Alana chats with GF Editor Tam about why it’s so important to have our voices heard.
Tell us a bit about your career path to author
I have had a random few years, I did a bachelor of media in writing and knew from 12 I wanted to be a writer. When I got to uni I knew I wanted to write about YA culture. I used to get lambasted from fellow students and professors who were like ‘why aren’t you looking at a career in current affairs and politics, something serious and important’ and I was like number one, oh my god that’s so boring, and number two, I find this stuff important. I got really lucky when I finished uni I got a job at TV Hits and Girlfriend mag! I’d never been in an environment like that that was full of women working together to write content that was meant to help other girls, and I just loved it. I got really lucky Random House came across my CV and they said you’ve got skills with writing for young audiences, come write for us in-house. I’ve written seven books for teens. Some of them about Hollywood and fashion, others about more important stuff like Girlish.
Tell us about Girlish, what inspired the project for you?
It was the book that I needed when I was a teenage girl. I made so many mistakes in terms of self-hatred and judgment, agreeing to go on dates with boys because I felt like I had to, taking myself down, making myself the butt of the joke before anyone else could, because I was so insecure. I’d been reading feminist literature and I was like, this is amazing, but I wish this would’ve been presented to me in a way I could digest it. I wanted something engaging, almost like Instagram but in book form.
What was the process like?
I had all this stuff I wanted to say and was pulling out of my own experiences growing up, and the girls around me and what I’d witnessed, and I also wanted to be really inclusive and talk about intersectional feminism so it didn’t have this ‘privileged white girl’ point of view. I wrote the first draft, realised where I was coming from and went back to it with a lens that it needed to be applicable to every type of girl from every background, religion, socioeconomic standpoint. I don’t have a PHD in feminist theory, all I have is my own experiences and a burning desire to change things. A lot of the issues I faced as a teenager, I’m still dealing with that now. There’s so much importance in educating and empowering girls at this age because they’re going to be the ones to carry it through going forward. We need to arm them with knowledge and power.
How can this new generation change the world?
I think they have so many great advantages in the sense of having the internet. Although it can be an evil scary place at times, it can also bring people together. It can bring girls from communities all over the world together to fight for one unified cause, or find solace and support in each other. I think these girls are interested in self-teaching. They’re not waiting for someone to come around and say, ‘this is what you need to do.’ They’re grabbing the bull by the horns. They’re standing up for themselves. I think in part that’s because of girls like Zendaya and Rowan Blanchard and Emma Watson who’ve set great examples and made it a topic of conversation. On their Instagrams, Tumblrs and Twitters. This generation of girls are really aware already and have huge potential to keep fuelling that anger towards the patriarchy.
Given this was your dream and you realised it, what advice or message would you have for girls who have great ideas they want to put into action?
I have to remind myself every time I think of writing a new book, “Juuuust do it.” Even if it’s not perfect that first time around, doesn’t matter, you’re starting something. You have the building blocks. The ideas might morph over time but they won’t unless you do the things that make you happy and work on your projects that live in your mind. There are audiences out there for everything. You might find people you never thought would be interested are into what you have to say. It’s amazing how great ideas can snowball – put them out there and see what happens.
What does Girl Power mean to you?
It means having the opportunity to do whatever I want with my life. The pressure we put on ourselves and other people put on us to do what society expects of us is a losing battle. It’s having the ability to do what with my life and not having to explain myself to anyone.