Sam van Zweden



getting published

She Works Hard for the Money (But There’s So Much More)

Something that’s come up multiple times across the Emerging Writers’ Festival is the idea that we shouldn’t be so focused on money, and I’ve really appreciated that people are raising this point. I think it’s really important.

While there’s definitely space to be concerned about being ripped off, there’s also a need to get some perspective. As an emerging writer, I’ve had to do a fair amount of writing/working for free- but I don’t feel ripped off at all, because what I’m getting out of those experiences goes beyond money.

For example, interning – I’ve met countless wonderful people, learned about what I’m actually capable of as a person, discovered new possibilities for myself and my career as a writer. Interning is one of those experiences that can potentially pay itself off non-monetarily, in things like networking opportunities and transferable skills. You know those skills that everyone wants, but that are impossible to get without getting a job? Interning’s a great way to get those skills!

Last night at the Industry Insider panel on Indie Publishing, Sophie Black (from Crikey) made note of the fact that she appreciates that low pay-rates need to be subsidized by giving the piece(s) the time they deserve editorially, helping to make them the best pieces they can be, and arming the writer with new skills and knowledge beyond just getting paid.

So while it’s important to value your work, and make sure you’re getting what you deserve for it, also be aware that what you get for your work might not just be about money. With so many indie publishing places hard-up for cash, it’s not always going to be possible to get a high pay-rate for your work. That’s not to say that these places should be turned down or not considered – “What you deserve” might include transferable skills, networking opportunities, a forum for your work, or extra attention to making your work the best it can be. Look past the money, with the bigger picture in mind, and look at what an opportunity really has to offer you.

Enter Sol on Verity La

Crack open a beer for me, my work has gone up today on the brilliant lit journal Verity La!

My poem, “Enter Sol” appears with an image by Danny Thomas. A big, huge thanks to editor Alec Patric for his help and support.

Verity La has featured some of my favourite writers and mentors, including Josephine Rowe, Nathan Curnow, Tiggy Johnson and Francesca Rendle-Short. I’m absolutely humbled to be joining those ranks.

Step by step, self-empowerment and self-indulgent posts

I’m feeling self-indulgent today. I very very rarely post about things that aren’t linked to literature in some way… But today I am. So please excuse my indulgence, I hope you get something out of this post despite its lack of literary references and insightful links.

I’ve been really feeling the pressure lately. I’ve committed myself to all these things that make me happy – but committment requires a follow-up.

I’ve committed myself to being a writer and poet. I’ve been published multiple times in the last few months, and made my way through to the Australian Poetry Slam finals for Victoria. It’s all quite overwhelming, and it feels like the universe has just clicked into place for me… Lucky me, it’s all working!
…The only thing about that is that the pressure to follow up with something better is building.  I’ve been approached about writing for other publications, people are asking me what’s next. I’m excited about where it goes but I’ve been unable to write lately, because I want everything to be good, to be the next piece I make into something I’m proud of and try to get out there, especially now that I’ve got my name out, I want to impress people. And so my pen’s run dry. I’m scared of stuffing it up – how do I keep being good, how do I get better?

I’ve also committed myself to losing weight and being healthy. In just over 4 weeks I’ve lost 4.5kg, and I’m starting to see it. And I’m feeling good about it, healthy food choices are starting to come naturally to me. This is all great, but I’m feeling pressure here too. My weight loss is starting to slow down after the first “easy” (not really easy) kilos have come off, I need to work harder. My goal weight seems so far away, sometimes it’s overwhelming. I have about 15kg to go before I’m anywhere near a “healthy weight”.

I’m currently going through my fifth or sixth bout of tonsilitis for the season, taking steroids this time because antibiotics just won’t do anything any more. I’m all sniffly, and the weather outside is looking like it wants to get me down… But despite all this, I feel pretty good about myself today.

Why? Because in the last few days, I feel like I’ve discovered the key. The big novelty-sized cliche key. The key to overcoming all this building pressure and dread at making things happen long-term.

“Step by step.” That’s all it is. I have no great story ideas in my head because I’m freaking out. But if I make myself sit down and write each day, eventually something comes – I’d forgotten that this was how I work anyway. I’d been spooked and lost touch with the way my brain works. If I sit down and work, eventually something comes.

And on the other hand – “bite by bite”. We had friends over the other night for a creativity love-fest, and there was cider and pizza involved. (For those cider-drinkers out there keen on losing weight – MERCURY DRY! 50cals a bottle. Other ciders are over 100cals. It’s a revelation). I could beat myself up over eating pizza with the boys. But instead I’ve stuck with the idea that it all happens incrementally. I ate pizza, fine. I don’t have to follow it up with an unhealthy meal or drink. I tackle the next bite sensibly.

I guess both these ideas (step by step and bite by bite) are just about making what happens MY responsibility. It’s not that the universe has smiled kindly down upon me – it’s that I worked mighty hard and good things happened. To continue the good things happening, continue working mighty hard. Simple, no? But that’s my realization.

Apologies again for such a diary-entry type post. I’m feeling really good today, and I thought that was worth sharing. I hope you get something from this post.

Voiceworks Launch!

It’s come around so quickly! Tomorrow night (23rd September), Voiceworks is launching issue #82, “Hunger”.

It’s at Bertha Brown, from 6pm. Head on down!

