all this as they walked.

She woke to find him turned away from her, breathing softly. His knees were pulled up tight to his chest, the sheet wrapped snug, up to his chin. The lines around his eyes had retreated, leaving the skin puffy and red. Spooning him, she nuzzled the back of his head and breathed in his soft closeness. Then slowly, so as not to wake him, she slid out of bed to make coffee.

‘The carpet could be pulled up,’ Barry says as he bounces on the carpet. The floorboards underneath make a painful squeak. They must be as arthritic as my knees.

‘Caro, I reckon the boards might be alright.’ His eyes are seriously intense.

I jerk my neck. Caro? Did he call me Caro? Do all real estate agents have this instant familiarity with their clients?

Bazza, the name’s Caroline, I correct him in my mind as I inhale the stale mustiness of the old house. Hmm, Mum used to walk around this house spraying magnolia air freshener. It could do with a spray now.

I went out looking for one this afternoon,
just after an uninspiring lunch of leftovers.
Sometimes I hear one singing or repeating
a single syllable but other times I catch sight
of a flash of colour or happen upon one
as it’s dozing. I even located one by scent.
You’re unlikely to find one if you wander
about hoping to find one but I do anyway.
Like us, their habitat is anywhere,
so I prowl with my net, my dart, combing
the You Never Know Department.
Rare ones behave like they want to be caught,

Let us sing our praise of the bitter lie,
Dismiss the stolen children’s cry.
Favour fallacies and fairy tales, 
Worship thieves blown in by hearty gales. 

Let us sing our praise of the bitter lie, 
Deny bloodshed under deathly skies. 
Reject sovereign clans of noble grace, 
Elect foolish pawns of a ‘higher race’. 

Let us sing our praise of the bitter lie, 
Watch glibly as democracy dies. 
The traumatic scars of colonial lore, 
Weep on now and forevermore.

The years between writing my books and having them published are quite far apart. The first draft of ‘Ida’ was written in 2011 and the book was published in 2017; ‘Highway Bodies’ was written in 2013 and has just been published. The writing of both first drafts was very similar, but the editing processes were very different.

A portrait of Ailsa Wild

An acrobat, a poet, a whip cracker, and now a tutor with Writers Victoria, Ailsa Wild answered some questions about her books, her practice, and writing for children in preparation for her series of workshops in 2019.