Intermissions Author Q&A: Toby Remi Pickett

Toby Pickett is a writer and undergraduate student at the University of Melbourne. Toby is the winner of several awards for creative writing including Newman College’s Peter Steele Prize for Literature and St Patrick College’s Thomas Keneally Writing Prize.

What is your writing process?
I wish I had a uniform, logical writing process, but I write anywhere and everywhere: in bed, in parks, in cafes, on trams, in public libraries. The only consistent thing is that I always handwrite rather than type, mainly because I love doing little drawings as I go, but they’re too terrible and random to reveal to anyone!

Tell us about your story for the anthology. Where did your idea for ‘Platinum Blond’ come from? Were there any challenges writing it?
The story is about a young guy who accompanies his dying friend on a vacation of sorts. I wrote it during a lockdown earlier this year, at a time when I was feeling very isolated. I’ve always used writing as therapy, which can be a challenging process. With this I was trying to wade through that sense of disconnection and detachment from other people and the world. Also, I was missing home and the beach, so there’s a bit of that in the setting!

Your story speaks to the unique intimacy between two people when one of them is dying. Is this something you’ve explored in your work before?

Great question, it actually isn’t, at least on the surface. I found that I was writing from a familiar emotional place though. It’s natural to understand that sensation of feeling tied to someone, but distant from who they are or are becoming. Of wanting to be close and connected to someone, but finding difficulty in reconciling that with yourself. So the ‘plot’ was definitely unchartered territory, but thematically and tonally this was a landscape I knew fairly well.

Tell us about your favourite reads? Why do you like them?
My current contemporary favourites are all from young writers! Luster by Raven Leilani, Memorial by Bryan Washington and Nothing But My Body by Tilly Lawless are my touchstones these days. I love seeing new, fresh voices on the page, there’s nothing like reading something original that grabs you and shakes up how you see the world. I do also constantly return to Joan Didion, who I adore and whose books I’ve read a frightening amount of times.

How did you hear about GSP?
I’ve always been a huge follower of local Melbourne publishers! A writing tutor last year encouraged me to enter a couple of Grattan Street Press submissions. I immediately became a fan of the great work they’ve done, especially in uncovering new and diverse Australian voices.

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