I reckon these intros are gonna get shorter and shorter until they’re just: Here! Have at it!


Ben arrived in year two, but our friendship wasn’t immediate. Not that there was any animosity … Okay, there was some animosity. We did fight on opposite sides of the Great Cat and Dog War. We divided ourselves by allegiance to certain household pets (because year two) and fought over the out-of-bounds territory between hedges and a school fence. However many lunchtimes it lasted, and whatever injuries were sustained, I distinctly remember the looming threat of detentions inspiring the conflict’s swift resolution. It was like nothing my class had ever seen. Ben was the leader of the Cats and probably the instigator of the whole thing, if not the escalator.

We became friends towards the end of primary school, after a series of departures left me adrift without any friends. Ben was the guy who whispered jokes in assembly that cracked up everybody in his orbit, but I was never close enough to hear what was so funny. Until we were assigned to the same English group. The brightest kids were plucked from each class to be extended, challenged … Ben was in the back row, looking up sex in the thesaurus and losing it over slap and tickle. Notoriously well-behaved up until this point, I yearned to be the kind of kid who laughed about slap and tickle in a classroom. I wanted to be his friend.

I don’t know whether I sat beside him before somebody else could or if he was moved beside me in the hope that my studiousness would rub off on him, even though there isn’t a documented case in human history where the opposite hasn’t occurred. Whether it was my drive or an accident, what’s important is, we sat together I made an impression. We sat together again. And again. I had usurped his regular desk-mate. He wanted to sit next to me. And it felt amazing to be wanted.

I would say we became friends then. I’m not sure when he would say we became friends, if ever. He cultivated a certain precariousness in his friendships. People in his orbit were afraid of being cast aside at any moment. I wasn’t old enough to know it then, but with hindsight, it’s plain as day. When I made the transition from English group friend to lunchtime friend, the two others he regularly sat with were defensive. They would snipe, and often, dig the heels of their school shoes into my shins until they bled. For fun. I was so worried I would say or do anything to lose Ben’s favour, that I didn’t see they were worried too. They were keeping me at bay. I don’t know whether it was my daftness or Ben’s allure, but I endured the bleeding shins game until it stopped.

Our friendship continued into high school. Ben was a planet, we were his moons. He collected more. He dictated what we spoke about and for how long. He was a natural storyteller. He never stumbled or stammered, and there was no exhausting the stories he could share about the friends he hung out with outside of school. When he was absent, everything still revolved around him. We would end up talking about him. One lunch, somebody floated the idea that maybe those friends he hung out with outside of school didn’t exist. One of his stories was eerily similar to a recent TV plotline. We planned to confront him, and possibly negotiate a more equal group dynamic. He had taken to excommunicating people who annoyed him at this point.

I was the last to arrive at school the following morning. My greetings were ignored by everyone. I tried to insert myself into the conversation, and after a few failed attempts, I realised what had happened. They had confessed our discussions the previous day. They laid the blame solely at my feet. I was banished.

Ben let me back into the fold eventually. I don’t know whether I grovelled or if he got bored.

As his exploration of alcohol and other substances intensified, I was pushed to the fringes. I was the guy who wondered aloud if things were getting out of hand … Nobody likes that guy at the best of times, but given the precarious nature of Ben’s friendship, others worked hard to make sure he didn’t like that guy. There was one hanger-on who operated like pull-string doll – tug a limb and he’d say, “William doesn’t understand you.”

I was watching people dismiss a downward spiral as a Super Happy Fun Slide, because he was closer to them when he was inebriated. He had grown guarded, or perhaps, I’d grown to notice he was guarded. He only spoke candidly when he was under the influence. I mostly missed out on him in that state. Occasionally, he would change his instant messenger username from benji to bentji … I did wonder if it was performance, a way to make us believe he was wilder than he was.

The last time we spoke was online. It was the middle of the January before year eleven.

look, the only people ive ever told about my dirty secrets are people who like to drink! so the ritual has always been we do shots together and then i dish the dirt

but itll obviously have to be different with you, ok?

youre my good friend

as in my good friend who’s good

It was notable because after our most tumultuous year of friendship, he had admitted we were friends. Good friends. A short time later,

anyway, i have to go now

bye bye

And he was gone.

