Congratulations to Olivia Congdon; our newest Blogsite Resident! Olivia is the first writer to be involved in the Blogsite Residency, a cousin to our Writer in Residence program.
Olivia is 23 and grew up in country NSW, then moved to Tasmania for university. There she completed a Ba Arts and Ba Science combined degree, majoring in Journalism, Media and Communications as well as Zoology. She currently works in Canberra in book sales and distribution.
Olivia predominately writes creative non-fiction, but her published experience is mainly in news and culture writing. She’s written for a variety of publications including a university magazine, Togatus, Southern Riverina News, The Riot Act, Out in Canberra, Love and List, Conservation Careers, the ACT Writers Centre blog and magazine and her own blog, A Traveller at Home. She recently spent time in Bali on a travel writing internship with Global Hobo, where she was part of a team who produced an e-guidebook.
We caught up with Olivia to get a taste of what she’ll be penning for SPP…
What are you hoping to write about as part of your residency?
I want to write about the world around me: Canberra, social issues, art and news. I’d also like to challenge myself to be creative and extend my style beyond my traditional-journalism comfort zone. As I want to write in an eclectic range of formats and topics, I thought I’d find a theme to tie my posts together. The common thread will be that all writing topics will be cultivated from my bus journey to and from work: whether that be the people I share the ride with, the books I’m reading, a conversation I have or something else.
Are you one of those ‘I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember’ people? Or did you come to creative writing later on in your life?
I guess writing is something I’ve always loved. Creativity is definitely a key element keeping me fulfilled. I feel stressed if I haven’t had time to create. When I was a kid, my friend and I would scrawl out this series of stories called The Secret Magic Hole on a never-ending roll of butcher’s paper (extremely inspired by Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree tales), then our teacher helped us ‘publish’ them into books. Then growing up, I was kind of obsessed with recording things: I wrote, but also took lots of photos, and through painting and sketching I would try to capture reality in another way. I started focussing more heavily on writing when I studied journalism at uni,and since then have really enjoyed being able to express myself on the page.
Name a book that you put down a slightly different person after you’d finished the last page.
This is a hard question! I think the accumulation of books, articles and essays that I’ve read have shaped my values and helped me to understand how others see the world, but pinpointing it down to the catalyst text is tricky.
Although one book that has stayed in my all-too-easily distractible mind is called Journalistas: 100 Years of the Best Writing and Reporting by Women Journalists. It has stuck with me on two levels; firstly because there are all these examples of rad females completely smashing it in a previously heavily male-dominated industry. On the second level, the actual content of their work is really powerful writing that is hard to forget — particularly Djuna Barnes’ piece, How It Feels to be Forcibly Fed, is a really emotional, political and cleverly-told story. Other featured journalists include Sylvia Pankhurst, Joan Didion, Martha Gellhorn and so many others. Despite the age of some of the content, I still find it so relevant and cannot help but feel the rage, the pride and the inspiration when I read this book.
Any online must visits?
I’m biased, because I interned in Bali with them, but Global Hobo is one of my favourite websites at the moment. It’s a diverse range of perspectives on travel, current affairs and wrangling through your early adulthood—presented in an authentic, non-wanky way—and I love it. Plus, heaps of my talented friends are published there.
Other online go-tos of mine include the Pedestrian TV job board (so many writing and creative industry jobs are listed here) and The Guardian for my news, but mostly to read First Dog on the Moon cartoons. I’m quite into Twitter at the moment as well.
You can view more of Olivia’s work here