Sam van Zweden




Writing in July 2020

July has turned out to be a pretty big month for writing. I mean, it’s been a big month for everything, really (second wave/second lockdown! I got my Ps! I’ve almost mastered backing up my impossible driveway! Hamilton dropped on Disney Plus! I turned 33! … I could go on). I’ve been writing a bit, somewhere in between the first Melbourne lockdown and the new one. I don’t entirely understand how, but… it’s happened. And now all of a sudden, all of those things are being published!

I wrote for ABC Life about my dog Phoebe, and how impersonating her on Instagram is a good anxiety-reliever.

I wrote a short review of Cath Moore’s wonderful debut YA novel Metal Fish, Falling Snow for Kill Your Darlings.

I wrote for Dining in Place about watching what other people are eating during isolation, and what I’ve been cooking and eating for comfort during this highly weird time of lockdown, shortages, and lots of eating at home.

I’ll be reading the above food essay at an online event this Sunday night (or morning, if you’re in Britain!) (8pm AEST, 11am BST). Dinner Party Press are a collective of bookish food-lovers who enjoy sharing stories, company and drinks. While their events normally happen in person, they’re branching into an online offering during COVID. If you’d like to see me read at this COMFORT FOOD event along with Lara Williams, Oliver Zarandi, Francesca Reece, and Lily Keil, you can register to attend. I’d love to see you there!

I hope you and yours are keeping as well as you can right now. Take care.

Let’s get up to speed

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Hello! It’s been… too long. I’m sorry. So very much has happened. Let’s get up to speed.

What’ve you been up to?

It’s been a busy time. I’ve been cross stitching, and walking the dog, and learning to drive. In more writing-related news though:

  • Back in October, I went to Ubud (Bali, Indonesia), where I spent a lot of time in a pool and read a lot of books, and also attended the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival. It’s a magical festival in an absolutely bonkers setting—there’s jungle everywhere, and monkeys looking to loot your belongings, and teeny tiny lizards that make a lot of noise, and bigger and scarier lizards that are determined to poop on you from your ceiling if they can get there. It’s humid and the people are so kind and curious. It’s cheap, and the food is very good. I was lucky to see some faves at the festival including Lindy West, Kate Richards, Yotam Ottolenghi, and Fiona Wright. New faves include Raymond Antrobus, Lemn Sissay and Lindsay Wong. I came back with a lot of books. I’ve compiled my tweets and ‘grams from the festival, so you can catch up if you want.
  • While in Ubud I was lucky to sit at the edge of the jungle with Lindy West, eating some kind of magical coconut pancake and chatting about Zelda and Stardew Valley for a while. Then it got serious and we discussed her latest book, The Witches are Coming. West is actually as much of a dreamboat as she seems to be from her writing. I wrote this interview up into a profile for the Saturday Paper.


You probably know by now that I’ve been working on a manuscript for a very long time. It started as my Honours work at RMIT in 2014, and grew from there. After almost a year of rejections and dead-ends, things have finally started to fall into place.

  • In December it was announced that my manuscript, titled Eating with my Mouth Open, won the 2019 KYD Unpublished Manuscript Award.
  • The manuscript has been acquired by NewSouth Publishing, a nonfiction-specialising publisher based in New South Wales. It will be available in book stores in August 2020—that’s just six months away!

The publication process is in full swing, and it’s full of surprises and new things to learn. I’m posting regular updates on Twitter, Instagram, and I’ll be blogging more regularly in the lead-up to publication.

Lord Mayor’s Creative Writing Awards shortlisting

lmcwa-text-250x118 I’m entirely thrilled to share that I have been shortlisted for the Lord Mayor’s Creative Writing Awards, in the narrative nonfiction category. This shortlist is packed with talented people, and I’m humbled to be in the fabulous company of some of my favourite Melbourne writers including Else Fitzgerald, Laura Stortenbeker and Alice Bishop.

The title of the essay that I’ve entered may sound familiar – it was also shortlisted for the Lifted Brow & RMIT non/fictionLab Experimental Non-fiction Prize in 2016, and since then has been significantly expanded for this competition. It’s about self-harm, body image, the ways people read one another’s bodies and finding peace with permanent scars. It’s fragmented and it was difficult to write, and it’s a piece that I’m proud of. This LMCWA shortlisting is lovely and validating, and I hope that the piece will find a good home in the near future.

Congratulations to everyone on the shortlist – this in itself is a big achievement, and worth celebrating in its own right.

