In the lead-up to Girls Write Up, we asked some of our speakers to look back on their teenage years and share a piece of advice that they would give to their 16-year-old selves if they could. Their responses are funny, honest and full of fascinating personal insights. They also prove that while growing up can be pretty tough, it can also be an empowering time, a time to find your voice and learn to trust it.

Tommi Parrish Headshot“Breathe deep, take time and do what makes you feel good.” Tommi PG 


amy-middleton sparkler“Trust yourself. Your nose will always lead you, so you might as well follow it boldly.” – Amy Middleton



emily_maguire“If you wait until you feel brave to do all the scary stuff you dream about, you’ll die still dreaming. Courage comes from the doing; the more scary stuff you do, the braver you’ll get. Also, bravery is contagious and communal. Learn the stories of people who live with courage and draw on them whenever you need to. Understand that, in turn, your own brave acts will inspire others.” Emily Maguire

alison-whittaker-headshot-595x893“Keep at being earnest and empathetic. Plenty of people will tell you these things are either liabilities or strengths, but they’re more complicated than that. They’re parts of being a whole, intricate person in a whole, intricate community in a whole, intricate world. They’ll serve you well in all you do – especially if you’re here to shake things up!” Alison Whittaker

Fiona Wright“I would like to tell my 16-year-old self that her adult self, frequently, vociferously and quite literally, tells people that she’d never be sixteen again, no matter how much money was offered. It’s a tough time, a really difficult and confusing year, but she’ll get through it, and the other side is easier and infinitely brighter. That, and she is way cooler than she thinks.” Fiona Wright

Lili Wilkinson“Write what you love. Don’t try to write fancy or pretentious or capital-L-Literary just because that’s what you think you should do, or because it’s what the people around you are doing. Write whatever keeps you excited. Write what you would want to read.” – Lili Wilkinson

alicia-sometimes“My advice: Always have a great-fitting bra. Creativity is as important as showering. Don’t apologise. Yellow isn’t your colour.” – Alicia Sometimes


“To go for more walks, be more involved in the community, see my grandmother more, paint more, live each moment with care, not take family members for granted, know that this time won’t last forever.” Alice Pung



amelia-marshall-595x794“Stay curious. The world is changing faster than you can fathom, but curiosity will help you find a sense of direction, purpose, and like-minded people. Don’t worry about settling on any answers yet – just keep asking questions.” Amelia Marshall


Eloise Grills Headshot“Don’t be so obsessed with the art of dead white men. Look elsewhere.” Eloise Grills



Kirsty Eagar head and shoulders“Treat yourself with the same kindness that you show others. Enjoy your friends. They’re good ones and they’ll be there for the long haul. They will always recognise the YOU in you, and when you work out who that is, you’ll take comfort from it. The best test of whether you can trust someone is how they make you feel. Stop punishing your body and enjoy using it instead. It serves you well. And later it will give you some of the most incredible experiences you will ever have and absolutely NONE of them will have anything to do with what it looks like. There’s no need to feel guilty, or like a loser, for enjoying periods of solitude. And those little moments when you feel joy for no apparent reason? They’re the whole point. Cherish being alive. It’s a gift. But be wary of people who offer advice unasked. Especially those from the future.” – Kirsty Eagar

Safdar Ahmed Headshot“Hi, So I’m teleporting from the future to you (me) as a 40-year-old, though I’m aware I might not be what you’re expecting. That’s because there’s no future on your horizon, indeed there’s no horizon. You’re hating life, you can’t relate to anyone and you don’t know it but you’re chronically depressed. You distrust the world out there and don’t really want to join in. But in the end you’ll find a niche, and you won’t sell out. Things will abate slowly. You’ll learn more of yourself and others. You’ll feel and enjoy more than you’re experiencing now. I also have to give you credit cause you set me up well! You already have great taste in art, music and literature so don’t worry – the good things in life are sustained and your passions won’t desert you. I’m not an asshole (I hope) so you won’t change for the worse. There’s no advice that I’d give to change you, because you’ll develop under your own steam. Keep going … Do what you love.” Safdar Ahmed

fiona_wood“Tell a couple of friends how bad things are at home. Stop smoking. Stay curious. Those cut-off jeans are too short. Keep reading like a maniac. You eventually get the mother you need (spoiler) – it’s you.” – Fiona Wood 

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The Stella PrizeWrite Up