What We're Reading / August 2023

This month, the Writing NSW team has been reading memoir, devouring essays on women’s football in the midst of the Matildas fever, and listening to podcasts that tell stories and discuss writing for video games.

Essays on women’s football by Samantha Lewis

Sophie Groom, CEO 

In the midst of starting a new job, I haven’t had a lot of time or brainspace for long-form reading over the past few weeks, but I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the articles from ABC sports journalist Sam Lewis about the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Outside of the moment of a big event, sports writing doesn’t always bear re-reading for a non-aficionado like me (or even a first reading, if I’m brutally honest). But, in the wake of the Matildas exit from the World Cup, I’ve gone back to revisit Lewis’s articles from the last couple of months like ‘We always play with pride’: How the Matildas helped pave the way for LGBTQIA+ visibility in football  and Out of the shadows: How women’s football flourished after 50 years of darkness. Understanding a little about the victories these gutsy sportswomen have fought for and won off the pitch has made their astonishing success in the tournament itself that much sweeter. It’s also given me a much greater appreciation of how the public adulation of the last few weeks represents radical progress.

Much like the journey of the women themselves, Lewis’s writing is both sweeping in scope, seeing the overarching story of women’s football as a hero’s quest, while also being immensely down to earth and practical: what were these women paid, where did they find spaces to train and play, what did they wear? (It’s bloomers, I’m sorry to say.) If you’re mourning the end of the festival of football, or just interested in finding out more about a sport that reflects a different, inclusive model of excellence from what we usually see celebrated, these make for inspiring reading.

A Kind of Magic by Anna Spargo-Ryan

Amy Lovat, Program Manager

Lately, I’ve been loving A Kind of Magic by Anna Spargo-Ryan, whose writing I’ve been following for many years. When a book has been reviewed by Sarah Krasnostein, Clementine Ford, Kylie Maslen and Fiona Wright, I’m going to pay attention. Coupled with a stunning cover, I knew this book was for me as soon as it landed on my door. A Kind of Magic is a memoir about anxiety, the mind, creativity and optimism, and I finally picked it up after listening to Anna speak about the book on an episode of James and Ashley Stay at Home. Anna’s story begins in 2001, in Melbourne, when she first recognised signs of psychosis. Throughout the book, she weaves together her own story of mental illness and her therapy sessions with family history, research, musings on time and creativity, and insights into how the human brain works. I have been dipping in and out of the book slowly, languishing in the beautiful prose and fascinating story. A warning: some parts are heavy, especially if you have mental illness in your life or family, which is why I’ve been giving myself breaks between chapters. Ultimately, I’ve been loving every page and soaking up the magic of the words.

A Kind of Magic (2022, Ultimo Press)

If you’re interested in learning from Anna herself, Online Feedback: Manuscript Development with Anna Spargo-Ryan begins online with Writing NSW on 11 September. Enrol now.

Emotional Female by Yumiko Kadota

Rochelle Pickles, Professional Development Officer

I’ve been wanting to read Yumiko Kadota’s Emotional Female for a while, so I was glad to get a start on it this month. It’s been hard to put down!

Yumiko opens her memoir with a day in the life of being a Plastics Registrar on the path to becoming a plastic surgeon—up at 5.41am, breakfast standing up, consultation calls from the hospital before she’s brushed her teeth, the pressure to respond to all calls while also getting to work in time to start her rounds. She is severely burnt-out and exhausted, but she must keep going and appear upbeat—she’s been working towards an advanced training program in plastic and reconstructive surgery for too long now. Kadota then proceeds to take us back to where it all began, as an enthusiastic medical student, and the various systemic and interpersonal factors in the surgical field—including persistent sexism and racism—that lead to her burnout and the eventual abandoning of her dream to become a surgeon.

Kadota’s book is an important and fascinating window into the inner workings of the hospital system and the extensive barriers in place for women who wish to break into the boys’ club of surgery.

Emotional Female (2021, Penguin Books)

Welcome to Night Vale Podcast

Adara Enthaler, Project & Communications Officer

With Writing NSW’s Podcasting 101 course coming up with Lea Redfern, and long commutes to work, I’ve been inspired recently to make a return to the only podcast I’ve ever listened to: Welcome to Night Vale. Set in the fictional town of Night Vale, a desert town somewhere in the southwestern United States, this fiction podcast takes the form of a radio show, with the host Cecil reporting on the strangest goings on of his town in a soothing, entirely unperturbed voice. Created in 2012 by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, the premise of the series is a town in a desert where all conspiracy theories are real, and the show delivers. Night Vale is a place where a street cleaner is something to run screaming from, radio station interns have a high mortality rate, mountains are definitely not real and cannot be spoken of, there’s a faceless old woman who lives in your house just out of the corner of your eye, and a glow cloud that rains small dead creatures can become the president of the school board.

Despite the often macabre subject matter, the experience of listening to WTNV is almost entirely soothing, thanks to Cecil’s deep, calm voice, his charming musings, and the weather report segment, which is a different song every time (from real life little-known bands and artists). The podcast has an eerie soundtrack that transplants the listener into the town, and whilst many episodes could narratively stand alone, at times the plot builds quite excitingly over many episodes, with different mysteries and threats to the town weaving through the story. The characters are endearing to meet (or, at times, horrifying), as the cheerfulness of a small town mixes with spine-tingling and sometimes quite bloody happenings. The show has a queer love story that begins in the very first episode and culminates in a relationship that spans the show, and the cast of voice actors are wonderfully diverse, inspiring a community of fans and art.

Welcome to Night Vale is still releasing bimonthly episodes and is now past 230, and they have also produced live shows, two books, and an independent podcast network titled Night Vale Presents. If you’re a fan of creative, spooky storytelling, dark humour and absurd horror, I highly recommend giving it a listen.

Welcome to Night Vale (2012-23)

If you’d like to enrol in Podcasting 101 with Lea Redfern on Saturday 9 September, click here.

Video Game Writing 101 Podcast

Elliot Cameron, Membership & Administration Officer

One medium of writing I’ve found myself increasingly interested in the past few years is video game writing. On the complete other end of the spectrum from the classical view of the solitary writer scribbling away at a dimly-lit desk, video game writers often work in large teams, contributing to an ever-changing product dependent upon the work of hundreds of developers over the course of several years.

Alanah Pearce’s Video Game Writing 101 podcast explores the many challenges inherent in such a writing landscape, as well as giving great insight into the industry itself. A former IGN journalist from Australia and currently an accessibility writer for Santa Monica Studio, Pearce’s podcast has featured acclaimed games writers such as Tim Schaffer from Double Fine Productions and Josh Sawyer from Obsidian Entertainment discussing their careers as well as the craft of balancing great writing with a sense of player agency.

February 2022’s episode on localisation featuring Frognation’s Ryan Morris and Ian Milton-Polley was one I found especially fascinating. Morris and Milton-Polley have worked on several of FromSoftware’s games in the popular Souls series, adapting Hidetaka Miyazaki’s work from its Japanese origins for English-speaking audiences. I wasn’t all too familiar with ‘localisation’ prior, but I now understand it to be a more holistic approach to translation, where not only the text itself is adapted for a different language, but the context and presentation of each element is considered and adjusted for a different set of cultural expectations and understandings. I find Video Game Writing 101 full of such insights, continually expanding my understanding of the many ways writers contribute toward the broader development of video games.

Video Game Writing 101

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