Valerie Khoo is a journalist, author and entrepreneur. In 2005, she founded the Sydney Writers’ Centre — Australia’s leading centre for writing training. It is now a thriving centre featuring 16 of Australia’s leading writing trainers, journalists and authors.
A keen user of technology, Valerie is passionate about using technology to grow business and double productivity. In 2008, Valerie co-founded the Business and Careers Institute in Sydney — a learning hub where individuals and corporate teams take workshops to improve their skills in the Microsoft Office suite and in other business applications.
Valerie has a Bachelor of Economics (majoring in accounting) and a Graduate Diploma in Communication (journalism, public relations). An author of five books, she began her career at PricewaterhouseCoopers before joining a national public relations firm and has worked at three major publishing houses —ACP Magazines, EMAP and Pacific Magazines (including three years in Singapore).
Her Enterprise blog appears in the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, WA Today and the Brisbane Times.
How old were you when you were taught to read and who taught you?
I can’t remember who taught me to read but I guess it would have been at kindergarten.
I do remember loving to read. I couldn’t get enough of it and I started devouring books.
I remember always having a very heavy library bag which I dragged to school so I could return all the books I borrowed and get new ones.
Which books did you love as a child?
I loved anything by Richard Scarry and Dr Seuss. I also remember loving the Ramona The Pest (Beverly Cleary) series. My parents spoiled me and let me order anything from the Arrow Book Club so I had a steady supply of new books all the time.
(The Arrow Book Club was a mail order book club we used to get at school. Every month or so, every kid was given a catalogue of new titles to choose from. Your parents filled in the form, paid the money and your stack of new books was delivered to your classroom).
Where do you read?
These days, I read a lot when I’m on planes or in departure lounges. I tend to inhale books when I am travelling because there is so much ‘waiting’ time in between connections or transport. When I’m at home, I love reading on the day bed on my balcony. It feels like such a luxury.
If you could invite 5 authors to dinner (living or dead) who would they be and why?
Tim Ferriss, author of The Four Hour Work Week. I’ve previously interviewed Tim for the podcast of the Sydney Writers’ Centre and I found his ideas fascinating and thought-provoking.
My friend, author Hsu-Ming Teo, a Vogel award winner. We’ve known each other since Year 8 and I think she’s great fun and amazingly talented.
Ayn Rand, author of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Her mind must be a fascinating place to live in!
Thomas L Friedman, author of The World is Flat. I literally could not put the book down. I even took it with me to read on the treadmill because I was so engrossed.
Pamela Freeman, author of The Castings Trilogy and a creative writing teacher at the Sydney Writers’ Centre. She is constantly full of ideas and inspiration.
Rate three books you’ve most recently read out of 5 (5 is best) You can say why you did or didn’t like them in a couple of sentences.
These days, I’m obsessed with technology and business, so my book choices reflect that.
Inside Steve’s Brain: Business Lessons from Steve Jobs, the Man Who Saved Apple is a fascinating insight into the mind of a CEO that seems like a cross between a visionary, a perfectionist, a mean task-master and a creative thinker. 4 out of 5.
The World is Flat by Thomas L Friedman. This book is incredibly well researched, overloaded with information and yet Friedman engages the readers in the midst of a sea of facts and statistics. 5 out of 5.
Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky. The book did not live up to the hype. It could have been condensed into a magazine article. 2 out of 5.
Do you read a particular genre more then others?
These days I read a lot of non-fiction. When I was younger, I always read fiction and hardly ever picked up a non-fiction book. But now the balance is tipped the other way; I’m mesmerised by people’s lives, their ideas and insights into the world.
Do you think the printed book has a future?
Absolutely. But it will no longer reign supreme. There will be a balance between audiobooks, ebooks and printed books in the market as consumers find what works best for them. There’s something sensuous and tactile about having a printed book. You can savour the words and let them flow over you. However, there’s something incredibly practical and appealing at being able to ‘search’ an ebook to find just the phrase you are looking for!
If you were sent to a remote island which three books would you take with you and why?
The Complete Works of Shakespeare – to keep me entertained.
Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched The World by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter. If I were stranded on a remote island I would miss my two cats immensely. There are currently no books written about them so this would be the next best thing!
And of course … How To Survive on an Island for Dummies. (Well, if such a title existed I would bring it!)