Writing for the boxed set

Newswrite, journal of the NSW Writers Centre, October 2015 (subscribers only)

Reprinted on ArtsHub November 2015 (subscribers only)

Television writing is sometimes seen as a poor cousin to book writing. But the present surge in televisual storytelling (Rake, Puberty Blues, Redfern Now, Hiding, Please Like Me, among others) might prompt writers to wonder what’s involved and whether it pays.

If you managed to catch any of Jim Rash’s series The Writers’ Room, a paean to great American TV series, you might have come away imagining TV writing as the best fun in the world. Far from the lonely grind most authors endure, US TV writers work in a gang, trading jokes and topping each other’s stories in an office furnished with a whiteboard and an endless supply of Post-It notes. It all sounds so exciting.

Do we have writers’ rooms in Australia, and if so, how much creative clout can writers retain, working in a team? I talked to Australian TV writers to find out…

Killing Lady Bountiful

Runner-up, essay contest in Eureka Street

Are good intentions enough?

A newly-trained volunteer and I chatted with a young Liberian woman who’d been referred to us. Bright young kids lounged on a three-piece suite that almost abutted the TV, alternately watching cartoons and listening in to us. Then, in a pause, the volunteer blurted ‘Isn’t it marvellous — you’ve paid off your loan to come to Australia already!’

Our client assumed a neutral expression and transferred her gaze elsewhere. She breathed carefully.

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