In the lead-up to Girls Write Up Brisbane on May 11, we asked some of the festival artists to tell us what advice they would give to their teenage selves.
Their responses are funny, honest and full of fascinating personal insights. They also prove that while growing up can be tough, it can also be an empowering time, a time to find your voice and learn to trust it.
‘Dear 15-year-old Bri, right now it seems like the end of the world that boys don’t like you, but they’re such a monumental waste of time. Keep playing the clarinet! Stop hate-watching Victoria’s Secret re-runs on YouTube at 1am! Start keeping a diary as soon as you can, so that you might exorcise some of that self-loathing out from your skull and tread a little lighter. I’m proud of you, and I think you’d be proud of me.’
Bri Lee is a Brisbane-based writer and the Founding Editor of Hot Chicks with Big Brains. Bri is qualified to practise law, but doesn’t, and her first book, Eggshell Skull, a memoir about sexism in the justice system, is published by Allen & Unwin.
‘It’s okay that you don’t seem to fit in anywhere (no-one really does). Finish your science degree. Keep writing. Use more Chinese in your writing. Don’t be afraid to speak truth to power.
You are stronger than you think you could ever be. You have a powerful voice: use it. You never know who might be listening.’
Yen-Rong Wong is a Brisbane-based writer, and founding editor of Pencilled In. Her work has been published in the Guardian, the Lifted Brow, Overland, Feminartsy, and more. She is currently working on a non-fiction manuscript which explores the impacts of growing up Christian and Chinese on her attitudes towards sex, drugs, and music.
‘Do not take your girlfriends for granted. The opinions of teenage boys are worthless, so quit worrying about them. Be nice to your mother. Spend time with the family cat. Remember that regardless of countries visited, books read or classes aced, you’re not better than anyone else, so don’t be a snobby little shit. Don’t freak out when your boyfriend says that thing to you in the car – it will become one of your life’s greatest punchlines. Hang out with your sister as much as you can. Take photos of your friends. Try to memorise the texture of this time of your life. Trust yourself.’
Sam George-Allen is a Brisbane writer, editor, and musician. Her fiction and non-fiction has been published in Voiceworks, Bumf, Stilts, Overland, Kill Your Darlings and The Lifted Brow. She has published a collection of essays and short stories on witches and witchcraft called I Put A Spell On You, and is currently working on a new collection of essays focused on communities of women.
‘Remember it’s all a learning experience and it’s best not to take things too seriously. See the humour, synchronicity and beauty in everything. You don’t need to find your worth in what other people think or say about you. You intuitively know you are actually quite smart and good at doing many things. Follow that intuition and be amazing!’
Phoebe is a writer, director and producer of documentaries, factual content and children’s television. She is also a lecturer in film, television and digital media at the Queensland University of Technology, and principal of Hartflicker, a video and film production company. She is known particularly for her autobiographical road trip movie, Orchids: My Intersex Adventure. She has worked for Network Ten and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
‘Don’t be so hard on yourself – you’re doing much better than you think. (But try to stress a little less.) Remember that being happy is more important than being successful, and that external success can’t make you happy. Don’t feel like you have to compromise yourself to make people like you. Stay weird. Be kind. Enjoy your life. Not much else matters.’
Steph Bowe is a 23-year-old YA author whose novels include Girl Saves Boy, All This Could End and Night Swimming. She grew up just outside Melbourne and now lives in South-East Queensland. She was one of triple j’s inaugural 25 Under 25 and won Express Media’s award for Outstanding Achievement by a Writer Under 25 in 2010. Steph is a Stella Schools Ambassador.
‘Relaxation is a part of working. When you have workaholic tendencies, it’s important to have a good work/life balance so you don’t burn out. It also helps clear your mind. Make time to be nice to yourself and the important people in your life because at the end of the day, it’s your relationships with other people that matter most.’
Michelle Law is a writer of fiction, non-fiction, theatre, film and TV. She is the co-author of the comedy book Sh*t Asian Mothers Say, and her writing has appeared in numerous books as well as publications such as Frankie magazine and the Sydney Morning Herald. Last year, she was the recipient of the Queensland Premier’s Young Publishers and Writers Award. This year, her debut play Single Asian Female was staged at La Boite Theatre Company to sold-out audiences.
‘1. You might not believe me (even though I am future you) but you are beautiful and your words are necessary. 2. Please Google intersectional feminism. 3. Your best friend? She sticks around forever. Love her with abandon.’
Lorin Elizabeth is a spoken-word poet, organiser and teaching artist from Wolloongong, who co-founded Enough Said Poetry Slam and is published in Going Down Swinging’s audio anthology. Lorin has toured the USA poetry-slam circuit, featured at the Women of the World Poetry Slam in Albuquerque, NM and self-published an EP called Poems. In 2017, Lorin featured at Canberra’s Noted Festival and hosted The Rumble Youth Slam at Sydney Writers’ Festival.
Girls Write Up Brisbane is presented in partnership with the State Library of Queensland.
Check out the 2018 program and book a ticket for the teen in your life today.