Meet the Australian Writers' Centre team

With courses constantly launching across the country and online, keeping the Australian Writers’ Centre a well-oiled machine is quite the challenge. Luckily for us, we have a merry band of behind-the-scenes magicians who not only make it look easy but sometimes even whistle while they do it. From marketing to meet-ups, newsletters to new courses, or support for students and presenters alike, these heroes go above and beyond to keep the Australian Writers’ Centre at just the right level of awesomeness.

Valerie Khoo
CEO (a.k.a. Bookworm and Closet Action Movie Watcher)

Currently obsessed with: Creating abstract art. Netflix’s Manhunt: Unabomber (which depicts the pursuit of the Unabomber). Just Dance 2018 on Playstation 4. Trying to stop my partner from buying a reclining chair.

Two people I’m inspired by: The author Michael Lewis and musical genius and lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda (our office is somewhat obsessed with the musical Hamilton)

Book: Any book by one of our wonderful presenters – they are all incredibly talented and I’m privileged to be able to work with them.

Word: “Milquetoast”

Lyric: “Show a little faith, there’s magic in the night” from Thunder Road by Bruce Springsteen

THEIR, THERE or THEY’RE?: “There”. Because that’s what keeps me moving forward.

Bucket list destination: The Star Wars Cantina

My name as an anagram: “EVIL OAK HERO”

Favourite AWC course: Magazine and Newspaper Writing Stage 1. I love this course because so many people do it and are then able to earn a part-time income from freelance writing.

Dean Koorey
Content Manager (a.k.a. Eater of Cronuts)

Currently obsessed with: Counting steps.

Two people I’m inspired by: Donald Glover and Richard Glover

Book: The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle – that crazy caterpillar just doesn’t know when to stop.

Word: “Syzygy” – I’m a sucker for words without any real vowels, and this one would be a Scrabble dream.

Lyric: “Friday night I'm going nowhere; all the lights are changing green to red. Turning over TV stations; situations running through my head” – Babylon, David Gray

THEIR, THERE or THEY’RE?: Definitely “there”, because it’s always good to know your place.

Bucket list destination: Iceland – volcanoes, waterfalls and icebergs, oh my.

My name as an anagram: “YANKEE DOOR”

Favourite AWC course: Travel Writing, so I can get paid to visit and write about the volcanoes, waterfalls and icebergs.

Elmer Balbin
Front-end Web Developer (a.k.a. Devastator of KFC Buckets – bow to me fried chicken!)

Currently obsessed with: Science and history

Two people I’m inspired by: Zuckerberg and Gates – both innovative and charitable.

Book: 100 Mistakes that Changed History

Word: “Inspire” – motivates me to help others.

Lyric: “Gravity is working against me…” by John Mayer – the very reason why I can’t get out of bed.

THEIR, THERE or THEY’RE?: “They’re”. Because two’s company, three’s a crowd, and four’s twice the company.

Bucket list destination: Stonehenge or Uluru. Intrigued by the history and the lore that surrounds them!

My name as an anagram: “NIBBLE REALM”

Favourite AWC course: Make Time to Write – I will someday!

Cassie Sloan
Amazing office allrounder (a.k.a Perpetual existential-crisis-haver and all-round nerd)

Currently obsessed with: Videogames (currently World of Warcraft) and anime! (currently Hai Kyuu and Darling in the Franxx)

Two people I’m inspired by: Hitomi Mochizuki and my partner. Both people who inspire me to live as the best person I can be.

Book: Novel – The Infernal Devices Series by Cassandra Claire. Comic – Snot Girl by Brian Lee O’malley and Leslie Hung

Word: “Manachopsis”

Lyric: “Get distracted by my music/ think of nothing else but art/ I’ll write my loneliness in poems/ if I can just think how to start.” By Keaton Henson “Small Hands”

THEIR, THERE or THEY’RE?: “They’re! Because I see people NOT use it all the time, and it makes me want to explode.

Bucket list destination: Seamless virtual reality. I hope it happens in my lifetime!

My name as an anagram: ices on salsa (gross)

Favourite AWC course: Reinvent yourself!

Kara Allen
Perth Coordinator (a.k.a. the Time Traveller)

Currently obsessed with: Being a local tourist. Australia is filled with so many natural wonders to explore!

