PATRICK LENTON: ‘A writer does have to challenge themselves’

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Patrick Lenton is a freelance writer and blogger based in Sydney. He is a graduate of the Creative Writing degree at the University of Wollongong. He was a Finalist in the 2013 SOYA Awards and shortlisted for the Scribe Nonfiction Award 2015. He likes to publish his stories in journals like Scum Mag, Stilts, Voiceworks, Best Australian Stories, TIDE and The Lifted Brow. He is a regular contributor to Junkee, and reviews for The Brag, Time Out and M/C Reviews. He writes The Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge column for Going Down Swinging and Spook Magazine. He has a collection of short stories in print and ebook called A Man Made Entirely of Bats.

A few years ago, you transitioned from being a playwright to working in the publishing industry and writing in your spare time. How did you find that transition?
The transition was very necessary – I’d found myself caught deeply in the spent time fallacy, the idea that because you’ve sunk a bunch of time into a particular project (in this case, playwriting) I needed to keep putting more effort into it, otherwise i’d have wasted my previous effort. I’d basically gotten sick of playwriting, and was also very sick of working casual jobs, and was worried that I would be stuck working them forever unless I picked up some other skills. So, basically I felt very trapped. Luckily I took some good advice, stopped writing plays and started working on a book, and started interning in publishing houses and eventually got a job. It was weird and hard but ultimately rewarding.

You recently completed your work at Momentum Books and you now work full-time as a freelance writer. What is the biggest hurdle you’ve faced?
I would say the recent month I had where three of my regular publications stopped taking pitches, and I suddenly worried that I would even make the bare minimum of rent money, let alone food and beer funds. I got through it though, so it was all good.

What do you wish you knew before you ventured into freelance writing?
I still wish I was across my tax. This is something which I am yet to get professional about, but I know that once I actually do, I’ll regret all the time and money I’ve previously wasted.

Do you have a schedule as a freelance writer? Have you created any rules to keep yourself on track?
Yep – I keep 9-5 hours, because after working full time for almost five years, I’m used to them. I pay for a coworking space so I’m not bumming around at home, and I keep a tight schedule. I unfortunately work on the weekend, but i’ve always done that so I don’t really know how to stop.

What does it feel like to have your tweets propel you into internet stardom? No need to be modest, we love your twitter stories.
Super, super weird. It’s nice, because i’ve been telling these stories for years, and suddenly they’re working in a Twitter format. Of course, along with the good comes a bizarre level of scrutiny, such as The Daily Mail chasing down my employment history and strangers shouting accusations of lying at me over the internet.

We’ve been following your Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge. What are you currently reading? Has the challenge enhanced your love for the show?
I’m currently reading Daughter of Fortune by Isabella Allende. I haven’t read any Allende since university, so it’s nice to go back. The challenge has kept me thinking about the show nearly 24/7, which is odd. I love it a lot, but i’ve never had to keep the shows that I love so consistently in my brain. It’s made me feel incredibly invested in the show, to the extent that I consider it “my” show, and am sometimes surprised when other people watch it.

The Regal Fox encourages writers to submit up to 2000 words. What do you like most about writing shorter pieces?
Straight into the meat of the action or the narrative. As I write a lot of comedy short stories, it’s great to be able to start in the joke and simply escalate, rather than beating around the bush.

Are you able to write anywhere you happen to be or do you have a designated work space?
I can write anywhere if I need to, but I like to have a controlled space so I can more easily concentrate. I often write in cafes and pubs, because I feel like everyone around me is judging me if I don’t write enough.


Patrick’s novel A Man Made Entirely of Bats

Some of your pieces are quite personal – do you ever feel nervous about releasing them into the wild?
Yes, yes I do. But, what i’ve found is that the pieces that people have reacted most strongly to are the more personal or risky ones. I think that a writer does have to challenge themselves to push what they feel comfortable with. Or, just write about your Skyrim dog. Either/or.

And finally, our current theme is ‘Failed Hobbies’. Have you ever had a hobby that you bombed at?
The three things that I have failed badly at in my life are: painting, playing guitar and learning Arabic. I am very, very bad at them and we will never talk about it again.

You can follow Patrick Lenton on Facebook and Twitter, and at his blog The Spontaneity Review. His collection of short stories is called A Man Made Entirely of Bats and is available at Booktopia and where all good books are sold.


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