October Dinner Report: Alice Pung and New AEs

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Author and editor Alice Pung (Photo: Nicole Mathers)

A group of over 30 editors came out of winter hibernation to gather at CQ Melbourne on 19 October to be entertained by award-winning author Alice Pung.

Before we heard from Alice, Jackey Coyle, Steph Heriot and Joely Taylor presented four of the newest Accredited Editors with their certificates. It was interesting to hear that Victoria achieved the highest pass rate, with 13 new AEs, of which 11 are Editors Victoria members (and were listed in the last newsletter).

Then, in a change of pace, Kate Cuthbert introduced Alice Pung, author of the Australian bestseller Unpolished Gem and editor of Growing up Asian in Australia.

Alice is an engaging storyteller and had us all engrossed in her tales as she spoke of her childhood in the western suburbs, inspired to read by her illiterate mother whose only readings were supermarket catalogues.

Alice's first published article came from submitting to Readers Digest in the quest to win the $150 prize. Meanjin showed an interest in her story and voice and asked if this article was part of a novel. Without hesitating, she said yes, and proceeded to furiously write three chapters over her university holidays. It was eagerly accepted and the rest, as they say …

It was interesting to hear of the relationship between Alice and her editor at Black Inc, Chris Feik. Her relationship with Chris has endured for over 15 years and she spoke about the uniqueness of their partnership – they came together when they were still early in their careers and they have grown together and developed their creative careers since that time. Alice believes a good editor can change a writer’s life. Such is her trust in Chris that she will read the ‘clean’ version of the edit without looking at his tracked changes.

Alice is passionate about mentoring, and aware of the lack of it for writers. She believes writers are not mentored as much as they used to be, and that there would be more distinct voices than there are currently if young writers were being properly developed.

An interesting Q&A session followed Alice’s lively discussion. We heard more about her childhood influences, her thoughts on diversity in editors, and her next project – working on an Asian–Australian musical with media personality Annette Shun Wah.

Sophie Dougall
Events subcommittee