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May 3, 2023

Member Spotlight: Kaz Cooke

We are thrilled to share our May Member Spotlight features author and cartoonist Kaz Cooke! Kaz was recently shortlisted for the 2023 Russell Prize for Humour Writing for You’re Doing it Wrong.

Kaz Cooke is a bestselling author and cartoonist whose books have informed and tickled Australians and New Zealanders for more than twenty years. Her books include Up the Duff: The Real Guide to PregnancyBabies & Toddlers: The Sequel to Up the DuffGirl Stuff 8-12Girl Stuff 13+Your Full-on Guide to the Teen Years – all updated each year; Women’s Stuff; the children’s picture books Wanda Linda Goes Beserk and The Terrible Underpants; and the novel Ada. With a background in journalism, she’s a mum who enjoys research, toast and having a good lie down.

What inspired you to begin a career as an author and cartoonist?
As a teenager I discovered second-hand English satirical writing and cartoon books, and also became addicted to the National Times and The Age newspapers. I was so excited to find other people (in print) who were as irreverent and tickled by the ridiculous as I was.

What does it mean to you to be shortlisted for the 2023 Russell Prize for Humour Writing for You’re Doing it Wrong?
It’s genuinely thrilling. I think it’s fantastic that his family set it up as such a generous tribute to Peter Wentworth Russell, and that there’s a separate award for kids’ books. I wish I’d met Peter and chatted with him about our favourite funny books. I’m so happy that it might help people understand that being funny is worthwhile, that it isn’t easy, that you can be funny about important things as well as frivolous matters, in fiction and non-fiction – and be serious at the same time, or in between. Every now and then I hear a ‘serious’ writer implying or saying that being funny in books is easy or trivial. I secretly want to say to them, ‘Alright then, sunshine. You try and make someone laugh out loud just with words. Let’s see how you get on’. But I don’t because I’m chicken. Bkerk.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known at the start of your career?
Well, it isn’t my times tables. That my greatest luxury in life would be working with editors. Also, that my disinterest in having a new author photo taken would mean that when people see my real face they might think I’m Gandalf. And that I wouldn’t care.

Which Australian authors or illustrators have been influential for you?
Jumbled up: Judith Lucy; Ruth Park; Dymphna Cusack; Alexis Wright; Barbara Cummings, Melissa Lucashenko; artists Marie McMahon, Alison Alder and Fiona Foley; Robyn Archer; Jenny Coopes; Ronald Searle; Geoffrey Willans; John Clarke; Patrick Cook. (Not all funny, but they’ve all told ‘their’ truth in their own ‘voice’.)

Why are you a member of the ASA?
I always tell new and aspiring writers to join the ASA; all of us writers benefit from their work on public lending, educational and digital right payments. We wouldn’t have that important source of income otherwise. And also they have so much info and advice for members, and know the industry. I kind of wish there was a little badge ASA members could all wear. And a secret handshake. 

Find out more about Kaz Cooke at