Are you Fearless in your #Writing ?

As part of my ongoing guest post series in this blog, Jane Camens, who co-edited the recently released New Asia Now edition of Griffith Review, Australia's leading literary magazine, recently appeared on Daily (w)rite. Today, it is my pleasure to welcome the talented and versatile Michele Lee, an Australian-Asian playright and author whose work has also appeared in the Griffith Magazine.
The Griffith Review

As part of my ongoing guest post series in this blog,  bestselling author Patrick Wensink recently told us about his writing journey.

Today, it is my pleasure to welcome the uber-talented and versatile Omar Musa, a renowned Australian poet and author. This is the last of my interview series for the Griffith Magazine.

I’ve highlighted some of Omar’s responses in blue, because they made an impression on me. He’s a fantastic poet and orator. If you hear he’s reading in your neighborhood, drop everything and attend. I’ve heard him live: it is quite an experience.

Please ask him any questions that occur to you, and he might drop by to answer them.


1. Could you tell us something about your writing journey? 

My writing journey started with writing poetry and telling stories as a child. It was something came easily and was just a fun thing to do. Early on, I was influenced by my mother (who was in the theatre world), my father (he wrote poetry in Bahasa Melayu) and a meeting with the great Indonesian poet W.S. Rendra, who performed very declarative, political poetry, when I was in primary school. In my teens I got into hip hop music and MCing, then in my early twenties into slam/spoken word poetry, then in my late twenties into writing fiction. It has been a weird journey, but one which makes sense to me. They are all branches of the same river.

2. You’re a poet and a novelist: what importance does each role hold in your life? In your writing journey are your preoccupations?

Both are important to me, but poetry is number one. When done right, I think it is the highest of the literary forms. My preoccupations are powerlessness, violence, migration, racism — the poetry of unease.

3. Which authors and poets have been your biggest influences? Could you name a few works you think all writers should read?

Roberto Bolaño, Cormac McCarthy, Haruki Murakami, Anne Sexton. Every writer should read and memorise the poem “To Posterity” by Bertolt Brecht. It’s my favourite poem of all time. Every writer should read “The Aleph” by Jorge Luis Borges. If that doesn’t ignite a million poetic fires in your head, nothing will.

ps: I haven’t memorised “To Posterity” yet, so I’m a complete hypocrite, but I’d be a better man if I did.

4. What tips would you give a new poet or writer?

“Write in passion, edit in cold blood” — I got that from my mate Sarge Lacuesta, who got it from his mum, who got it from her Jesuit teacher in the Philippines. “Sharpen your sWord” — I got that from Snoop Dogg. And my own, far more prosaic advice — be fearless and especially, never be afraid of your imagination.

Here come the dogs: Omar Musa5. Tell us something about your novel Here Come the Dogs, and your impetus behind writing it.

I wanted to write about powerlessness, migration and fire — the fires that burn outside us and the fire that burn within. I wanted to write about Australian suburbia. I wanted to write about hip hop in a way that I hadn’t seen done before.

6. Talk to us about your piece Supernova at Griffith Review: New Asia Now. 

“Supernova” is, in part, about the current mess that is Malaysian politics, but it is also about people who are trapped in between worlds. In recent trips to Malaysia, I have heard numerous accounts of people who have gone to vote and been told that they have already “voted,” especially in Sabah, where my family is from. I didn’t want to make Azlan Muhammad a cynical man when it came to politics, even though people of his generation would be justified in their cynicism. I thought that in this story, his well-meaning nature and naivety would make him all the more tragic and somehow, heroic.

7. What’s your take on challenges facing Asians writing in English today? 

I’m not an Asian writer per se, but one thing I have noticed is that in the West, Asian writers are often expected to be “exotic” or focus on the historical, folkloric or “traditional”, whereas it seems obvious to me that Asian countries are home to vibrant, complex contemporary cultures.

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 that give an insight to emerging Asia. I’m stunned by the amazing diversity of voices in this issue. Volume 2 of this edition is available exclusively as an eBook: Download it here!

Omar Musa Award-winning author and poet—-

Omar Musa is a Malaysian-Australian author, rapper and poet from Queanbeyan, Australia. His debut novel “Here Come the Dogs” was long-listed for the Miles Franklin Award and he was named one of the Sydney Morning Herald’s Young Novelists of the Year in 2015. Find him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Have you read Omar Musa’s Here Come the Dogs? Have you checked out the Griffith Review New Asia Now edition? Interested in writing from Asia? If you’ve been writing for a while, what has been your writing journey ? Do you have questions for Omar Musa?

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Add Yours
  1. thewriteedge

    That last answer really resonates with me. I don’t think Asian writers have to write exotic “Asian-themed” stories all the time, especially those of us who live in the West and interact with people of other cultures.

    Thank you for the interview!

  2. Harsh S.

    It’s the Indiblogger’s blog that led me here. Next, the title of the post was too impressive in tempting me to read the whole post. I appreciate the research you would have put to prepare such a directed list of questions. Every question and its answer have something for the reader to take away. Thanks for posting such a wonderful work.

  3. vishalbheeroo

    That’s one of a kind interview Damyanti and incredible answers and Patrick words one memorizing poetry is beautifully said, I should try doing that.

  4. Guilie Castillo

    Powerful, powerful stuff here. His advice is excellent, but it’s the attitude and outlook that come through his syntax that I fell in love with. (And the fact he loves “The Aleph”… Anyone who appreciates Borges is on my A list.) Thanks for introducing me to Omar, Damyanti! And, Omar, much success with your new novel and all your creative endeavors. The world needs more people like you.

  5. macjam47

    Lovely interview with Omar Musa. I loved the quote you cited. “Write in passion, edit in cold blood”
    Have a wonderful week, Damyanti.

  6. ccyager

    Thanks for drawing attention to this series of writers! It’s been very interesting to read their interviews and learn about their writing.

  7. Birgit

    Wonderful interview and questions. I think any writer has a passion from when they were kids. Passion and creativity goes hand in hand. I have to say I love that quote as well-“Write in passion, edit in cold blood”

    • Omar Musa

      Thanks! It’s something I have to remind myself of. I think it helps battle against complacent, ossified writing. An extension of this idea is to remember to be playful. Sometimes as writers we take ourselves way too seriously, and forget that the joy of writing is often the abandon of toying with ideas and styles in an almost reckless way. This need not take away from serious subject matter, but can also enrich it.

    • Omar Musa

      This is a quote often attributed to me, but as I mentioned, I got it from my friend Sarge Lacuesta, who got it from his mother, who got it from a teacher! I can’t imagine it’s a piece of advice that will go out of date. It perfectly captures the balance between the heart and the mind that is necessary in good writing.