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Giving up the day job: lawyers turned writers

What is it about lawyers? One minute they’re in court, and the next they’re on stage at a writers festival with a book under their arms.

Shamini Flint, Sulari Gentill and Elliot Perlman gave their experiences of changing careers from being lawyers to writers.

The session chair, John Green, started processions with a light topic of what were the writer’s star signs, did they fit with their star sign and if someone was to write a biography about them what would it say?

Gentill stated she was a Taurus, but did not think it was a good fit because in Australia she found the custom was not to follow star signs too closely. For her biography she joked and said “I’m not Shamini Flint” due to the likeness of the two and being from neighbouring countries of India and Sri Lanka.

Flint would not allude to her star sign and also endorsed Gentill’s comments about her biography which would read “I’m not Sulari Gentill”.

Elliot Perlman cheekingly stated his star sign was ‘Barrister’ (that got laughs), which fits, and his biography would read “reduced to writing” which is a legal term when an agreement is turned into a contract.

John Green then asked why race and racism plays a role in all their works?

Gentill said she did not set out to deliberately concentrate on race or racism in her novels, however it was explicit during the period she was writing about. For Gentill, these topics filtered their way into her novels. Perlman thought these were issues for him to tackle as he imagined he could help alot of people with his writing, more so than he could as a barrister. Flint from her experiences as a lawyer in Singapore used these topics to educate people about the extreme penalities in Singapore in relation to drug offences and descrimination towards homosexuality.

John Green then asked how the authors became writers?

Gentill discovered when she came home from being a lawyer, she always undertook some sort of hobby. After a period of time and many hobbies, she felt she had a hole in her life that needed filling. Gentill then tried writing and said it was like “learning to breath” and could not stop. Perlman said he became a writer from his childhood memories of wanting his parent’s attention. Flint said it was the wrongs she saw in the law courts of Singapore that made her start writing crime novels to get her messages across. Flint joked about standing in the middle of a street on a box screaming to the immediate public and being ignored – her writing was a way to break barriers and make people aware.

In his final question, John Green asked: “are lawyers confident, brush people?”

Perlman and Flint both agreed they were terrified about failure. This fear drove them to produce their books. Flint said she would dash through projects and Perlman revealed he had completed two degrees at university but was always waiting for someone to catch him out. Gentill however spoke of how it was a privilege to write and kept delivering books because she wanted to remain in this bubble for as long as possible.

Blair Casey is a Southern Cross University Creative Writing student.

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