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: Painting Flying apostrophes. Netflix's documentary The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley (about the rise and fall of biotech company Theranos). And trying to accept the fact that my partner actually bought 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: Freelance 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. Attila the Pun)

Currently obsessed with: Avocados.

Two people I’m inspired by: Tim Minchin and the Oatmeal guy.

Book: Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton – a cautionary tale for people watching their calories.

Word: “Zeitgeist” – Somehow it never seems to go out of fashion.

Lyric: “It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.” – REM

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

Bucket list destination: Norway.

My name as an anagram: “YANKEE DOOR”

Favourite AWC course: Real Estate Copywriting

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 by Alexandre Dumas.

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: Critical Role & Dungeons and Dragons.

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

Book: The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

Word: “Sisyphean”

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?

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!)

Maika Lansang
Marketing & Content Coordinator (a.k.a Clumsy Multimedia Artist)

Currently obsessed with: 911 dispatcher calls, crime documentaries, what's inside the mind of a serial killer, and the hidden camera shows like What Would You Do.

Two people I’m inspired by: Mark Manson and Hayley Williams/Paramore.

Book: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson – Just love this book so much.

Word: "Low-key" – not elaborate, showy, or intensive; modest or restrained.

Lyric: "Walking around with my little raincloud hanging over my head and it ain’t coming down. Where do I go? Gimme some sort of sign. Hit me with lightning! Maybe I’ll come alive" from Paramore's Hard Times

THEIR, THERE or THEY’RE?: "There" – where do I go?

Bucket list destination: Denmark and Malta.

My name as an anagram: “ALASKA INN MAG”

Favourite AWC course: Anatomy of a Crime: How to Write About Murder (I just love the crime and murder genre).

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!

Amy Goodman
Operations Manager (Tea-sipping cat lady)

Currently obsessed with: Exploring my own city – it's amazing how long you can live in one place and still not have seen even a quarter of it.

Two people I’m inspired by: My parents (let's call them one) and my sister.

Book: The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta. Because I can re-read every year and it doesn't get old.

Word: "Melancholy" – because it sounds how it feels.

Lyric: "Hakuna matata" – Tim Rice. It really is a wonderful phrase.

THEIR, THERE or THEY’RE?: “There”. Because I want you to tell me about the there you're picturing.

Bucket list destination: Hot air ballooning over the Cappadocian Mountains.

My name as an anagram: “NOMAD YOGA”

Favourite AWC course: Food Writing

Farah Morada
Marketing and Content Coordinator  (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!

Nicole Beaton
Customer Support and Systems Manager  (a.k.a. Paper Nerd)

Currently obsessed with: Overwatch

Two people I’m inspired by: Tamora Pierce (taught me how strong women can be in fiction) and Hermione Granger (yeah, yeah, not a real person. I know. Smart, loyal, humble, punched Malfoy – too inspiring not to list.)

Book: Cracked by Eliza Crewe – what’s not to love about a deliciously almost-evil hero?

Word: “Inconceivable!” (You know why.)

Lyric: “Forever trusting who we are / And nothing else matters” – Metallica feels.

THEIR, THERE or THEY’RE?: Ummm….“there”?

Bucket list destination: Venice, Italy. Just magic.

My name as an anagram: “NO ELITE BACON”

Favourite AWC course: Write Your Novel: 6-month program – I came out the other side with an (almost) full draft, which is something I’ve never managed before.

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: This is a long list, actually, full of people who work really hard (for themselves, and for others).

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 saw the constellations / Reveal themselves one star at a time.” – Bobcaygeon, The Tragically Hip.

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?

Amiel Antonio
Web developer  (a.k.a Professional Interneter)

Currently obsessed with: Animal Crossing New Horizons, Pokemon GO, Sichuan Hotpot.

Two people I’m inspired by: Bill Gates and Ash Ketchum (from Pokemon, because he aspires to be the very best, like no one ever was).

