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Centre for Stories

Writer Profile – Jay Anderson

I have been asked many times what it’s like working with Rashida and I tell them two things—that Rashida keeps inviting me over for coffee and baked goods, and that I want to grow up to be her.

January 20, 2020

In 2019, the Centre for Stories selected a number of emerging writers to be involved in a 12-month mentoring program. The Inclusion Matters Mentoring Program, funded by the Copyright Agency and the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries, allows writers to improve their craft, to work in a supportive community, and to be paired with a well-established mentor. Both programs are designed for people living in Western Australia who identify as culturally and linguistically diverse.

Jay Anderson is a writer, freelance editor, and Editorial Assistant at Margaret River Press. When he’s not writing, you can find Jay working towards his second Master’s degree, driving to Kalgoorlie to visit family, watching Netflix (with sudden bursts of productivity), and drinking coffee with his Inclusion Matters mentor, Rashida Murphy. Get to know the good work Jay is doing below.

A portrait of Jay Anderson looking toward the camera. He is sitting comfortably and has a relaxed facial expression.

Photo: Chris Gurney

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Hello! My name is Jay Anderson, and I’m a writer and editor. I’m also a degree whore (that’s how my mate sees it anyway). Fresh out of high school, I dived into a Psychology degree, quit six months later, headed for a double in Literary and Cultural Studies and Professional Writing and Publishing, which I managed to complete. Headed for a Masters in Creative Writing (which I’m wrapping up now) but the party doesn’t end there—I’m starting a Masters of Social Work in a few months. I like to think of myself as a perfect example of the tiresome expectations we put on young people to figure their shit out earlier than they should have to, but I don’t mind if you call me a degree whore. I’m number four of five in Heidi and Victor Anderson’s set of curry-munching, Catholic-raised children, and the only queer one (to date, anyway). We spent most of our formative years in Kalgoorlie, which is famous for its gold mining, its brothels, and the World’s Tallest Bin. Sounds pretty rough, and some parts of it were, but I had a tremendously supportive family and circle of friends, so I have very fond memories of my childhood and adolescence. Regardless, this has given me quite a bit to write about (the focus of my current Masters is, unsurprisingly, rural queer studies) and I suspect intersectionality will continue to drive my writing practice as in the future. Along with horror-esque and speculative fiction since I have a deep-seated paranoia that takes my imagination to the worst possibilities of people and their futures, if in a humorous way.

What have you been working on during the Mentoring Program?

Bit of this, bit of that! Creative nonfiction (watch out anyone who wronged this brown, gay boy in Kalgoorlie, you feature unapologetically), fiction (about terrifying futures—or realities as it were—where the world is on fire and technology is destroying us and stuff) and poetry (mostly about the complicated relationship I have with myself and those that I have with others).

A portrait of Jay Anderson. He is sitting on a stool and looking away from the camera. His face is lit up by soft light coming from the window on his right side.

Photo: Chris Gurney

What has it been like working with your mentor, Rashida Murphy?

I don’t have the words (which is ironic, it’s, like, my one job), but I’ll give it a crack! I truly couldn’t have asked for a better mentor. Rashida Murphy is so unbelievably smart, funny and kind. I remember, before I met her, that one of her previous mentors assured me of this and told me that I would be in good hands. They completely undersold it—I guess they didn’t have the words either. Like every member of my generation, I am teeming with anxiety, but I have never felt uncomfortable working with Rashida—which came as a surprise to me (since I share very personal things through my writing) but is a testament to Rashida’s personality. I have been asked many times what it’s like working with Rashida (because she is well-known and well-loved in our literary community) and I tell them two things—that Rashida keeps inviting me over for coffee and baked goods (the primary sustenance for university students), and that I want to grow up to be her. I have learnt so much about writing, editing, publishing and the literary community from her in such a short period of time, for which I am very grateful. If you haven’t read Rashida’s debut novel, The Historian’s Daughter, you must—it is as exceptional as she is, and I’m sure her second novel will be as well.

Has your writing style, practice, or vocation changed since the beginning of your Mentorship?

Before I came into this program I had almost exclusively been writing creative nonfiction. Now, thanks to Rashida’s encouragement, I’m writing fiction and poetry which has been really rewarding. I’m more confident in my abilities as a writer as well, which is something that I really struggled with before coming into the mentorship—I actually thought of my writing as a hobby of a dream that would never be realised in any material way. Now I’m ready to share my writing with the world.

When you’re not writing, what are you doing?

I’m very lucky that when I’m not writing for myself, you can probably catch me writing to some other end. This involves ‘working from home’ (watching Netflix between short bursts of productivity) on my Masters project or some of the freelance work I do in the publishing sector. I also have the distinct pleasure of working for Margaret River Press. So I’m also constantly reading—The Pillars by Peter Polites, The Theory of Flight by Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu, and The Yield by Tara June Winch are the most recent, and all excellent by their own right. I spend as much time with my loved ones as they can bare. I also eat, shit, and sleep quite a bit.

What have you been doing to get involved with the writing community?

Well the Inclusion Matters program has meant that I’ve been able to meet lots of other writers, that I’ve had access to literary events at the Centre, and that I’m constantly updated by the wonderful Logan Griffiths about what’s happening in the community. So I’ve been doing a lot! Rashida encouraged me to apply for a Fellowship with the KSP Writers Centre, so I’ll be heading there in February to write and to get involved with their community, which I’m very excited about. Two beautiful boys I know have started a queer book club which I’m looking forward to getting in to as well. I also often find myself stalking authors on social media—I’m not sure if that counts?

A very close up portrait of Jay Anderson. He is looking towards a soft light coming from a window. His eyes are a stunning pale blue.

Photo: Chris Gurney

What are your goals for 2020?

I’ve mentioned a few above, but I’m actually trying to be less goal-oriented in 2020, by which I mean less work-goal-oriented. I think we have very narrow ideas about what success is or looks like, even in the arts sector. It has driven me to sacrifice social aspects of my life, and while my friends and family are very understanding of this, I’d simply prefer to not have to make those sacrifices (rent and bills and shit pending, of course). I’m also really sick of burning out (which I think is almost normalised in our industry) and want to take care of myself, both physically and emotionally, better this year. So my goal for 2020 is to figure out what self-care is (because putting on a mud mask and getting into the bath with a cigarette and a glass of red wine honestly, and surprisingly, isn’t cutting it) and spend as much time with my loved ones as I can afford to.

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