Holly Childs is a writer, the co-editor of Crazy in Love magazine, an artist and a curator. Recently, however, she has focused on her first novella, No Limit. “I see myself predominantly as a writer and since I’ve started thinking of myself in that way my ability to produce has expanded. Before it was spread and my practice was a bit jumbled,” she says.
Her multiple talents are what enabled Childs, 28, to craft a layered text in a relatively slim volume. Each sentence is loaded with evocative visual cues, despite some being only four words long. Her writing is spare yet elaborate, punchy yet gentle – it is a mixture of contradictions.
And so is Childs herself. She dresses in fluorescent hues, sportswear and her hair is canary yellow. To the launch of No Limit she wore a silk and feather dress by James Todorov and platform shoes with socks. In person she is quiet and polite, a contrast to her flamboyant attire. “I’m not that interested in truth or authenticity and I’m quite comfortable embodying and exploring a wide range of subcultural vibes and presentations.”
What makes Childs unique is her ability to combine a vivid imagination that errs on girliness with a much harder edge, one that examines human confusion and the danger of online realities. It is difficult to strike a balance between rainbows, unicorns, rough sex and desperation, but Childs pulls it off. It was during a trip through Paris, New York and Berlin, in transit between strange airports, that the idea for No Limit began to form. “It [the novella] is also about being a young woman and being alone in a foreign country. There are a lot of weird, subconscious cues that you take from different people around you and different situations when you have to assess your safety and comfortability,” she says.
No Limit is one of two novellas published by Hologram, a project run by Express Media that showcases work by Australian writers under 30. This contract gave Childs the opportunity to work with Johannes Jakob, fiction editor at The Lifted Brow. “It was the first time I had worked with an editor who was deeply engaged with my work,” she says. The process wasn’t without challenges, however, and Childs and Jakob collaborated on six drafts of the text. “I was used to working with people who were a little more like: ‘If you want these spelling errors and grammatical atrocities, that’s fine!’”
Initially Childs used Hologram’s submission deadline as an incentive to get words onto the page. Coincidently she had the house to herself for three weeks and spent the entire time writing with intermittent spring-cleaning. It was one major find during this process that proved to be particularly fortuitous. “I discovered a diary 12 hours before I had to submit the manuscript, which put a different strand into the story – it was like a cherry on top,” she says. The experience was rewarding but intense, and left her feeling, “Creatively hung-over and beaten-up.”
Childs is having a fruitful run. She recently participated in White Night in collaboration with the Emerging Writers' Festival to produce Book of the Night, a project that wove together the words of different writer, in shifts, from dusk till dawn. Childs will also be involved in events at this year’s Emerging Writers' Festival: a panel called Introducing the Internet Generation on May 31 and Burn Rate Office at The Wheeler Centre from June 2 to June 6.
Meanwhile she is writing a book, holy hela (2014), with fellow writer-artist Max Trevor Thomas-Edmond, which she describes as, “A 600-page opus text, which is kind of philosophical and theoretical and highly experimental.” Later in the year she will take up a residency at Centre for Style as a fashion writer.
Because of her background in visual art, Childs once felt like an outsider. She has been pleasantly surprised by the supportive nature of the local literary scene and thinks working out where you fit and finding your creative peers is the key. “I found there is a point when you go from being unknown to being known – it is a line and once you cross it you’ll be integrated into their structures.”
Holly Childs is talking on the panel Introducing the Internet Generation on May 24 and Burn Rate Office from June 2 to June 6 as part of the Emerging Writers' Festival.