Interview with SPOOK magazine

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— This interview originally appeared as part of SPOOK Magazine’s People Who Do Stuff series.

Who are you and what stuff do you do?

My name is Bethanie Blanchard. I’m a freelance writer and the literary critic for Crikey with my blogLiticism. You’ll usually find me with my head in a book or my hands on a laptop.

How did you get started getting paid for writing?

The first piece of writing I was ever paid for was an essay for Kill Your Darlings. I’m paid now to write for publications such as The Monthly and The Australian, but the path to getting paid for any creative pursuit is long and slow.

You could say I got my start with an internship at the Emerging Writers’ Festival, or the work I did as online intern at Kill Your Darlings, or the time spend attempting my PhD, or writing silly tv reviews for Melbourne Uni’s student magazine, or with the note scribbled in the margins of a highschool essay from my English Lit teacher that said “have you ever considered a career as a writer?”

I think if you focus on producing work you’re proud of, regardless of whether you’re getting paid or how big your audience is, you’ll eventually earn money to do what you love.

What’s your first memory of reading?

Well my first memory is probably of an inability to read. It’s kind of ironic that I’m a literary critic now because I was a very late reader, by the end of prep I couldn’t read. I changed schools and they put me in a reading recovery program and I was able to read in less than two weeks. My teacher at the new school thought maybe she had misdiagnosed me.

Perhaps it’s not so odd that I value books now because I can remember being unable to interpret them.

Once I could read I was always a bit bookish. I was never really a Babysitters Club kind of girl, I remember going to the big shelf and reading all of my Dad’s old Penguin classics – Down and Out in Paris and LondonA Farewell to Arms, even Crime and Punishment. I’m not sure whether I understood any of it at the time, I think I just wanted to be pretentious enough to say I’d read Dostoyevsky.

What’s trendy in the lit scene these days?

Well we’ve had s&m, vampires and wizards so I’m pretty interested to see what’s next!

The two most successful books written by Australian writers recently have been a love story about a guy with undiagnosed Aspergers, and a drama about the last woman sentenced to death in Iceland. They both initially sounded pretty niche to me, but both have had their rights sold to numerous countries. If you try to write the sort of book that’s going to be trendy you never will be because you just can’t predict that shit.

Who should we be reading?

I like to support literary journals – there is so much incredible work, both creative and critical, inside them. It’s always how I discover exciting new writers. Kill Your DarlingsThe Lifted Brow,MeanjinGoing Down SwingingAmpersand, there’s too many to name. They all have great online content too.

In terms of books, the latest releases I have beside my bed at the moment are Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites and Anna Krien’s Night Games – both of which I would highly recommend.

Where can we find your work?

You can always find my writing on Liticism, in the books pages of newspapers or in lit journals. Google me – you’ll get my reviews and essays, plus suggestive pictures of a blonde surfer girl who also happens to share my name. It’s win win.

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