The memoir project was written with generous support from Create NSW, City of Sydney and City of Melbourne. If you enjoyed this, you’ll probably like The Sidekicks.


Week two and I haven’t abandoned steady posting … Let’s celebrate that! Here’s a new memoir piece. Hope you enjoy.


Yiayia Filyo introduced me to the idea of inheritance. Not because she left me anything when she died. Members of my father’s family have a curious tendency to bequeath their worldly possessions to my stepmother, as if, when drafting their wills, they all receive the same legal advice about impeding child support debt recovery.

I would sit at the stool in front of her triple vanity mirror and watch as she ran a comb through my hair. She styled it like hers. When she was done, I was her bite-sized doppelganger. It’s the earliest I recognised that a piece of me had come from someone else. Now, I don’t understand how inheritance patterns work – besides my stepmother inheriting what my father’s due, I understand that pattern – but on the off-chance I comb my hair back, I see my grandmother in my reflection.

My memories of Yiayia Filyo are hazy now. I don’t know if it’s cruel or kind that the people we love occupy less space in our minds as the distance between us grows. I experience her in flashes – her running a hand and a brush through my hair; her drenched in black, watching me through the fence at pre-school; her sitting on the back step of her Marrickville home, peeling the potatoes that would become the best damn chips I’ve ever eaten.

I wish I could say she only took up less space in my mind when she died, but the truth is, it happened much earlier. When the rift between my parents worsened, and every second weekend came to mean never, I saw her less, I thought of her less, and I thought less of her. People have said she feared my father, so she did what he told her to, however harsh …

Nobody’s character comes out of a protracted divorce untarnished, but Mum did what was right when it counted. If she heard Yiayia Filyo was in hospital, she would sneak us in to see her. One afternoon in my teens, Mum announced that she was taking me for a drive. We ended up outside a nursing home in Earlwood. She told me it was where my grandmother lived.

It was the first time I’d seen her in years. She hadn’t aged in my head, so the sight of her, hair grey and speech slurred, hit me hard. I blinked back tears as we spoke. Don’t remember what about, but I left feeling like a weight I didn’t know I was carrying had been lifted. I would have carried it forever had she died before I visited.

It was cathartic, and I wanted that catharsis for my older brother. When I encouraged him to visit, he reacted in anger. He wouldn’t go. And it made sense. Dad had been the worst to him.

She died soon after. We found out by cosmic coincidence. My maternal grandmother, Yiayia Susie, came across the obituary in a days-old Greek newspaper.

My older brother was upset. He said he didn’t have the chance to say goodbye to her. I probably shouldn’t have told him that he did have the chance, he just didn’t take it.

Mum insisted we go to the funeral uninvited. I remember the breath catching in her throat as we approached the church in Newtown where she married my father years before. She had spotted what we soon would – Yiayia Filyo’s tiny coffin elevated on wheels, left unattended on the street. We stood there uncomfortably. We didn’t want to get too close. We weren’t supposed to be there. Minutes passed like hours, and nobody came to retrieve Yiayia Filyo. Mum did what was right when it counted. She encouraged my brothers and me stand by our grandmother.

We approached the coffin, scared that at any moment Dad would emerge from the church to chastise us. He didn’t. He was late. In his absence, we kept his mother company on King Street – my older brother, who refused to visit her at the end, my younger brother, who barely knew her, and me. We were the family she lost in the divorce, but we were the ones who were there in the end.

And while I’d be lying if I said that’s front of mind at all times, you can’t stop that shit from shaping you. When I think of Yiayia Filyo, I think of standing on King Street. I shouldn’t, she wasn’t really there, but it was the culmination of our story. An acknowledgement of the lost years. An apology. And I carry that moment with me. It’s the only thing I can say for certain that I inherited from her.

The memoir project was written with generous support from Create NSW, City of Sydney and City of Melbourne. If you enjoyed this, I have freshly signed books available for purchase at Dymocks Collins St, The Little Bookroom and Readings Kids. If you’re after something like this, you can check out My Father Haunts Me and You Come Out.