The award winners will be announced on 8 December – best of luck to all!

Wheeler Centre Hot Desk Fellowship

The third round of the Wheeler Centre Hot Desk Fellowships for 2015 have kicked off, and I’m starting to settle into my space. I’ve brought in books and tea and scrappy manuscript copies for marking up and stabbing holes in when I get to the stabby part of the day.

Many, many, many thanks to the Wheeler Centre for having me – it’s a huge vote of confidence in my work. I’m chuffed, too, to be in such wonderful company with the other hot deskers, whose projects sound amazing. You’ll have a chance to hear a bit from each of the projects at the Next Big Thing event later in the year – I’ll post more details about this closer to the event.

My desk sign
My desk sign

Continue reading “Wheeler Centre Hot Desk Fellowship”

Scribe Prize Longlist Announced

Image via Express Media

Yesterday the longlist for the 2015 Scribe Nonfiction Prize for Young Writers was announced. This prize, a collaboration between Express Media and Scribe Publishing, awards $1,500, 10 hours of editorial time with a Scribe editor or publisher, and a year worth of Scribe new release nonfiction.

I’m proud and a bit terrified to be part of this wonderful longlist, comprised of 12 writers. Included in the longlist are writers I greatly admire (Zoya Patel, Ellena Savage and Emma Marie Jones) and a bunch of writers I’ve not yet discovered, but can’t wait to read. Continue reading “Scribe Prize Longlist Announced”

Good News Update

It’s always hard, or at least a little strange, announcing your own good news. Part of me likes sharing happy achievements, while another part of me wishes that everyone already knew, so I wouldn’t be bragging. With writing news, I also struggle with embargoes. I’m not good at keeping secrets, so that when I finally can tell people I blurt at them like an excited six year-old. Continue reading “Good News Update”

Awards They Are A-Happenin’

We are well and truly in awards season, and it’s a fantastic place to be! I’m having my attention called to a heap of books that I probably wouldn’t otherwise pick up or consider. I’m swelling with pride and happiness for all the writers who are getting the recognition that they deserve.

In this “pride” category, I’m particularly thinking about yesterday’s Miles Franklin shortlist announcement. I’m proud because it’s made up entirely of women, and I’m proud because I feel like it represents a real breadth of writing – the Miles Franklin has been criticised in the past for over-representing rural, historical narratives. I’m proud because three of the women on this shortlist are debut novelists. Sometimes awards come round, and get given, and I think “NO! That doesn’t represent my feelings at all!”. This year’s Miles Franklin shortlist does represent my feelings. It’s in line with what I think is important, and the stories that I think should be appreciated. The winner of the 2013 Miles Franklin award will be announced on the 19th June.

In other award news, for the second time ever in history (ever), there is no winner for the 2013 Vogel Award. The Vogel Award is for an unpublished work by a writer under 35. It’s a brilliant prize, because it helps to foster promising young writers. The judges have said that they just couldn’t find anything among this year’s entries that deserved the prize. I’ve been thinking about what this decision (or lack of…) means for writers, and the state of the industry – what are the causes of being in this position?

Does no Vogel award mean that all the good books have been published? Does it mean that the really gutsy, complex stuff is being written by people over the age of 35? I suspect that the Vogel this year has simply suffered from what I like to call “The Scholarship Effect”. You know how schools offer scholarships (or any organization, really, and anything that appears to be hard to get), but you don’t bother applying for them, because you imagine all these other, far more worthy applicants waiting in the wings? And then you do apply, and you get it, because you were wrong. I think that might be what’s happened with the Vogel. Maybe there were people worthy of the award that just didn’t know about, or have the confidence to enter the Vogel Award this year.

Also, there are thin years and there are fat years. In keeping with Geordie Williamson’s comments on B+P, maybe it’s just a lean year.

Either way, just because the Vogel judges didn’t think anything contained the “special quality” they’re looking for, doesn’t mean there’s not still stacks of great books to read – as evidenced by all the amazing prizes recently awarded, and about to be awarded soon. There’s still time to read the whole Miles Franklin shortlist before the announcement in June – GO!


There’s been a bit happening here, so I thought a general update post might be in order.

