Today we hear from Dr Hila Shachar: writer, researcher and all round smart cookie. We love perusing her blog, and getting lost in the engaging way in which she writes. Through this medium, she shares poetry, film reviews, inspiration and other pieces in an intelligent and stimulating way. While Hila’s blog is an accessible way for us to experience her writing, there is much, much more to what she does on a daily basis. We wanted to hear all about it, so we asked her! You might also be interested in this book, by Hila and artist, Amy Borrell – it looks lovely. And personally, I am looking forward to the release of an academic book based on her doctoral thesis that is due out early next year. Claire.
Official Job Title: Honorary Research Fellow / Freelance writer
You do lots of things! What else do you work on that isn’t encompassed by your official job title?
I kind of stretch myself over three jobs at the moment. This is pretty typical for writers/academics just starting out. Right now, I’m working on an academic research project funded by the ALTC (Australian Learning and Teaching Council) with other researchers from interstate, freelance writing, plus a back-up office job that keeps me financially stable. I’ve also recently taken the momentous (well, at least for me) step of starting my own freelance business. It’s baby steps at the moment, I haven’t launched it yet.
The most creative work I do is freelance writing. On a typical week, I juggle writing a few articles. I write regularly for The Australian Ballet and Desktop Magazine, and I’m slowly starting to get my work into other magazines, publications and books.
Summarise your career background and how you’ve come to where you are now:
I feel like I’m still working toward a proper career, but basically, my background encompasses many years of study. I did a Bachelor of Arts with Honours Degree and a PhD in English and Cultural Studies at UWA (University of Western Australia). I only recently completed my PhD in 2009. Throughout the PhD, I tutored/lectured at UWA and did a Teaching Internship. I also spent some time living in the UK under a postgraduate scholarship funded by King’s College, London. This was one of the best things I ever did as I got to research in museums and meet great people, some of whom I’m still working with on various writing/editing projects. My freelance writing work started through blogging. My blog [http://hila-lumiere.blogspot.com/] has been key to getting most of my writing work.
Article for The Australian Ballet, by Hila.
Where do you do your work?
My freelance writing occurs mainly at home, I’ve created a little study for myself.
What is the best thing about your job?
That I get to write. I also love my research work because I’m passionate about keeping my research field ‘alive’. The Arts and Humanities tend to get sidelined and funding is scarce. So any funded research project devoted to this field feels like a step in the right direction.
Take us through a typical day of your work:
These days, there’s no such thing. If I’m not stuck in an office in the city, I’m in the library researching, speaking with editors in Sydney/Melbourne/UK, or writing from home. I’m constantly juggling a number of different projects and a typical day depends on what the most urgent deadline happens to be.
The book mentioned above – ‘The Elements of In-Between’, Words by Hila Shachar, Illustration by Amy Borrell.
What are you currently working on?
So many projects! The most time-consuming one is my book on film adaptations of classic literature. I have a book contract with Palgrave Macmillan and I have to submit all edited 90,000 words to my editor in the UK in a few short months. I’m proofing, writing, editing and dealing with film companies on a daily basis for this book. I also have a few essays in book collections coming out soon, so I’ve been working with various editors to finalise all of them.
Example of work by Hila.
What music do you listen to whilst you work?
I love having music in the background, but I can’t handle lyrics when I’m writing really dense, academic stuff, so it’s usually nerdy classical music. But, when I’m working on less dense writing, then anything goes. I have been known to blast Fleetwood Mac, Bowie and Kate Bush the most. Don’t judge me.
What has been your proudest achievement?
Surviving and completing the PhD. Most of us who have done one speak about it with a hint of trauma.
Which local artists/musicians/creatives do you admire?
Although she doesn’t live in Perth anymore, I really admire Gail Jones. Her writing, and the kind of career she has developed, are what I aspire to. I also deeply respect WA authors such as Brenda Walker and Tim Winton.
Any advice for those trying to enter your field in Perth?
I feel like a fraud offering advice, but I have learnt a few things along the way:
: : If you’re planning on either an academic or writing career, have a back-up plan and don’t rely on such work alone to support you financially.
: : If you’re planning on trying out freelance writing, decide what kind of work you’re willing to do for free and what kind of work you deserve payment for. It’s a fine line between gaining experience and being exploited.
: : If you’re a writer, it’s really important to keep up-to-date with things such as copyright laws. You have to know how to protect yourself and your work. I’ve seen friends sign publishing contracts that they’ve deeply regretted later on. Getting a lawyer and an accountant early on (if you can afford it) is always helpful.
: : I fully believe in the power of blogging. My blog is a creative outlet that’s helped me maintain my confidence when I wanted to give up on the dream of writing. It’s also led to real writing work. We’re pretty isolated in Perth and it can be hard to formulate the kind of professional connections between writers that exist in places such as Sydney and Melbourne. My blog has been important in helping me establish meaningful professional connections.
Did you ever moved away from Perth? Why did you come back?
Not really, apart from the time I spent in the UK. I think though, that I will inevitably have to move interstate or overseas if I want to continue with this career path.
The lady in question: Dr Hila Shachar.
What do you love about Perth?
Life is so much easier in Perth. You only fully appreciate this once you go overseas or interstate.
What does Perth need?
We need to stop treating this city like a backwater. We lack confidence in our cultural outputs in Perth, which is a shame. So I think we need to start moving beyond that and recognise the potential and talent we have here.
Most frequented coffee spot?
The one in my kitchen with my beloved coffee machine. But for going out, it’s a toss between Milkd, Cantina 663 and Sayers.
Favourite place to head out?
For a film nerd like me, Cinema Paradiso. Just walking through the doors makes me feel happy.
Lucky Bay in Esperance. It’s so far away, but it has to be the most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen.
Rottnest or Margaret River?
Margaret River. Wineries – need I say more? Hila.
Thanks so much to Hila for taking the time to answer our questions so honestly! Do head over to her blog to see more of her writing, and keep up to date with her new works.
Images courtesy of Hila.