"Being let into the boys’ club is such a monumentally disappointing prize. Reminiscing with a friend recently, we were appalled to realise how much of our teen years were spent sitting silently in male friends’ houses, watching them play video games. They didn’t even offer us the controller. This was what we were rewarded with for being the ‘cool girl’? What a crock of shit."
In her latest book, Witches: What Women Do Together, Sam George-Allen explores the magic of female collaboration. Dissecting the myth of compulsory female rivalry, Sam speaks to a diverse range of female subjects – from sex workers to midwives – to unpack their understanding of womanhood. The book is a powerful antidote to the cultural conspiracy to keep women apart.
Ahead of her appearance at the 2019 Sydney Writers' Festival, go between the lines with Sam George-Allen as she discusses this year's theme and who she's looking forward to hearing from in the program.
The theme of this year’s Festival is Lie to Me. How does this theme resonate with you and your work?
My work in Witches addresses the big lie of compulsory female rivalry – of always having to be in competition with the women around you, for one made-up, falsely scarce resource or another. It’s a lie I was happy to be told for much of my early adult life, and one I was grateful to finally be able to pick apart with my book. People are welcome to continue to lie to me, but I am not quite so gullible any more.
What’s on your own reading list ahead of the Festival and why?
Who are you most excited to meet and why?
Kristen Roupenian, author of internet-breaking short story Cat Person. I desperately want to know everything about writing that story, from its conception to its execution to the wild response to it.
What’s the most interesting question you’ve been asked by an audience member?
Someone once asked me at what point in your career could you expect the crushing sense of not knowing what you were talking about to go away and be replaced by the feeling of being an expert. I was glad they asked, because it gave me the opportunity to shriek “NEVER!” – which I know can’t be true for everyone, but it sure seems to be the case with pretty much every person I mention it to. We all seem to still feel like total flukes, trespassing on the realm of expertise. At least we’re all in it together.
Read: Sam George-Allen's essay, A Luxury of Choice, in the Griffith Review
Read: A Rapid Fire Q&A with Penguin Books