First, my good news: I’m a program intern at the Melbourne Writers Festival! I’m there one day a week, and while I’ve only been there for two weeks, I’m having a great time. So far it’s involved lots of research, looking at writers and their work so that the festival can sort out who should talk about what, and when, and with whom. It helps the festival, but it also helps me: I’ve got the down-low on all the guests, so I know who to swoon over when the festival comes ’round. (Confidentiality agreements have been signed, so sorry folks, but it’s all under wraps!) I’m really lucky to be working on such an amazing festival, and with such a great team. I’ll be with the festival until September, and I couldn’t be more chuffed.

Thanks, BookWorld!
Thanks, BookWorld!

A big thanks has to go out to BookWorld, who kindly awarded me a signed copy of Charlaine Harris’s Deadlocked – a Sookie Stackhouse novel. They gave this book away on Twitter, and I won just for RTing. The Sookie Stackhouse novels are a big indulgence for me, so I’m feeling pretty lucky right about now.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been gaining a ridiculous amount of new followers via WordPress – hello! Welcome to LGWABP, I hope we have a long and happy relationship. Your presence here is so very welcome, but something of a mystery – WordPress stats haven’t seemed to track the reason for the spike. If you have time and inclination to comment, I’d love to know how you found me!

In other, non-wordy news, I’m getting right back into training in preparation for Run Melbourne in July – mental health is something close to my heart, as I’m sure it is for many people, so if you’d like to donate to the cause and make me feel more guilty about training to run this 5km, please do!

Emerging Writers’ Festival Program Highlights

ImageIt’s here! Last Wednesday night the Wheeler Centre packed out for the launch of the 2013 Emerging Writers’ Festival. This is the festival’s 10th birthday, and its first year under the direction of Sam Twyford-Moore. The program is freakin’ huge, and I’m excited!

Of course, the EWF holds a special place in my heart, as they’ve been immensely supportive toward me, and I interned with them last year. Melbourne’s great for festivals, and EWF is one of the many fantastic literary events happening right through the year. For two weeks in June, the EWF runs panels, workshops, performance events and networking opportunities for emerging writers. It’s a unique opportunity for us baby writers to get a foot in the door, and to meet people fighting the same good fight.

I had to hold off on this post for a few days, just because the program really is so big. I needed to sit down with some tea and a marker, and highlight what I want to attend, and then identify any clashing events, and make tough decisions which might very well change a few times before the actual events.

At this stage, it looks like I’ll be out and about for most of the two weeks of the festival. I won’t go through my entire itinerary, but here’s the things I found particularly exciting, and that I think you shouldn’t miss:

Festival Hub: Thousand Pound Bend. This might sound silly, but since the beloved Rue Bebelons shut down, I was eager to find out where the new watering hole would be. I like the choice of Thousand Pound Bend – it’s cosy, with couches and dim lighting. It’s significantly larger than Rue’s, which probably works in its favour, with EWF crowds no doubt swelling this year as it has each consecutive year since its start. They’ll also be running Late Night Live With Literary Magazines, which could be a great way to discover stuff you didn’t know about before, but also a talking point, and a way to connect with other people (like, strangers, friends you haven’t met yet) at the Festival Hub.

Pop Up Page Parlour. Usually, Page Parlour has been a one-day event in the Atrium at Fed Square. If you miss that one day, you miss out. The pop up idea is great – not only does it give me more opportunities to check out the merch, it also gives those who are selling things there far more exposure. Win-win.

Town Hall Writers’ Conference. This is where writers get together to impart all their secrets. The timetabling gods have looked kindly on this weekend, and I’ve got something highlighted in most blocks, with no clashes. Particularly exciting: The Control Room with Melinda Harvey and Connor Tomas O’Brien; Cutting it Short on short stories; Writing The Personal; and Critical Conditions on the culture of criticism.

Emerging Q & A. An insane panel line-up and an awesome event, I can’t wait to Tweet my way through this bad boy.

And really, really exciting is this year’s addition of The Writers’ Retreat program at the very beautiful Abbotsford Convent. This beautiful setting will be overrun by writers for the weekend, and a lot of the program is free. I’m most excited about seeing Kate Richards on the panel for Symposium: Writing and Health on Sunday, and Saturday’s panel on Writing About Food, which will include the tiny and loveable Romy Ash – who at last week’s Erotic Fan Fiction night at Wheeler, shared a story about stuffing a food critic like a chicken.

The word is that tickets are already selling fast, as EWF seems to be very much on the radar of Melbourne’s cultural calendar. Happy Birthday EWF, happy first festival STM, and a massive congratulations to the whole dedicated and hardworking EWF team for putting together such a brilliant program!

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