As part of my ongoing guest post series in this blog, David LaBounty from The First Line Magazine recently answered questions on writing. Today I’m pleased to welcome Jane Camens, who co-edited the recently released New Asia Now edition of Griffith Review, Australia’s leading literary magazine.
I’ve asked her questions related to her role as an editor, and also as the co-founder of Asia Pacific Writers and Translators (APWT). In the comments, you can add questions of your own, and she might drop by to respond.
Griffith Review is renowned for the quality of the writing it runs, both non fiction and fiction, featuring writers and subjects ahead of the wave in Australia. Its readership includes many policy makers, which makes it an influential publication that can move opinion.
I was invited to co-edit the New Asia Now issue both to help introduce new writing from Asia to Australian readers and to continue a literary dialogue of engagement with the many countries in our region. The founding editor, Julianne Schultz, and I both believe that Australia’s future is tied inextricably to Asia.
2. What do you look for in a story you accept for publication?
I speak only for the New Asia Now issue. First, I want to say that we received a lot of quality writing from around the region, much of which we couldn’t use in this issue because we sought a balance in the number of pieces we ran from different countries. We sought to represent voices from almost every country in the region because in every nation there are writers whose work connects universally. In all the many strong essays we’ve chosen, we have looked for quality writing that sheds new light on understanding a country, and sometimes Australia’s engagement with that country.
3. What tips would you give unpublished writers who are trying to get their first story published in a magazine?
In every issue of Griffith Review, the editors look for essays that are well researched and raise the level of debate on issues. For the fiction, just great writing of the moment, perhaps dealing with a contemporary concern, is most likely to catch the attention of the fiction editor.
4. You are the co-founder and executive director of APWT. Tell us more about the organization, and why writers need to be part of it.
Asia Pacific Writers and Translators was started to bring writing mentors, publishers and agents together with emerging writers in the region, after a model I’d worked with in the UK in 2004. At that time there were few opportunities for emerging writers in most Asian countries to make direct contact with established writers and Western publishers so APWT began to hold annual events (‘conferences’) around the region. The concept also aimed to inspire more universities in Asia to include creative writing as a subject with their curricula, and this has happened in some small degree.
5. What sort of events does APWT organise?
APWT’s events around the region rely on invitations from host organizations which provide venues and catering. We put together a program and promote the event to our members and friends who, coupled with our social media presence, now exceed 5,000 individuals around the world. APWT is an inclusive association and welcomes everyone interested in writing from our region. We also run a magazine, the Leap Plus.
APWT’s next conference, in October this year, is in Manila. The Association doesn’t have a funder-backer so we rely on everyone wanting to join the events to find their own funding. This year we’ll promote the New Asia Now issue of Griffith Review at the Manila gathering.
5. Could you talk to us about your impressions of English fiction writing in Asia?
This question is rather too general, because in all cases writing is about individuals, not nations. The reason APWT now includes literary translators, not just writers (the organization was originally called just AP Writers) is because I strongly believe that there’s no point trying to write a great work in English if English is not your mother tongue. We need great translators as well as wonderful writers in every language. I’d rather see good writing translated (well) than seek writing only from writers fluent in English. Of course we’re seeing good writing originating in English from those countries where English is learned early. It’s sometimes useful to have an outsider’s eye, even if the outsider is from within a culture. Writers everywhere tend to stand a little outside.
I’ve loved the editions of Griffith Review I’ve read before, and would encourage you to pick up a copy. The New Asia Now edition carries insightful features, essays, poetry and fiction which give voice to emerging Asia. Volume 2 of this edition is available exclusively as an eBook: download it here.
Jane Camens founded Hong Kong’s international literary festival in 2001, with Sri Lankan writer Nury Vittachi. After completing an MFA in Writing at Vermont College in the USA, and receiving an MA at the University of East Anglia, UK, she returned to Australia and founded the Asia Pacific New Writing Partnership, an international collaboration of universities, literary organizations and others interested in supporting new writing from the region. Jane won the 2010 Fish Publishing Short Story Prize.
Have you read the Griffith Review? Interested in writing from Asia? What do you think about work in English and translated works– do you think enough fiction in other languages is being translated into English today? Do you have questions for Jane Camens?
If you’re reading this, do not have a blog, and want to join the discussion, head over to Daily (w)rite’s Facebook page!