Q&A: Michelle Law

Michelle Law is a writer and actor working across print, theatre, film and television. She wrote the smash-hit play Single Asian Female, which has sold out seasons and continues to tour across Australia. Her screenwriting work includes the SBS show Homecoming Queens, which she co-created, co-wrote and stars in. Michelle has been awarded a Queensland Premier’s Young Publishers and Writers Award, and two Australian Writers Guild awards. Her latest play, Miss Peony, will be staged at Belvoir St Theatre.

What does feminism mean to you?

Something that doesn’t function unless it’s entirely intersectional. You’re not a feminist if you’re not elevating BIPOC and trans feminist voices, among others, with your activism.

Was there a particular moment you can pinpoint that was crucial to the development of your perspective on feminism?

I’m absolutely still self-educating and developing, and I always want to be. But I also grew up in a household raised by a feminist who was a single mother, woman of colour, and a migrant. Mum raised the five of us basically alone and knew what she deserved when she and my dad split up – her financial independence, her property, her maiden name back. So that was an empowering environment in which to grow up. The older I get the more respect I have for my mum as a woman and as her daughter.   

Why do you like writing for the screen and the stage? What do these mediums offer you in terms of feminist aims or goals?

Storytelling is innately political; if you’re not telling a story that says something, you’re writing an entertaining, idyllic fairytale. I love writing for the screen because it’s highly accessible and able to be reached by people who are either time poor, or financially poor. Stage is quite elitist in that sense because ticket prices can be so expensive, but I love it for its ability to affect people on an immediate, visceral level that can engage all five senses. Audiences feel a sense of community with each other.

Tell us about your piece in After Australia. Why is it important to imagine a different kind of future for this country?

I have a framed quote above my desk: ‘There is another world, but it is in this one.’ It’s often been attributed to Yeats, but that’s not for certain. That quote encompasses the heart of why I write – in the idealistic hope for a better world that is not this one. It’s vital that writers imagine an alternate future for this country, particularly now, in the midst of the global Black Lives Matter movement, because we’re at a tipping point in history, where the world could actually resemble something more just. There’s also that saying, ‘You can’t see what you can’t be.’ That goes for the future as well.

Which women or under represented writers do you think everyone should read?

Definitely pick up Volumes One and Two of the Sweatshop Women anthologies. Lately, I’ve been reading poetry, so I’m excited to read Ellen van Neerven’s new collection Throat after I finish Painting Red Orchids by Eileen Chong. I also think people should be reading much more Young Adult and Children’s books; there’s so much snobbiness in the publishing world regarding those age groups, which I think is so silly because some of the most exciting voices exist in that space. My YA pick is The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim, which was just shortlisted for the Readings Young Adult Book Prize 2020, and anything Sophie Beer puts her name to.  

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