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Centre for Stories

Short Talks – Rebecca Higgie

"There is always something magical about having a story read to you. When I think about being read to as a child, I always remember the pauses, the way the person reading the story held their breath before revealing something exciting, funny or shocking."

August 2, 2019

So many good people interact with us online and walk through our doors at the Centre for Stories, and so we’re pretty proud of the little community we’ve grown. Collaborations often turn into comradeships and patrons become friends. Short Talks is a series of interviews highlighting the remarkable people who have connected with us at the Centre for Stories. Some are writers, poets, and storytellers, and others are arts workers, community leaders, and small business owners.

We invite you to get to know our friends a little more.

Today we feature Rebecca Higgie.

You’re reading at our upcoming The Big Issue Fiction Edition event. Can you tell us a little about your family’s special connection to The Big Issue?

My mother Linda was responsible for getting funding and corporate subscriptions to set up The Big Issue’s Women’s Subscription Enterprise in Perth. Most of us are used to seeing a friendly face offering us The Big Issue as we walk to work or run to catch the train. But for many homeless women, selling The Big Issue on the streets can be very intimidating. The enterprise employs these women to pack subscriptions, giving them work in a safe and friendly environment. Mum was key in ensuring the enterprise was fully funded and that there were plenty of subscriptions to keep everyone busy!

Tickets to The Big Issue Launch available here.

What do you think audiences can expect from a live reading of a story—how will this event be different from us reading the magazine alone at home?

There is always something magical about having a story read to you. When I think about being read to as a child, I always remember the pauses, the way the person reading the story held their breath before revealing something exciting, funny or shocking. I often held my breath too. Reading alone can be just as immersive, but the joy of a live reading is in sharing those experiences – those pauses, gasps or giggles – with others. For me, actually hearing a story aloud, and hearing others respond, always makes the tale feel bigger somehow.

What does storytelling mean to you—and why is it important?

When I was little, I was amazed by how stories could capture me. I felt so many things when I read: wonder, sorrow, joy, horror. Stories made me feel alive and very human. To me, storytelling means feeling. It means connecting deeply. To tell someone a story is to ask them to feel what you feel. I think it’s an oddly intimate thing that we miss when we are reading off the page. We forget that someone worked very hard because they wanted us to feel something.

You recently won the inaugural Fogarty Literary Award for your manuscript The History of Mischief (congratulations, by the way!), a 12-year-long project you finished through sheer determination. Can you tell us more about motivating yourself to finish the work, and what kept you passionate about the story during this time?

Thank you! The novel will be released by Fremantle Press in 2020. After working on it for so long, I’m really thrilled.

Ultimately, my love of the story and my characters kept me going. I wanted to write something beautiful and magical about grief. I needed to tell the story, even if I didn’t always feel like I could write it.

Practically, I kept motivated by seeking the support of others. I set up a deadline club called The Tugboats with my creative friends, the writers Elizabeth Tan, Erin Pearce and Eva Bujalka, and the illustrator Mel Pearce. We have a Facebook group where we post deadlines as events and seek advice from each other. Having other people know my deadlines (and ask me how I was going!) kept me writing. I also used to ‘report’ my daily word count to my husband Yirga. He would always guess very low numbers and act amazed when I told him the real amount. This silly game always made it feel like a victory, even when I’d only written 400 or so words.

If you’d like to know more about The History of Mischief, you can read about it here. I also did a reading from the book in a Fremantle Press podcast, so you can get an idea of how I might sound at The Big Issue event!

What do you think you’ll take away from your experience with the Centre and this event?

I am currently on maternity leave from my job as the Library Officer at Guildford Primary, where I often read stories to children. I am quite good at doing the silly voices! It will be an exciting new experience to read a story aloud for adults. I hope I will take away that feeling of connection that I believe storytelling can create.


Rebecca is a writer from Perth. She fosters childhood literacy as the Library Officer at Guildford Primary, WA’s oldest public school. Formerly an academic at Curtin University and Brunel University London, she has published research on satire, politics and play. Her creative works have appeared in publications such as Westerly, Stories of Perth and Australian Love Poems. She won the 2019 Fogarty Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript. Her novel The History of Mischief will be published by Fremantle Press in 2020.


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