Please tell us a little something about yourself, what you do and what keeps you busy these days?
I’m an author of 10 books including Thai-riffic!, Con-nerd and more recently, Brain Freeze. I also do stand-up comedy and use my experience as a primary school teacher to teach kids creative writing across Australia and Asia. I also love playing video games, doing burgergrams and more recently, a massive sneakerhead.
Could you share a bit about your secret origin story?
I grew up as a bookworm, nerdy gamer and class-clown, and knew I always wanted to be a writer. Fresh outta high school, I did a writing degree at WSU and also did a Master of Teaching at USYD as a back up. I worked my way through the stand up comedy ranks, from open mic to winning comedy comps, and doing spots on TV. However, I only did stand up comedy as a springboard to getting writing gigs. Being a primary school teacher awakened my love of being a big kid and that’s when I realised that I should be writing for kids, instead of adults. I quit teaching and gave myself 5 years to get my first book published. I did it in 3 years, and the rest is history.
What’s your current favourite pair of sneakers?
Adidas ZX10000 x The Simpsons “Krusty Burger”
What drew you to this particular pair of sneakers? What’s your personal sneaker collecting philosophy?
My love of sneakers came through pop culture. In 2010, I snapped up a few pairs of the Adidas x Star Wars collab pack back in 2011 and haven’t looked back since. It’s the reason why you need to respect the collabs for bringing in a new audience into the sneaker scene. From Dragonball Z to Spongebob, if it had my favourite video game or cartoon character on it, then I was all over it.
As a storyteller, I believe that sneakers also tell their own stories. That’s why I have a whole bunch of Nike SB sneakers, they really go all out with their storytelling, from the obvious Chunky Dunkys to the diverse Street Hawkers (which managed to throw a menu of dishes onto the pairs).
For me, it’s the stories that sell the shoes to me. Sometimes the stories are about how I acquired the shoes. To score a ‘W’ in the raffle for the Travis Scott x Fragment Highs is stuff of legends. In terms of the KB ZX1000, Adidas nailed the Krusty Burger vibes, with its bold cartoon outlining, the sesame seeds towards the toe box and the hints of Krusty’s wild hair on the adidas logo. These subtle features do it for me as a Simpsons fan, but also as a burger lover too. These days, it’s more than just slapping the logo or character’s head on a side of the shoe, the more clever collabs are the ones that allow the sneaker to breathe on its own. That said, my other favourite collabs include the Rex x Stan Smith shoes which are roarsome!!!
Another side of my sneaker style is to stand out, so a lot of these collabs must have that extra spice on feet too.
Could you tell us more about what inspired you to become a children’s author and a comedian?
A lot of my earlier books such as Con-nerd were about my experiences about growing up Asian in Australia. The academic pressure to be a doctor or lawyer, going to tutoring, never feeling good enough for my parents…these were stories that weren’t on the shelves. I never saw myself on the covers of the books that I read as a kid, so I wanted to change that when I wrote my books. All of my books have Asian-Australian characters, living in Western Sydney, because I want to inspire kids to be proud of where they come from. These days, my books are based on what I love, such as burgers and video games. As for comedy, there’s no greater feeling than making a whole bunch of random people laugh. Back at high school, I love poking fun at myself and to disarm anyone trying to tease me. I take that persona on stage, surprising people with my wry observations.
What are your plans for yourself and brand in the future?
My next book is What About Thao, a story about a Vietnamese kid moving to a small country town, trying to fit in. That’s going to come in May 2022, which kickstarts a whole bunch of touring, festivals and school visits. I’ve started up a YouTube Channel for my writing and books, and yes I also cover a few of my nerdy sneaker pickups too. I’m also working on a story called Sneakerheads, which is going to be a ton of fun. For the kids and teens who love sneakers, this story is going to give them a voice.
Any advice for the younger generation that may want to follow your footsteps?
My mantra is to do what you love. As cheesy as it sounds, if you love what you do, that passion will carry you over those tough times when you feel like giving up. I tell kids that being a writer is like being an old school Instagrammer/YouTuber/TikToker etc because you can take your own hobbies and likes, and turn it into a job. There are people who will like what you do, if they see you like it. So be genuine in what you do.
Where can people find you on social media?
On Twitter and Instagram: @oliverwinfree
YouTube Channel: Virtual Oliver P.
My website is oliverwriter.com
Check out our last My Story feature here.