You Come Out

What I love most about being a touring author is reflecting on my life experiences — the ones that inspire books, and the ones that don’t — to answer teens’ questions about where they’re at in their lives. I really missed those honest conversations during the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, so I channelled those untold stories into a memoir. Some of the pieces have heavily inspired the two fictional novels I’m working on at the moment, but the others are just sitting there, languishing. The end of the year has lost a lot of its shape, so in an effort to build a scaffold I can drape my life over, I’ve decided to set myself a task: to polish and upload some of the languishing pieces every so often (as you can see, it isn’t a particularly ambitious scaffold). Hope you enjoy.

You Come Out

You’re in luck. It’s one of his last nights in Sydney before he moves overseas. He wants to head out, but no one else is free. It’s just the two of you. After a series of false starts, you’ve settled into your groove as two guys in their early twenties with a pretty firm friendship. Sure, you’re not his best friend – your eyes glaze over too quickly at the mention of ancient history – but you’re close enough that tonight might be the night you finally tell someone.

Gay has been everybody’s go-to insult for as long as you can remember. It’s your voice, your vibe, your music taste, your way of carrying yourself. Well-meaning friends have asked you if you’re … you know more times than you can count, but you’ve always flatly denied. They never say the word. They skirt around it like it scares them.

There’s this sincere kindness that emerges when he drinks. After the third, give or take a schooner. He relaxes his stoic performance and speaks candidly. He’ll definitely get to that point tonight. The football match they’re showing at the pub doesn’t start till late. Early hours of the morning-late. You’ll just have to have the guts when he gets there.

If it goes south, he’ll be on the other side of the world before you know it. No risk. You won’t lose a thing.

You order beer, as if that’s what will make him want to keep you around. Your heart thumps as he drinks. You suffer through yours. Foamy and bitter. You opt for a mixed spirit on the next round. Likely bourbon.

You get pep-talk-in-the-bathroom-mirror drunk, but you have enough of your wits about you to know that if someone waltzed in, they’d judge you for it. You skip the next round and watch him drink. You want to make sure he’s in the right headspace before you start.

“Hey, I’ve got something to tell you.”

It’s noncommittal. The something can change right up until … you come out. The confession lands like a brick on the table between you. He ignores his drink. He blinks. You wonder if you overshot it.

Is he too drunk?

“Okay,” he says.

He blinks again.

“Yeah, that’s fine,” he adds, like he’s convincing himself.

He asks you when you knew. He asks why you took so long to say something. Did you not feel like you could? Was it his fault? You reassure him. He’s a good friend. He relaxes. It’s less about you than you expect.

You eventually explain that every good friend you introduced him to is in fact, your ex. He nods. It makes sense. He asks about them, then gets distracted.

You’re relieved.

You stay for the football match. You yawn through the whole thing. You’re sobering up but you don’t feel like drinking, and you don’t feel like rushing home either. You want to sit in this. Somebody you care about knows and he’s fine, you’re fine. There’s one point where he tries to set you up with a random at the bar. The guy’s slurring and you’re not even sure he’s gay. It’s a bit much. But it’s a bit sweet too.

You say goodbye. He knows not to tell anyone. He moves across the world. When you finally get around to telling the others, they already know. He told them, probably.

Time passes. You fly across the world to visit him. It takes him close to a week to ask if you’re seeing someone, but he asks it like he’s not all that interested in the answer. At some point you let him have it – probably in a text. You don’t remind him he was the first person you came out to, so he should’ve been better, but it’s subtext.

You count the time between reunions in years.

Eventually he stops texting. He tells the others he doesn’t want you to come with them when they visit. That stings. You convince yourself it doesn’t.

He returns briefly. Reservations are made for a buck’s dinner. You trek across four suburbs to get the nerves out. Doesn’t work. You’re the last one to arrive at the restaurant, even though you’re early. You wonder if they made plans to start without you. He catches sight of you as you approach. Your stomach drops. You’re happy to see him, shit-scared to see him. He’s a ghost, acting like he was never gone. He’s enthusiastic. He encourages you to take the vacant seat beside him. You’re hesitant but he’s interested. He talks about his life and asks about yours. He wants to meet your partner. It’s like no time’s passed and nothing’s soured. But near the end of the night, after the dinner has made way for a half-arsed pub crawl, it’s too much for you. He complains about his watch, taps the screen, says it doesn’t respond to anything he does. You say the watch is ignoring him like he ignored you. It isn’t your best work and your voice wavers, but when he doesn’t react, you reiterate it minutes later. There’s no emotion in his reply. He says he didn’t want to spoil the evening for the others.

At the wedding, you pull him aside. You ask him what went wrong. He’s evasive. You ask if it’s because you’re gay, because even though it likely isn’t true, it’s possible, and when it’s possible, it takes up space in your heart and eats away at it … He huffs. He says you’re too much work. And hey, you’ve pulled him away from his wife at somebody’s wedding to have a moment, he’s probably right. But fuck it, you’re worth the work. But so is he. You draw a line in the sand. You accept any blame. You miss him. He melts a smidge. He tells you that he’ll see you before his flight.

He doesn’t.

You feel you wasted it. He was the first person you came out to and he discarded you.

But you didn’t waste your coming out.

You didn’t do it for him.

You did it for you.

The memoir project was written with generous support from Create NSW, City of Sydney and City of Melbourne. If you enjoyed this, I have too many books out for you to buy, but The Greatest Hit is the cheapest and the shortest if you’re scared of commitment. If you’re after something like this, you can check out My Father Haunts Me.

Literary Lockdown 2021

With cities coming in and out of lockdown, the second half of 2021 is going to be a little different this year. But just because it’s different, doesn’t mean it can’t be something incredible. What started as a “Hey, what do you think about this idea?” tweet about virtual talks during Book Week has transformed into Literary Lockdown, a learning from home-friendly writers festival to spark teens’ love of reading and writing.

Secondary schools and individuals who purchase Literary Lockdown will receive:


Coming Of Age In YA 40min
AJ Betts (HiveZac & Mia), Wai Chim (The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling, the current season of Survivor Australia), Alison Evans (Euphoria KidsIda), and Claire Zorn (When We Are InvisibleThe Protected) join me for a vibrant conversation, discussing coming of age novels, our influences and our work.

Meet A. S. King 30min
Hailed as “one of the best young adult writers working today” by the New York Times Book Review, A. S. King is a juggernaut. She’s won the Michael L. Printz Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Her novels, including Dig and the recently released Switch, challenge, comfort, and most importantly, entertain teen readers across the globe. Amy beams in from Pennsylvania in the United States of America to answer teen questions about getting started, discovering stories as you write them, and approaching writing under exam conditions.

Meet Becky Albertalli 30min
Becky Albertalli is the award-winning international bestseller of Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens AgendaLeah on the Offbeat, and the recently released Kate In Waiting. In a relaxed, vulnerable conversation relaxed, vulnerable conversation, Becky muses about writing in tough times (hello, lockdown) and exploring queerness and diversity in texts.

Writing Tutorials

This package of ten creative writing tutorials (5-30min) will spark students’ creativity. Learn from renowned Australian authors including Gary Lonesborough (The Boy From The Mish), Kate O’Donnell (This One Is Ours), Nova Weetman (Elsewhere Girls), and Lili Wilkinson (The Erasure Initiative). Think of these like very brief writing workshops, paired with teacher’s notes. These can be distributed to students who are learning from home, or used as prompts in class.

Ideas and Inspiration with Kate O’Donnell and Maree Kimberley
Beginnings with Leanne Hall
Endings with Lili Wilkinson
Characters and Voice with Claire Zorn and Will Kostakis
Setting with Gary Lonesborough and Shivaun Plozza
Tension with AJ Betts
Collaboration with Nova Weetman


Schools $150+GST (please email
Individuals $25+GST (click here to purchase, the email address you enter will receive the download information)

ENTRIES CLOSED: Melton City Libraries Writing Competition

While I couldn’t visit Melton City Libraries as planned (thanks, Covid), I could whip up this video to help aspiring entrants kickstart their creativity.

The short story competition is a great opportunity for budding writers of all ages to showcase their talent and have their work read by popular authors.

Entries can be submitted in any medium: text, print, illustration, video, verse, voice or combinations of any of the above. Entries should be no more than 3000 words for adults, 1500 words for junior and teen, or for other story formats, something that takes no more than 5 minutes to experience.

The competition will award the first, second and third prize entries in Junior, Teenage and Adult sections. Entries are now closed.