Episode 3

Storytelling across generations and writing for all ages with Alice Pung

Alice Pung OAM is one of Australia's foremost writers. She wrote the memoirs Unpolished Gem and Her Father’s Daughter, and edited anthologies Growing Up Asian in Australia and My First Lesson. Her debut novel Laurinda won the Ethel Turner Prize at the 2016 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards and has been adapted for the stage. Her second novel, One Hundred Days, was shortlisted for the 2022 Miles Franklin Award. She is also the author of children's books including Be Careful, Xiao Xin! (ill. Sher Rill Ng). Today, we're discussing her new children's series Millie Mak the Maker. Alice was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for services to literature in 2022.

Our interview begins at  30:00

We've got a Substack publication now! On the last day of the month, we share recommendations for two things we reckon you should read/watch/listen to. The beauty of Substack is you can revisit all our old editions and comment on our episode updates to share your thoughts. Come say hi!

Take a look at our October wrap-up here!

Mini book club: Laurinda by Alice Pung

A must-read of the Aussie young adult canon and a book we've meant to read for years. We're so glad we finally read this beautiful, heartfelt exploration of Lucy Lam's experience at a prestigious Melbourne girls' school.

In this interview, we chat about:

  • How the working-class suburbs of Australia where Alice grew up inspired the story of Millie Mak
  • Inspiring young girls to make and craft
  • The class and privilege of children's toys and upcycling
  • The magic of finding an illustrator to collaborate with who also understands the nuances of growing up in a country with a history of colonialism
  • How Alice has managed to write across so many age ranges
  • Why One Hundred Days became Alice's debut adult novel
  • The experience of seeing Laurinda adapted for the stage

Books and other things mentioned:

  • 1989 (Taylor's Version) (album)
  • The Good Witch Deluxe by Maisie Peters (album)
  • Positive Spin by Gretta Ray (album)
  • Genevieve Novak (listen to our interview here)
  • The Woman in Me by Britney Spears
  • Basil the Great Mouse Detective (film)
  • Danielle Binks (listen to our interview)
  • Labyrinth (film)
  • Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton
  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (production)

You can find ways to contact Alice on her website.

Millie Mak the Maker is available now, as are all Alice's other books.

Connect with us on Instagram: @betterwordspod

Please note that we choose podcast guests independently of Caitlin's job at HarperCollins Publishers. Although her job does help put us in touch with authors, we choose our guests based on what we've enjoyed reading and think you'd find interesting.

About the Podcast

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Better Words

About your hosts

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Caitlin Toohey

Hi, I'm Caitlin! I've been on bookstagram since 2016, a podcaster since 2017, and worked in publishing since 2019. So books and reading are my entire life. When I'm not reading, I like listening to Taylor Swift, watching sitcoms, and going to aerial classes.
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Michelle Gately

Hi, I'm Michelle! I'm an Aussie living in the UK, working as a bookseller at Waterstones. I'm obsessed with storytelling in all its forms – I spend as much time watching TV or listening to podcasts as I do reading. Other hobbies include bouldering, hiking and generally obsessing about my pug Percy.