Tips and inspiration with 2017 Monash Prize Winner

Julianna Toth  

Joint first place winner of the 2017 Monash Prize, Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connor charmed the judges with her piece Femina. Described as “an ambitious, sometimes bewildering story that presents a very unique take on the myth of Eve.”

Aimee shares tips for 2018 applicants, her influences, great reads, and picks her dream team of judges for 2019.

Entries for 2018 Monash Undergraduate Prize for Creative Writing are open until Sunday 15 April

How did the Monash Prize help you?

First, the practical thing. The Monash Prize helped me out a lot as a University student (think nutritious food, working computer, winter heating bills).

The prize inspired me to keep writing in one of those moments where doubt was creeping in, big time. It reminded me of the importance of supporting emerging voices (including my own), and showed me the passion of the people behind-the-scenes in the writing world. The Monash Prize team was so encouraging and kind, it was such a gift to be involved.

What inspired Femina?

Femina was inspired, of course, by my need to explore what it is to be alive in this moment, as a young woman and as a feminist, and as an aspiring writer, and as someone trying to grow in my understanding of what this all means. I hope this much is clear from the piece itself (and the title that, like many titles, was added and removed right up to the final moments of submission).

Femina’s unusual form was inspired by my interest in the fragment, in the power of the dense, poetic moment. I’ve always been fascinated by collage-the image, the power of placement and displacement. I started writing mainly poetry, and love the way that it allows an intense focus on image and sound. I was looking for a way to write longer pieces, and push myself stylistically, when I read Tracey Slaughter’s incredible short story collection deleted scenes for lovers. Stories like ‘50 ways to meet your lover’ and ‘scenes of a long-term nature’ use fragmentation to raise often-forgotten moments into the light, and I was struck by the intense poetic beauty of her prose. Her work lent me a way into the stories I’d long been trying to write.

What are your tips for future Monash Prize participants?

Read your work aloud, edit it, print it out and hold it in actual paper form in your actual warm hands, and read it again. But most importantly, submit! I know that moment is scary-when you’re uploading the file and pressing the button and sending your work into the internet ether- but do it anyway. Your voice deserves to be heard, and this is such a wonderful opportunity. You’ve got nothing to lose.

If you could pick the judges for 2019 Monash Prize who would they be?

Is this like one of those questions where they can be anyone from any time? Michele Leggott, Sonja Yelich, Sia, Finn Andrews, Orlando, Mary Wollstonecraft. (On second thought, I might leave that decision to the Monash Team.)

What’s your favourite genre?

My favourite genre right now is Flash (!) Fiction. Whenever I say it, I feel it needs an exclamation mark, like that old Queen song yaknow? I love its intensity, its economy, its immense difficulty to create. It’s so cool, like those sculptures made from pencil lead.

What are you reading at the moment? 

I’m looking for an antidote to a certain dystopic Tweeter. I’m finding hope in a lot of New Zealand literary journals online, including Starling, Mayhem, and the latest NZ edition of POETRY magazine. These are all accessible online, (even across the ditch!) and so powerful in their diversity and reach. The work packed into these journals is vital, honest, brave, inspiring,

I’m particularly in awe of Essa Ranapiri (Are You Seeing Your Own Death and Selling it to me?), Joy Holley (When the Person You Love Leaves You in the Night), Hamish Ansley (Glowstick) Tayi Tibble (Identity Politics), Melody Wilkinson (Marry Me in Marina), Ashleigh Young (How I Get Ready).  I’ve also just finished reading Catherine Chidgey’s novel ‘The Wish Child’ and think it should be required reading for everyone right now and always.

Get writing! Entries for the 2018 Monash Prize close Sunday 15 April.

Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connor is completing a Masters degree in English at the University of Waikato. Her work has appeared in Starling, Mayhem, Brief, Poetry New Zealand, Landfall, Turbine, and Verge. She writes thanks to the tireless support of some of the best people on this great watery rock.