We consider ourselves lucky for having the pleasure of collaborating and working alongside such talented and dynamic interns at the Centre for Stories. Over the course of 2018, a number of interns made their mark at the Centre in some way—so let’s celebrate them!
This cool cat is Anthea Yang. Anthea came to the Centre as an intern for the Australian Short Story Festival in October. She spent a number of weeks hanging with us and getting to know the literary scene. Anthea’s chill vibes teamed with her percipient interviewing skills means she was a total asset to the Festival and the Centre for Stories.
Tell the readers about yourself.
I am a writer of poetry and creative non-fiction. I have a BA in Creative Writing from Curtin University, and before becoming an intern for the Australian Short Story Festival, I was living and studying in Beijing. I am also known to make zines.
You recently moved back to Perth after spending time in China. Can you expand on the expectations—and the unexpected—when visiting a place you feel a strong cultural connection?
Like many Asian-Australians, I grew up with the feeling of being stuck between two cultures and places. China was always a temporary place, somewhere I’d go only for holidays for weeks or months at a time, but what it was and what it stood for had a lot of weight in my life. I’ve always felt more Chinese than Australian, and as my visits to China became less frequent, I began to get more curious about China as a physical place for me to exist in and what it would be like to live there. When I arrived, I experienced a mix of culture shock and familiarity. On one hand, I felt safe and like I belonged because I didn’t look different to everyone around me. On the other hand, there was a list of things that made me stand out as a foreigner: my accent, my overt politeness and sensitivity, how I could speak Mandarin but couldn’t read the menu, the fact that I still paid for small things with cash, the list goes on. I spent 6 months in China and I’m still trying to navigate the aftermath of my experience there. But I have realised that although I have this strong cultural connection towards China, there are aspects of my cultural identity that are integral to me that isn’t Chinese. I feel more connected to the Chinese-Australian culture that my parents and the Chinese diaspora in Perth had created. I think what I wasn’t quite expecting was how I began to miss Australia, and I realised how equally important both cultures were to my identity — that I can’t be one, but am both.
You dabble in poetry and writing. What did you take away from interning at the Australian Short Story Festival? And what was it like to share a space with Centre for Stories staff?
As an intern for the Festival, I got the opportunity to interview many writers who were all part of this year’s festival line-up. Being able to talk to so many writers who were all at different stages of their careers about things like their creative processes, their short stories, and the writing and publishing industry, was incredibly insightful and valuable to me. I also took away from the internship how much actually goes into running a festival from the ground-up. It’s hard, time-consuming and sometimes stressful, and Logan (this year’s Festival Manager) is such a powerhouse. I’m so grateful I was able to work with her, as well as Claudia, Caroline, Jacoba and Karen from the Centre for Stories. Being able to share a workspace with all of them was absolutely lovely. It’s a warm and collaborative space where ideas and stories are constantly being thrown around: if you’re stuck on something, someone is always there to help you out. And there’s always tea.
We love a good story. Tell us a short story about a time when you encountered something remarkable.
When I was in Beijing, I stood on the Great Wall of China three times. The second time I stood on the wall, we hiked a mountain and climbed a makeshift ladder to get there. From there, we walked and climbed stairs so steep it left your heart shaking and when we got tired we stopped and danced and saw the moon (something we forgot existed in the hazy fog of Beijing’s sky) and when night covered us we slept with the wind howling through us. Before the morning, we woke and waited for the Sun to rise between the mountains. When she finally appeared, someone said: 太阳每天在天上不会累吗？(Doesn’t the sun get tired being in the sky everyday?). And then we walked some more; looking out to layers upon layers of lush mountain ranges and the exact wall we were standing on going for miles. Even when you squint, it’s still there, tracing its lineage.
What’s on the horizon for you?
Something new (a city) and something old (perseverance).