Sam van Zweden



kill your darlings

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  • In December it was announced that my manuscript, titled Eating with my Mouth Open, won the 2019 KYD Unpublished Manuscript Award.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.

Kill Your Darlings 13 Is Here

I’ve been poor, and skipped the last few issues of the beautiful Melbourne lit journal Kill Your Darlings. Last Thursday saw the annual KYD Trivia Night in Carlton, which launched issue 13, and I’m pretty excited to have purchased a copy. It’s an (*ahem*) killer issue, which ticks all the boxes for things that seem cool to me: Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites is chalked up as the Next Big Thing, and she’s written an article about her experience writing it. Game of Thrones has me, like most of the world, under its spell, and Brad Nguyen has contributed a pretty fantastic piece of criticism about it to KYD. And I’ve been admiring Jo Case’s work forever, and am totally chuffed that her book Boomer & Me has been doing so well since its recent publication – there’s an extract from the memoir in this KYD issue. I’m loving it.

And, of course, the trivia! This trivia night is one of my favourite nights of the year – there’s writer, critic, and bookseller spot-o, an opportunity to confirm or deny that I am exactly as bookish as I hope, money-raising for a great publication, and sweet prizes. Our Dream Team has been a winner and a second-placer, as well as a door-prize winner. Our luck continued this round, as we placed second to Team Croggers’ very respectable bookish smarts, and my raffle over-purchasing paid off with a door prize. Can I put KYD Triv accolades on my CV? As if any respectable employer wouldn’t swoon over that.

Thanks for a great night, KYD, we’ll be back for more next year!

On Killings

Today the lovely folk at Killings (the Kill Your Darlings blog) have been kind enough to publish an article of mine. It looks at the discomfort I felt when confronted by honest, humble musicians in a ridiculously large arena, and with a stupid amount of fame.

You can read that article here. Big thanks to Ronnie Sullivan for her eyes pre-publication, and to Imogen Kandel’s patience and commitment to providing quality editorial.

Essential Reading

I really, really enjoyed Sophie Cunningham’s essay in Issue Six of Kill Your Darlings, titled “A Prize of One’s Own: Flares, Cock-forests, and Dreams of a Common Language.” Now it’s online, so you can read it too. And it’s not just a great title (which it really, really is) but it’s also got some really shocking statistics in there. Very much admire Sophie’s work to correct this, because it’s so easy to pinpoint a problem and whinge about it, but to make moves toward a better state of things is hard. I am looking forward to seeing the Stella Prize take off.

Going Down Digital

You know Going Down Swinging, right? It’s a pretty nifty literature journal, jam packed with tasty pretty things. It’s produced on decent quality paper. It comes with a CD of spoken word, which is cool because it recognizes that not all poetry is page-bound…

In this same tradition of not being scared to embrace different forms, Going Down Swinging are moving bravely forward into the digital realm, and it’s quite exciting. Other journals have moved this way already – Sleepers Almanac have an iPhone app. Many journals have an online component which complements the print, such as Meanjin or Kill Your Darlings. But online-only publications? Bravery.

The next issue (#31) of Going Down Swinging will be a digital publication which “mixes video and animation, audio, richly coloured visual art, photography, and interactive text” – so not a boring page-on-a-screen kind of switch. My brain can’t quite picture what this will be like, so I’m excited!

The launch for Going Down Swinging issue #31 will be happening this Friday (17th June) at The Builder’s Arms, 211 Gertrude Street in Fitzroy. It starts at 8pm, and there’s going to be poetry and story-telling a-plenty. There’s also a promise of baked-goods, and that’s a good reason to go anywhere.

KYD Picks A Winner

I woke up this morning, sat down with my coffee, started the routine internet reading catch-up before I start my day… and I ran into a fantastic review by Misha Adair on the Kill Your Darlings website.

Hang on, I thinks… Misha Adair? I know this man! 

Go read the review. It’s a fantastic, much-more-readerly review of The Ask than mine from last week. You’ll be seeing a lot more of this man’s name in future – he works his arse off and I’m really so so happy for him that a publication as fantastic as Kill Your Darlings has picked up his work.

A smile to my day.

Torpedo pioneering for Australian journals

I’ve just been listening to a great interview between Estelle Tang and Chris Flynn.

Estelle Tang is creator of book blog 3000 Books, and online editor for literary journal Kill Your Darlings.

Chris Flynn is the great mind behind literary journal Torpedo. His writing appears everywhere. Really. Everywhere.

And now he’s being interviewed everywhere. One case of this is Estelle Tang’s interview (linked above) for Kill Your Darlings.

Prior to listening to this, I knew Chris Flynn was not an Aussie boy, so the accent wasn’t a shock. But my goodness, hasn’t Estelle Tang just got a beautiful voice!? I feel like Ursula the Sea Witch out of Disney’s The Little Mermaid… I want her voice!***

Chris Flynn is hot stuff right now – more than usual – because his love-child Torpedo is the first Australian literary journal to make the leap to being available exclusively on eReaders.

In their interview, Chris and Estelle discuss what this change means for publishers and writers, and why this move was the best for Torpedo.

Will this move be the big one for other journals to follow? Goodness knows we’ve got so many of them in Australia, particularly Melbourne, and all the reasons Chris Flynn outlines above are pretty great reasons for everyone to make this jump to eReaders. I know the next Sleepers Almanac will be published online, but I’m not sure if that means they’re going as far as cutting out the print copies altogether.

I’m a lover of my book collection. And other people’s book collections. I love the section of my bookshelf that has lit journals on it, all lined up in their groups and numbered accordingly. At the moment, money is a massive consideration for me, and while I can afford to buy a journal or two every now and then, I cannot afford an eReader.

I’m upset that Torpedo are abandoning people like myself, and really hope that if other journals follow suit, they keep their print copies in existence also.

*** NB: The sea witch out of Disney’s version, who harmlessly “spells” away Ariel’s lovely voice and keeps it. NOT the sea witch out of the Hans Christian Anderson version who cuts out her tongue. Not that one. No.

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