Sam van Zweden




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  • In December it was announced that my manuscript, titled Eating with my Mouth Open, won the 2019 KYD Unpublished Manuscript Award.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


The wonderful folk at Verity La have been doing a series of posts on the topic of whether “a new archaeology” has been created by the rise of digital publishing.

There have been some great people saying some great things on the forum up to this point – I think I mentioned Jeff Sparrow’s post a few weeks ago, I found his piece particularly enjoyable. Today I joined all those great people… Whether I’ve said something great or not, I’ll leave for you to decide.

You can read my post here.

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.


Have you heard about Ricochet Mag?

It’s a new literary journal, which publishes emerging writers. Their first issue went live today, and it contains my poem, “The Tick-Tock Polka”. Go check it out, there’s some great work in there. And keep an eye on their blog, they post all sorts of helpful things about getting published and deadline reminders and whatnot.

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