27 June 2015

Spotlight On: Sian Campbell

Sian Campbell is a writer, the Editor-in-Chief of Scum Magazine and Co-Director of National Young Writers Festival. She’s written for Spook, Kill Your Darlings, Going Down Swinging, and Junkee. She was recently longlisted for The Lifted Brow Prize for Experimental Non-Fiction

How old are you?

What state or territory do you live in?

What kind of writing do you do?
I primarily write personal and experimental non-fiction, short stories, and articles.

What are you currently reading?
The Garden Party, by Katherine Mansfield, and Unlovable Vol. 1 by Esther Pearl Watson. I just finished reading Chelsea Hodson’s chapbook Pity the Animal. I recommend all of the above!

How did you begin writing?
I first thought of it as something I might be good at after a teacher in primary school approached me and strongly encouraged me to enter various writing prizes. Even when I was no longer in her class, she would seek me out and share writing opportunities with me – the fact that she was so adamant and went out of her way to support me made me think there might be something there for me. I never really took her up on any of those opportunities, and totally squandered those chances, which I still feel bad about. (If I ever publish a book, I’ll make sure to publicly thank Mrs. Neill.) I’m not sure what the spark was that got me to enrol in a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at QUT – maybe it was the voice of Mrs. Neill in the back of my head – but that was definitely how I began writing seriously in my adult life. Then attending writer’s festivals like NYWF and EWF is really what cemented it all for me.

How do you remain motivated?
I don’t always! But setting myself goals, always working towards something tangible and the support of others all help. I also find that the more I write and the more I get published, the easier it is to keep going. Just trying to keep the end goal in mind – what do I want out of this whole ‘writing’ thing, what do I need to do to get there, etc.

Where do you find inspiration for your work?
In the books I read or the shows I watch on Netflix, in the people around me, in the weird articles I read on the internet…for instance, at the moment, I’m obsessed with the couple who live in the apartment opposite mine. Their life fascinates me. I’d set up a camera and record everything if it weren’t illegal (and very creepy).

Do you think where you live in Australia has influenced your writing?
When I was very young, I moved around a lot and mostly lived out in the country, before settling down in Brisbane – and then, in 2012, I moved to Melbourne. I think that you can’t avoid your physical surroundings influencing you or becoming a part of you and your work, though I don’t tend to write a lot about the cities I occupy in any sort of obvious tangible way. I think it’s more that the people I meet influence what I read, what I do for fun and how I think. It’s subtle, but unavoidable. The Butterfly Effect is not just a bad Ashton Kutcher movie.

What is the best and worst piece of advice you’ve been given as a writer?
I can’t really think of any specifics, but most writing advice either is useful to you or it isn’t. Everyone’s own writing practice is unique to them, and people work in different ways. I suppose “write every day” is advice that is universally useful, and it’s advice that I am trying to follow. Advice like “Wake up at 4am and write before work” sounds great in theory, but I am yet to discover the ability to force my body to actually crawl out of bed at 4am and function. I just can’t do it, I’ll turn my alarm off and forget it ever happened every time I try. It’s not for me.

What piece of published writing are you most proud of? Why?
Late last year, I was asked to write something about my experience of Going Down Swinging‘s One Night Wonders event featuring Derrick Brown, and I was happy with how the piece turned out. http://goingdownswinging.org.au/site/i-believe-in-magic/

What is your goal for National Young Writer’s Month?
I just finished writing a thesis, so I finally have time to work on my personal writing goals! My broad goal for June is to get my personal writing career (and my life!) back on track post-thesis. I want to finish at least one short story that I’m happy with, and write a couple of articles for online publications. I’m also working on some flash fiction for a zine/chapbook celebrating the 40th anniversary of Patti Smith’s album Horses, so I’d like to make some progress on that as well.

Where can we find out more about you?