Featuring work from Sophie Clark, Dom Amarena, Krystin Low, Peter Dawncy, Trish Griffiths, Katherine Pollock, Eli Glasman, L. Phillip Lucas, Samuel Williams, Sam van Zweden, Amber Beilharz, Jack Madin, Anna Westbrook, Erin Lockington, Emily Dacy-Cole, Adam Carr, Jessica Seymour, Aaron Benson, Jenna Sten, Marco Antonio Ruiz, Suzannah Marshall Macbeth, Kavita Bedford, Vince Chadwick, Jessica McCausland and Tammy Law.

That’s right, that’s my name right in the middle there. So come on down, grab a copy, have a chat and a drink, and celebrate my first piece in PRINT! Real pages. With my words on them. Real pages that you can turn with your actual hands. NUTS!

Hope to see you there.


Sometimes people online have freaking awesome ideas. A while ago, Megan Burke did the Comment July Challenge. J Kaye does the 100+ Book Challenge. And now, I’ve been invited to participate in the #10bythen challenge.

The idea? Submit ten pieces by the 1st of October. It’s a big ask. A really big ask. I usually submit about 2 each month. So this will make me work incredibly hard – but I’ll give it a shot!

If you’ve got Twitter, you should join in with the #10bythen hashtag and get ten pieces out by the 1st of October!

Poetry Just 4 U

Officially dubbing this past week “success-a-palooza”.

Today marks the start of the Melbourne Writers Festival, which runs until the 5th of September.

I’m excited to have gotten tickets for Dog’s Tales, a night run by Chris Flynn which is usually on at the Dogs Bar in St Kilda, but for the MWF will spend a night at the Toff in Town. My dazzling non-fiction teacher Kalinda Ashton will be performing, as well as one of my favourite authors Josephine Rowe, and the woman who introduced to me the idea that short stories can be truly magical, Carmel Bird. Should be an incredible night!

Apart from this, I have some exciting MWF-related news: some of my micropoetry has been accepted for the RMIT Poetry 4 U program, which can be followed on Twitter throughout the festival, as well as selected pieces running across the LED screens at Federation Square between 12pm and 2pm daily throughout the festival. I’ve seen some of the entries from last year, and there was some great work, so follow the project or head down to Fed Square one day to check it out!

The general public are also invited to participate via Twitter, just add the #poetry4u hashtag to any nanofiction or micropoetry you might want to put out there.

Have a great festival!

My Face Hurts From Smiling

I could not smile any wider if I had instruments to help me do it.

In the last week, I have recieved two (yes, TWO!) acceptance letters from publications I love and respect. I’m not sure if it’s OK to publicize who they are before they’re released, so let’s just say that I’m in, I’ll be published, I’ll be pimping the hell out of these journals when they’re released, both to come out in the next few months.

It’s a funny experience – I’ve just had a moment where I went “Oh shit! People will be reading my writing!” Real people, with critical minds. That makes me a bit nervous…

I also now have this itch to write, follow it up, follow it up! Publication is not an end-point, it’s just the beginning.

Paying Off

One thing I’ve found essential in this writing game – a thick skin.

I’ve been submitting my work to magazines and journals for about a year now, and it’s a really bizarre process. Most times, you email off your submission and you don’t know whether they’ve received it or not, then you sit on your hands for the allotted amount of time before assuming you’re safe to send the piece off somewhere else.

Occasionally I’ll receive a “Thanks for your submission – we’ll get back to you shortly,” and when I do my heart bursts with joy at some (any!) sort of acknowledgement.

Only recently have I got entirely practical and a little bit anal about this thing, and made a spreadsheet which details which piece went where, when, and when I should hear expect to hear back from them – and then the contact details of who I plan to contact if I don’t hear back. That was one thing that became really clear to me throughout the EWF – if you don’t hear from an editor within the timeframe they give you (most submissions guidelines will tell you how long you can expect to wait), it’s absolutely okay to contact them to check what’s happened to your submission. Editors are people too. They get busy. They lose stuff. They experience technical cock-ups.

The last year has been a long haul of ‘submit/wait/submit somewhere else/wait again/maybe get an actual “no”/cry for a bit/submit somewhere else/wait … ” (ad infinitum). But after all this, I think I’ve finally gotten somewhere, folks!

Yesterday I received not one, but TWO emails that made my heart sing. One said, ‘yes, yes actually we would love to publish your piece!’… the other said they thought my piece had potential, made some suggestions for re-working, and encouraged me to re-submit it.

I won’t name names of publications here, because I have a feeling that’s not entirely kosher. Let me give you all a bit of a spoiler about your first acceptance letters though – they are ABSOLUTELY the opposite of rejection letters.

The rejection letters I’ve received thus far go something like: “Dear Sam, Thanks for your submission to ____. Due to the volume and quality of submissions we have received, and limited space in the publication, the editorial process has been difficult. We are sorry to inform you that we will not be including your piece in our next issue, however we encourage you to submit more work in the future. Regards, Editor.”

They’re so vague and soul-crushing. “BUT WHY!?” I’m screaming at my computer, “WHY!? What was wrong with the piece?”

Acceptance letters though? Nice. Lovely! None of this vagueness. They say yes, then they tell you exactly why they think you’re awesome. I kid you not. It’s such a just payoff for all the soul-crushing the last year has brought. Finally, finally, finally, I got something past an editor!

So keep your eyes peeled, kids, I’ll keep you updated as to WHERE my work will be appearing closer to publication date.

And maintain a thick skin. It’ll happen.

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