‘Share what you’ve learned’: Amelia Walker in Conversation with Samantha Faulkner

By and | 3 February 2024

AW: There are two more important questions I’d like to ask. The first is, what’s on the boil now and or next? Are you currently working on new projects, or do you have things coming out on the new horizon that we can keep an eye out for?

SF: Yes, I’m the editor of Growing up Torres Strait Islander in Australia and that is coming out in April this year. The cover and contributing writers are listed on the Black Inc website, so it’s lovely to see that the promotion is starting to happen. I think we’re almost near the final stages of it now. We’ve got about 18 contributing writers and about four excerpts from published Torres Strait writers as well. So, that’s really exciting. And again, it’s supporting other people to have the opportunity to tell their stories about growing up as Torres Strait Islanders not necessarily in the Torres Strait, but also in mainland Australia. There are some common themes in the anthology around family and a really strong sense of community like going home, but also identity and culture. I can’t wait to share it with everyone because it’s just been a beautiful experience. I’ve also got a poetry collection that’s waiting for me to finalise and get out there and I have a young adult science fiction work that I should finish. So, I think that’s plenty for now.

AW: I can’t wait for your new books – the poetry collection especially. This brings me to the final question: as someone who’s achieved astounding success in your writing, what are your top tips for newer or emerging writers?

SF: Yes, I’ve had time to think about this question and I might’ve dropped a few pieces of advice already. I would say: just write and put words down on paper. Something that Aunty Kerry taught me is just to write it down. Just put it down. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and I think that’s the key. Don’t think that you can write something perfect immediately, the important thing is to ‘just write it down’ and be confident as well. I think confidence is important with your writing because it’s about ‘you’. You are telling your story and sharing your emotions. You might be surprised that your writing resonates with other people as well. It’s not right, it’s not wrong – just be confident and put it down.

Read aloud. Read your poetry aloud and practice it too, because reading in your head is sometimes different to reading aloud. You’ve got to identify where the pauses or the expressions are and, depending on the mood of the piece. The work might also change over time after you read it aloud in your room or to your family in comparison to reading aloud in front of a group of strangers. More practice on this helps you with that confidence and your public speaking. It’s important to keep an eye on the room and hold your audience’s attention too. The audience is there to listen to you, so just enjoy it as well.

Seek constructive criticism, but also identify a friend or a peer to give you that constructive criticism, so that they can say: ‘That’s crap Sam, but I think that’s crap for these reasons…go away and work on it’. I also recommend thinking about pitching and submitting writing too. I think it’s also important to take advantage of opportunities – don’t wait for opportunities to fall in your lap because they won’t – seek them out. When you see an open call from a journal or a competition – submit something or write a poem to meet that deadline. Just constantly challenge yourself or if you’ve got work that is sitting there that you haven’t used, pick it up and work on it and submit it so that you can find a home for everything. Everything is valuable when you are open to learning.

Do courses, and share what you’re writing about. Become a FNAWN member and attend a national summit. We’re all constantly learning. I’m also a member of a reading group as well. So, sometimes I read what I like, but I also must read what the reading group is reading [laughs]. Sometimes I don’t make it. This time of year, there are a lot of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander books on my bedside table that I want to read. I think you should read what you like, but it’s also important to test yourself and look further afield if something interests you – pick it up and give it a go. There might be something in there that you like. If you like words – look at your words on the page, are there any for your ‘word bank?’ This might be what the next challenge is. Sometimes words just stand out on a page for me, and while I’m not sure what I want to do with that word – I let it sit and I know I’ll find a home for it.

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