Two people I’m inspired by: Jaclyn Moriarty (her novels made me want to really pursue writing!) and my mum.

Book: Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer.

Word: Finagle

Lyric: “When out of a doorway, the tentacles stretch of a song that I know, and the world moves in slow-mo, straight to my head like the first cigarette of the day.” from Elbow's Bones of You


Bucket list destination: I've been to Canada before, but I only had time to see a couple of places. I'd love to go back and see more of it.

My name as an anagram: “A LEAN LARK”

Favourite AWC course: Write Your Novel (because I need to!)

Pamela Freeman
Director of Creative Writing (a.k.a. Chief Storyteller)

Currently obsessed with: Kakadu National Park (for a picture book).

Two people I’m inspired by: Valerie Khoo and Mary MacKillop! Both women who not only achieve, but do it by inspiring others!

Book: Too many, too many...let me, can’t pick one.

Word: “Decrepit”

Lyric: “One more dawn, one more day, One Day More!” – from Les Miserables

THEIR, THERE or THEY’RE?: Yes, in the right places.

Bucket list destination: Mars. Have wanted to go there since I was tiny.

My name as an anagram: “EARN AMPLE FAME”

Favourite AWC course: Write Your Novel!

Allison Tait
Community Manager (a.k.a. Slave to Procrastipup)

Currently obsessed with: Medieval murder mysteries. Ellis Peters and her Brother Cadfael series to be precise.

Two people I’m inspired by: Enid Blyton, because I think she turned me into a reader, and J.K Rowling, who reminded me as an adult, how much I love children’s fiction.

Book: Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien – in my heart, I am an epic adventurist. (In reality, I like my own bed.)

Word: I can’t play favourites. I love them all. (Except “moist”. Moist I don’t love.)

Lyric: “I think I’m in love with missing you, more than I’m in love with you.” – Seeker, Lover, Keeper.

THEIR, THERE or THEY’RE?: “There”. The most straightforward of the whole family.

Bucket list destination: Hogwarts.

My name as an anagram: “ATLAS IN TOIL”

Favourite AWC course: Reinvent Yourself. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Francesca Muir
Publicity and Administration

Currently obsessed with: The island of Crete, Greece

Two people I’m inspired by: Nelson Mandela and Mirella Ricciardi, Kenyan born photographer and author

Book: Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis

Word: “Halycon”

Lyric: “Nothing’s gonna harm you, not while I’m around” – Not While I’m Around from Sweeney Todd, music and lyrics Stephen Sondheim

THEIR, THERE or THEY’RE?: There – because it’s the opposite of here.

Bucket list destination: The island of Kastelorizo in the Dodecanese, Greece where the film Mediterraneo was shot.

My name as an anagram: A NUMERIC SCARF

Favourite AWC course: Travel Writing – every and any excuse to go back to Greece

Gilbert Paul Opone
WordPress Developer (a.k.a. Potato Rider)

Currently obsessed with: Rules of Survival and Motorcycles (especially mine)

Two people I’m inspired by: Keanu Reeves and Koby Bryant

Book: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Word: “Octothorpe” – a.k.a #hashtag/pound sign

Lyric: “And so, Sally can wait, she knows it’s too late as we’re walking on by, her soul slides away, but don’t look back in anger, I heard you say.” – Don’t Look Back in Anger by Oasis

THEIR, THERE or THEY’RE?: There! To the road less traveled!

Bucket list destination: Norway – one of the places to see the Northern Lights/Aurora Borealis

My name as an anagram: “BEING A PURPLE TOOL”

Favourite AWC course: Blogging for Beginners – I wanna be a blogger!

Farah Morada
Virtual Assistant (a.k.a. Accident Prone Person)

Currently obsessed with: All things travel!

Two people I’m inspired by: My mother and Paulo Coelho

Book: Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho

Word: "Now"

Lyric: “The more I see, the less I know. The more I like to let it go. — Snow (Hey Oh) by Red Hot Chili Peppers

THEIR, THERE or THEY’RE?: "There" — to the places I've been, and places I've yet to go! 

Bucket list destination: Anywhere that gets my blood racing is probably worth going!

