Ed Wright has always been fascinated by words.
"I remember being in primary school and wanting to be the person who invented the new slang in the playground. It's always been in me. I was one of those geeky kids who was on first name terms with the librarian at the local library," says the writer, editor and educator.
He loves looking through books and the serendipity of finding things. At school he was the editor of the newspaper.
"I used to write these cryptic poems telling the high school principal to get stuffed," he says. "At least, I thought they were cryptic."
Anything Wright does, except for a bit of music, is to do with words. On April 19 he was the feature poet at Poetry at the Pub, Newcastle's most established poetry night. Before reading from his new book, Gas Deities, he spoke to Weekender about his career and the shifting world of writing.
Wright, also a husband and father of two, works out of his office in Wickham.
"It's weird, my life; the classic juggle of things to make ends meet. You've got to wear many hats to survive," he says.
Originally from Sydney, Wright enjoys living in Newcastle. It's very different from the academic, journalistic, transactional bubble in Sydney.
"I just love it. It's made me possible. I couldn't do it in Sydney," he says.
"Newcastle has been a magnificent community. The concreteness, the way people talk to each other and the eccentricities of some people. You interact with all different levels of society. That's really important for a writer. We have a responsibility to think about the world as a whole."
His main writing gig is providing book reviews for The Australian howeverhe runs three small businesses as well. In 2015 he set up Creative Word Shop where he runs courses for children and adults, saying he feels privileged to work with kids and interacting with their wild imaginations. Other writers come in and assist, like local author David Kelly, who teaches memoir writing.
"We're about to have our inaugural romance writing course with (romance author) Michelle Douglas. We have a lot of really great writers," Wright says.
He's also part owner of Puncher & Wattmann, a Newcastle-based publishing company founded by poet, novelist and lecturer David Musgrave in 2005.
Then there's Black and Wright, a partnership between himself and children's author Jess Black which provides professional development to primary school teachers to give them a practical approach to narrative writing.
Wright has three poetry books, one novella and eight books of non-fiction to his name. In 2004 he came back from three years living and teaching in Japan and wrote history books on topics like famous left-handers, celebrity family trees, failed colonies, rebel leaders and history's greatest scandals.
"History is a creation to begin with because we don't actually have access to it. There's a lot of creative writing in history because you have to imagine what it was like," Wright says.
"This is the poetry that transfers into any writing. You've got to land an image in people's heads and make them relate."
He had to write the history books really quickly; it involved binge research and binge writing. A Left Handed History of the World is published in 15 different languages with more than 100,000 copies sold.
Wright doubts he'll write more of those particular books in the future, but he always enjoys when someone approaches and asks him to write a book or propose a book idea.
"It's tough to get published, but it's not impossible. At Puncher & Wattman that's what we try to do. We look for great books that the bigger presses won't pick up."
When Wright was younger he taught at different universities to pay the bills. He considers himself a lapsed academic. He got sick of it. He couldn't find any play in it, and art is about play. He acknowledges it's hard for creative people to get paid, and in some ways it's getting tougher.
"There are more opportunities, but the kind of classical modalities of artistic success are no longer available to people, like getting a book published and that becomes your career. Robert Drew retired from journalism on his first Australia Council Grant. That doesn't happen anymore," Wright says.
He says writers like Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald were paid amazing amounts of money in their time for short stories, money that no writers would receive now.
"That was pre-TV. The movies were new. Now if you're thinking about being a writer you have to be thinking flexibly."
Along with novels and non-fiction and poetry, Wright enjoys copywriting and finds it an interesting craft. He is interested in writing more essays and is trying to finish off another novella. His children are hassling him to write a kids book.
"I don't think of myself as someone who's incredibly occupied; but I'm fairly occupied. But I quite like doing nothing sometimes too."
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: