Interview: Oliver Reeson – 2022 Stella Prize Judge
An interview with essayist, screenwriter, and 2022 Stella Prize Judge, Oliver Reeson
What excites you about judging the 10th Stella Prize?
The Stella Prize’s defining characteristic to me is excitement. Reading is a thrilling activity but you do it alone. When the Stella Prize is announced each year it creates a really special community buzz and chatter and we get this sense of ‘this solitary thing we do, that can sometimes seem so nebulous, actually means a lot to all of us in much the same way’. I love that and I can’t wait to be part of it as a judge.
What do you look for in a great book?
Transcendent moments. Whether it’s because I’m finding it so funny, or profound, or I just can’t believe what happened to me because of the way the author chose to put their words together – I think I look for the moments in a great book where I am forced to forget myself.
What impact has the Stella Prize had on you personally as both a writer and a reader?
The Stella Prize shows an active commitment to addressing gender bias in literature. The presence of that work changes the landscape for women and non-binary writers. It makes our work feel respected and desired, our careers seem possible – or at least not a silly thing to hope for. That’s of course an oversimplification of everything Stella does but it’s significant, I think.
What was the last book you read by an Australian woman or non-binary writer that you’d recommend?
Throat by Ellen Van Neerven. Ellen is everything!
2022 will be the first year that poetry collections are eligible for the prize. Who are some of your favourite poets, and do you have a particular poem or collection you often return to?
I’ve been really excited by the poetry coming out of Incendium Radical Library. As for collections I return to, a few years ago I was gifted a copy of singer-songwriter Jewel’s poetry collection “a night without armor”. I promise I won’t be bringing this energy into the judging process but it’s still a prized possession.
What’s your favourite independent bookstore, and what do you love most about it?
Avid Reader. I live in Melbourne now but I am from Brisbane originally and didn’t come to writing until I was already an adult. The community around Avid Reader was a big part of why I wanted to write. Avid made books seem cool and exciting and meaningful and it will always hold a special place in my heart.
When you’re not reading books, how do you spend your spare time?
Probably just having a little sit or a lie, to be honest.