5 Quick Questions with Gem Wilder

Gem Wilder is a Wellington based writer, reader, arts lover, mother, DJ and dancer. They have published and performed their work in Sport, Turbine Kapohau, Is it Bedtime Yet?, Out Here, The Spinoff, The Sapling, LitCrawl, Enjoy Gallery, Chop Suey Hui and The Dowse. Their work often focuses on family, ritual, religion, and their hometown, Te Awakairangi. They are currently on the judging panel for the 2022 Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards, which leaves them with no time for writing. 

What attracted you to writing?

I can’t afford to go to therapy. That was my initial, flippant answer to this question, but actually it’s pretty much the truth. I have ADHD so I often find it hard to focus my thoughts and concentrate. Sitting down to work on a poem or essay gives me the space to tap into whatever issue has been buzzing away like white noise in the background of my brain.

Do you have a favourite personal essay?

Oh wow, so many. One that I’ve been carrying with me for the past year or so, as someone who has come out of a long term relationship, is ‘The Crane Wife’ by CJ Hauser. So many moments in that piece cut right to the depths of emotions I’d been repressing.

I’m a big fan of ‘Mother, Writer, Monster, Maid’ by Rufi Thorpe and often quote the line “Your father……is Jodi FUCKING Picoult” to myself.

Hanif Abdurraqib is one of my all-time favourite writers, and ‘On One-On-One’, the first of his series on basketball movies for The Paris Review, is a masterpiece.

I could go on but I’ll limit myself to just these three.

What’s one thing you do to develop a distinct voice in your own work?

I’ve never really learned the rules of grammar, so I don’t feel restricted by them. It means I just write in a way that feels natural to me. I tend to have a bit of a casual, rebellious nature when it comes to writing – and life too, I guess – so I don’t feel like I have to edit my work to sound fancier/smarter. I figure people can take it or leave it, and I’m not fussed either way. My writing is primarily for myself, so I need to honour that first and foremost, otherwise what’s the point?

Where is your favourite place to write?

I like to write in community with friends. I’m most productive when joined by others, doing focused timed pomodoro sessions. Food Court Books in Newtown has been a favourite spot for this work, although I haven’t had the time to do a group writing session for months now. I miss it.

Tell us about the workshop, what should people expect?

I want people to really look inward and think about the words, speech patterns, idioms and so on that make them unique. I want people to loosen up and have fun with writing, to let go of perfection and over-editing. People should expect fun discussions, close study of casual language patterns, some exercises, and hopefully a bit of fun and self-discovery.

Keen to join Gem? Register now for the 2022 Kāpiti Writers’ Retreat