JMP Winner (2010): Anders Villani 0 Comments

JMP Winner (2010): Anders Villani

This week Express Media interviewed writer Anders Villani, whose poem won The John Marsden Prize in 2010. Here’s what he had to say:

What did winning the John Marsden Prize mean to you as a young writer?

For myself and many other young writers I know, the inner drive that produces a story or a poem is at constant loggerheads with the belief that the work has no objective value – that it simply isn’t good enough to be read and enjoyed by a wider audience. I would suggest that this is probably also true of people in all mediums of creativity and at any age. Therefore, winning The John Marsden wasn’t about the money, it was about receiving an invaluable motivational boost. Some wonderfully talented people have won this award, and it’s humbling to be a part of that group. Additionally, it looks great on applications to writers’ workshops and on my CV. I’ve a distinct memory of falling off my chair in a Paris hostel – onlooking backpackers thought I was drunk – when I found out I’d won.

What have you done (in writing and beyond) since winning the prize?

While I haven’t published loads, I’ve completed a novel and submitted it to a few publishers and agents, as well as a manuscript of poetry. I also chased a girl to South America and diarised the experience to a book-length extent, though that writing is only for me. On a more general level, I am deeply committed to reducing my environmental footprint and try to live as sustainably as I possibly can. In the next couple of years I want to complete either an MFA or PhD that will focus on how traditional ways of writing about nature can be useful to the contemporary green movement.

Some writers work business hours, and others carry a notebook with them everywhere. What’s your ‘writing process’?

My friends often call me a ‘prolific’ writer, but it honestly doesn’t feel that way. I don’t scold myself for forgetting my notebook if I go out, never take note of whether I write better at night or in the day, would rather stick pins in my eyes than set daily word quotas or anything like that. If an image instantiates a certain affective reaction in me, then it will probably become a poem. If an idea for a story won’t go away, then it will probably turn into a draft at the very least. The ‘9-5 professionalism’ one hears about among some very great writers is, for me personally, not at all sustainable. Thought I have the utmost respect for that kind of dedication, I feel that habit blindsides my creativity. Maybe a ‘two-week on, two-week off’ kind of deal would work, though, a sort of iron-ore miner’s approach to writing.

What are your future writing goals?

Though I hardly ever set goals, I’d be lying if I said that I wouldn’t love to publish serious works of creative writing somewhere down the track. I believe that provided I can keep myself solvent, I can get there. I would qualify that, however, with one ‘goal’ of sorts, and that is not to get disheartened if commercial success isn’t forthcoming. A young tennis player, for example, might throw his or her racquets in the trash because for all their efforts they didn’t quite make it onto the professional circuit, and I never want to do the same with my pen. At the end of the day I’ve had the impulsion to put my emotions and my imaginings into words since I was very young – too young to think about anything outside the act of writing itself – and just for that I consider myself extremely lucky.

What advice could you offer other aspiring young writers?

It is one thing to read copiously – it is another thing entirely to live copiously. Young writers usually take the first as a given, and well they should, but can sometimes forget that most of the greatest works of fiction, and certainly of poetry, are absolutely contingent on the second. There’s no better way to expand a lexicon than by visiting new places, from spectacular international destinations to strange rural backwaters here in Australia, by never shying away from opportunities for new experiences, by spending time amongst people of all creeds. It’s the finer details, after all, which make a piece of writing stand out above the rest.

Also, a friend of mine recently suggested that anyone truly interested in using English creatively should be familiar with at least one other language. For reasons not hard to infer, I think that it’s great advice.

Anders Villani is currently completing Honours in Creative Writing at the University of Melbourne. He’s also a Voiceworks contributor,  with a poem of his featuring in the upcoming Spring Edition ‘Copy/Paste’.

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