My name as an anagram: “AFAR HAD ROAM”

Favourite AWC course: Make Time to Write – trying!

Rah Gardiner
Operations Manager (a.k.a. Op-Rah #everybodygetsacar)

Currently obsessed with: Watching “plan with me” videos on YouTube. These people literally film themselves while they draw their bullet journal “spreads” for the month ahead. It’s like when you used to look through your friends’ wallets in high school, except, I’m an adult, and I do this while I avoid changing the cat litter.

Two people I’m inspired by: Lin-Manuel Miranda and P!nk

Book: Down Under by Bill Bryson – it’s my comfort book, and is always within reach on my bedside...

Word: “Saudades” – a (Brasilian) Portuguese word meaning "nostalgic longing" or "the love that remains".

Lyric: "Life's candy and the sun's a ball of butter" from Don't Rain On My Parade.

THEIR, THERE or THEY’RE?: All that matters is that it's used correctly

Bucket list destination: New York, specifically to go to a taping of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

My name as an anagram: “HARD EARRING”

Favourite AWC course: Copywriting Essentials, especially learning how to write persuasively. Fascinating stuff.

Sarah Jordan
Sales and Marketing (a.k.a. Stiletto Stalker)

Currently obsessed with: Discovering the nooks and crannies of my new neighbourhood. So many delightful crannies.

Two people I’m inspired by: Lucille Ball and J.K. Rowling

Book: Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey

Word: “Soliloquy”

Lyric: “Let the dashboard underscore everything we’ve seen. While the world plays for our pleasure on our windshield silver screen” from Night Drive by Gotye.

THEIR, THERE or THEY’RE?: “They’re” – because I like gossip.

Bucket list destination: Switzerland. A fairytale setting and 450 types of cheese – be still my beating heart.

My name as an anagram: “A SAD JAR HORN”

Favourite AWC course: How to Write for Children and Young Adults. Learn to capture the attention of this young audience and their love of books will be ignited for life.

Alvin Meroy
Senior WordPress Developer (a.k.a. Serial Chiller)

Currently obsessed with: I am always obsessed with video games. #nerdforlife

Two people I’m inspired by: My girlfriend (she annoys me like a cat) and my mother (may she rest in peace).

Book: Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata.

Word: “Awesome”. It boosted my confidence every time my previous colleagues and clients called me Mr Awesome!

Lyric: “Today I don’t feel like doing anything. I just wanna lay in my bed” The Lazy Song by Bruno Mars. Me every weekend!

THEIR, THERE or THEY’RE?: They’re there and I am here to get away from their nuances. (Sorry, I can’t choose.)

Bucket list destination: Japan – it seems nice to adapt to their culture.

My name as an anagram: “MONEY RIVAL”

Favourite AWC course: Creative Writing Stage 1. 

Peter van der Kraan
Finance Director (a.k.a. Dog Walker)

Currently obsessed with: Spreadsheets

Two people I’m inspired by: Steve Jobs and Jason Day

Book: The Count of Monte Cristo

Word: “Epiphany”

Lyric: “It’s a long way to the top, if you want to rock n roll” – AC/DC


Bucket list destination: Tokyo

My name as an anagram: “PRANK DARE VETERAN”

Favourite AWC course: Creative Writing Stage 1 – a powerful force behind so many stories.

Stevie Schafer
Melbourne Coordinator (a.k.a. Dust Bunny Wrangler)

Currently obsessed with: Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (2016). I neeeeed series 2. C'mon!

Two people I’m inspired by: Jordan L. Hawk and Tara Moss.

Book: The Farseekers by Isobelle Carmody

Word: “Ineffable”

Lyric: “When I see you kitten as a cat, as smitten as that I can’t get that small / The way you fur, the how you purr, it makes me want to paw you all.”

THEIR, THERE or THEY’RE?: I like using all three together in such a way as to provoke a fight between descriptivist linguists and prescriptivist grammarians: “Someone left their book there. I hope they’re coming back for it.”

Bucket list destination: Berlin, Germany.

My name as an anagram: “SEVERE CATFISH”

Favourite AWC course: 2 Hours to Scrivener Power. Because can you really be bothered with MS Word? I mean...really?

Supporting team

Because behind every great team is a bunch of pets...