Q&A with James Tierney

Michaela McGuire  

For the month of November, we are running our annual open call out for EWF 2016 (which you can find out more about here). We talked to some of this year’s amazing participants about their experience, which writers they are excited about at the moment, and what they’ve been up to since EWF15.

James Tierney was the online Books and Writing columnist for the Melbourne literary journal Kill Your Darlings in 2015. His writing has appeared in The Australian, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Big Issue. He is currently working on a book about podcasting. James is President of the Sydney Writers’ Room, a place for writers to write. He tweets as @ViragoHaus

What motivated you to apply for EWF?

EWF’s specialness – it’s a festival both for its audience and composed of its audience. I attended a Sydney EWF Roadshow and then the Melbourne mothership in 2013 as a happy audience member. On both occasions, I was immediately struck by its collegiate atmosphere, one that was entirely distinct from the festivals that wear the name of their host city like a flag.

For budding writers like me, the EWF’s vocational focus naturally gives it the edge over a festival pitched at the broadest possible audience. But it is more than that. The EWF is a gathering of the like-minded in a way that the larger festival can’t be.

As parodied by the Twitter account @WFQuestions, audience participation at the end of each session in a capital city festival is resented and sometimes even feared. This is not totally without foundation -that account can be frighteningly accurate as well as funny- but it also serves to emphasise how these festivals are for the professionals.

There’s a great deal to enjoy about the polished public performances you often see there but they sometimes risk having all the warmth of state visit by Vladimir Putin. At the EWF, the audience c’est moi and often comes with a hug.

Did you have any particular highlights at EWF15?

So. Many. To name but two: #writingwhilefemale and the chance to participate in the criticism panel with those super-brains and all-round lovelies Jane Howard, Chad Parkhill and Rebecca Harkins-Cross.

What have you been up to since EWF15?

2015 has been spent with the distinct pleasure of being the Books and Writing columnist for Killings, the blog of Kill Your Darlings. Sadly hanging up my columinst boots for the next little while to work on a long-cherished project, a book on podcasting (Hi publishers – you’ll be hearing from me!)

Who are some of the writers and artists that you’re excited about at the moment?

Again, too many to mention so let me just mention three:

Rebecca Varcoe is the editor of Australian humour magazine Funny Ha Ha – it never fails to be spit on the floor funny (plus Bec once favourited one of my tweets so obvs I’m a natural for a commission from them. Hello? Hello? Is this thing on? [not for you, sunshine – Ed])

Anwen Crawford has written on film, music and social affairs for a number of publications but wherever she is to be found, her luminous writing and sharp intelligence is not to be missed.

Alison Croggon is a poet, novelist and critic but she is the boss as far as I’m concern – always precise, challenging and nuanced.

Can you tell us about the last book you read and loved, and what’s currently on your to-read pile?

I’m currently obsessing about Alexandra Heller-Nicholas’ monograph on the horror masterpiece Suspiria.

Lollypop ladies scare me so I’m no natural when it comes to horror films but Alex’s intelligent and beautifully written book convinced me to get over my fear of gore and enjoy the spectacle.

It’s out next month and I interviewed Alex about it for my final column for Killings.

Currently on my to-read pile is Carrie Brownstein’s memoir Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl, a collection of John Berger’s writing on artists Portraits and a new english translation by Patty Crane of the selected poems of Swedish Nobel Prize winner Tomas Transrömer, Bright Scythe.

What have you been working on lately?

I’m starting to write about film, something I haven’t done since university, and am listening to approximately 25 hours worth of podcasts a day. Sleep is for those who don’t want a book deal.

Where can we read some of your writing?

I link to just about everything I write on my blog A Long Slow Goodbye, which means I’m somehow eternally optimistic that someone is reading my work and inevitably depressed when I obsessively check the visitor stats.

Have you got any advice for other emerging writers?

Meet people. Meeting people is weird, right? But most of them are lovely and those that aren’t give you ideas for the villainousness characters in your fiction. Win/win.