Book:  The 97 Things Every Programmer Should Know  by Kevlin Henney.

Word: Go!

Lyric: “We are fighting dreamers!”  - GO! Flow (Naruto opening 4)

THEIR, THERE or THEY’RE?: "There" - because I always want to eat and go.

Bucket list destination: Any place in Japan (because ramen, sushi, and sashimi), Pokemon Centre Singapore.

My name as an anagram: “EAT ONION MAIL!”

Favourite AWC course: Anatomy of a Crime: How to Write About Murder

Rah Gardiner
Tech and Innovation Manager (a.k.a. plane-spotting lady)

Currently obsessed with: TikTok! I learn so much from the tutorials on there.

Two people I’m inspired by: Jonathan Van Ness and Lizzo

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
Course Concierge and Marketing Manager (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.

Joseph Pabiona
Full Stack WordPress Developer (a.ka. The Fab Farmer)

Currently obsessed with: My four girls (my beautiful wife, and three lovely daughters) and hundreds of chickens and peacocks on the farm.

Two people I’m inspired by: Mark Cuban and Bill Johnson.

Book: For Richer and for Poorer by Chinkee Tan.

Word:"Life, Joy and Fun"

Lyric: “You live you learn, You love you learn, You cry you learn, You lose you learn, You bleed you learn, You scream you learn" – You Learn by Alanis Morrisette

THEIR, THERE or THEY’RE?: "There" can be miracles if you believe.

Bucket list destination: Japan, Australia and USA.

My name as an anagram: “JAPAN'S HIP OBOE”

Favourite AWC course: Make Time to Write

Abby Donkin
Customer Support and Communications  (a.k.a Crochet Queen)

Currently obsessed with: Bees and amigurumi crochet.

Two people I’m inspired by: Georgia O'Keeffe and Markus Zusak.

Book: Really, I can only pick one? Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada.

Word: "Selcouth" – the unfamiliar, rare, strange, yet marvellous.

Lyric: "Wipe your feet climb aboard this rocket, first you can try it then you can knock it." Higher, Art vs. Science.

THEIR, THERE or THEY’RE?: “There" - be there or be square!

Bucket list destination: Mexico and Peru.

My name as an anagram: “BOY BAND INK”

Favourite AWC course: Fiction Essentials: Characters

Natalie Newman
Project Coordinator  (a.k.a Drinker of Beer, Defender of Cats)

Currently obsessed with: Space, the universe, and everything. Also, exclamation marks!

Two people I’m inspired by: Anthony Trollope and Janelle Monae.

Book: The Master & Commander  series by Patrick O'Brian.

Word: petrichor – the smell just before it rains.

Lyric: "We'll ride the spiral to the end, And may just go where no one's been." Lateralus, Tool.

THEIR, THERE or THEY’RE?: "They're" – because I'm always interested in people.

Bucket list destination: Mars! But maybe that won't happen in my lifetime, so I'll settle for the Great Rift Valley in East Africa. Ooh! Or the Galapagos Islands!

My name as an anagram: “AN ALE MEANT WIN!”

Favourite AWC course: Travel Writing! I can't wait to file stories from space.

Cath Patangui
Web developer  (a.k.a Makeup palette lover)

Currently obsessed with: Make-up pallets and body paint and learning how to play piano.

Two people I’m inspired by: Ravi Zacharias and Robert Kiyosaki

Book:  Rich Dad, Poor Dad  by Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter

Word: God, Life, Happiness

Lyric: “I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I'm not enough, Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up, You say I am loved when I can't feel a thing, You say I am strong when I think I am weak, And You say I am held when I am falling short.”

THEIR, THERE or THEY’RE?: "There" There’s only one antidote to discouragement and that's encouragement.

Bucket list destination: Visit 5 Disneylands (Japan, Hong Kong, Paris, Orlando Florida and California)

My name as an anagram: “TAUGHT IN A CAP”

Favourite AWC course: Laugh Out Loud I want to spend time reading and laughing with kids.