Benjamin Law returns to the Bendigo Writers Festival next month.

Freelance writer Benjamin Law first encountered the director of the Bendigo Writers Festival, Rosemary Sorensen, when they were putting out the bins in their pyjamas one night, “We’ve been friends ever since,” he said.

The auspicious occasion occurred when Law was doing his PhD in Creative Writing at Queensland University of Technology.

“I sent some pieces to Rosemary which she picked up and then I gradually started writing for other pages on the Courier Mail,” he said.

Although on reflection, Law’s not sure which came first, the writing or the garbage disposal.

He is clear however about giving Sorensen recognition for the faith she put in his writing, as well as the critical input.

“Rosemary took a punt on me and that was great,” Law said.

“Success demands luck and that’s what Rosemary provided.”

For writers, good editors are crucial, a point which Law reinforces when he refers to Tony Ayres, the executive producer of the ABC series The Family Law, as well as his publisher at Black Inc, Chris Feik.    

Law says his subject matter will generally dictate the genre he works in.

“My Quarterly essay, Moral Panic 101, required rigorous investigation. That hard analysis of my own work is a process I enjoy,” he said.

A play he is currently working on for the Melbourne Theatre Company is a dark comedy about an inveterate hoarder whose children have come together to try and clean out her house.

“While it is a comedy there is a serious element to the play where I comment on matters such as real estate and mental health,” Law said.

Another example of Law’s diversity is a SBS documentary called Waltzing the Dragon, which he has been researching and filming for several months.

He has a regular gig on Radio National and many of his fans will be familiar with his Saturday Age column where he asks public figures to discuss hoary topics by getting them to roll a dice.

The numbers they land on are the topics they’re given to respond to: Death, Money, Religion, Sex, Politics, Bodies. All the things your mother told you to stay clear of at the dinner table.

As Law said, he loves asking people somewhat direct, confronting questions and the formula for his column gives him a perfect opportunity to do just that.

Law is often asked if his interviewees really do roll a dice and the answer is, yes, indeed they do.

The column’s formula also allows Law to get away from the propensity for naval gazing that is the signature of many other columnists.

“I’m rarely in these columns, they’re all about the interviewee,” he said.

While freelance work can be a precarious way of earning a living, Law has an abundance of work.

“I try to be disciplined and triage the work, I guess you could say I’m happily promiscuous.”

And rather than being gloomy about the state of newspapers Law sees the current changes in the media landscape as being positive.

“I think there is more pressure now for publications to diversify,” he said.

“For the past 10 years we’ve been breaking out of the Fairfax/News Corp duopoly,. We had a lot of meat and three veg in terms of content and we’re are now starting to hear from younger and more diverse voices emerging in publications such as The Guardian and
Buzzfeed.

To hear more of Law’s diverse voice visit the Bendigo Writers Festival.

You will find him at Ulumbarra Theatre, Saturday, August 10,  6pm until 7pm.

By Dianne Dempsey