2016 / Friday

The UTS Writers’ Anthology: springboard to a writing career

Danielle Williams

Cover of Anthology Seeds and Skeletons

Cover of Anthology Seeds and Skeletons

Mia Casey

Mia Casey

Zoe Knowles

Zoe Knowles

 

This year’s UTS Writers’ Anthology, Seeds and Skeletons, marks an important milestone for the annual collection of new writing. This edition is the 30th anthology to be published since it was first launched in 1982. In the years since, the anthology has launched the writing and editing careers of hundreds of graduates from the UTS’s acclaimed Creative Writing program, and cemented its reputation as one of Australia’s best collections of new writing.

Considering the impressive list of authors whose careers have been launched by the anthology, it’s no wonder this 30th edition was so eagerly awaited. Gillian Mears, Julie Chevalier, Bernard Cohen and David Astle are just some of the UTS alumni whose work has featured.

In his foreword, Graeme Simsion, author of The Rosie Project, considers the significance of the anthology. He sees it as not only as a springboard to a writing career, but as an important part of the author’s legacy, especially as it is often the early work that is most fondly remembered.

“Writing is generally about something, and the subjects we choose to address first are those closest and most important to us,” he says. “’Write what you know’ is part of it but we will also write what we care about, which is sometimes that drew us to writing in the first place.”

And so, this year 25 writers begin their  journey. All have been selected and nurtured through the process by a committee of six student editors. In a competitive process undertaken almost a year before the anthology is launched, the committee is selected by Debra Adelaide, an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at UTS and the anthology’s current coordinator. She has overseen the production of the book for the last eight years (in some instances in collaboration with fellow UTS academic and writer, Dr Delia Falconer).

For the coveted editorial roles, she received around 30 applications. Selecting the committee was not an easy task. “Honestly, some years I could have convened two or three really good committees,” she says.

“Over the years the anthology’s developed a more professional look about it. It’s published in a very professional way, right from start to finish. So we’re really proud of it, of course. It’s one of the student anthologies that is really very classy. And it’s got a lot of respect in the industry,” she says.

Zoe Knowles is one of this year’s editors. She’s completing the Masters of Creative Writing and currently works in publishing. She says that from a learning perspective, being involved with the anthology as an editor has been an invaluable experience.

“It’s been fantastic and also challenging. But it’s been really great to see how a book gets put together, from the very beginning to final publication,” she said.

For the editors, whittling 170 submissions down to just 25 final pieces was an enormous challenge. “Every editor reads the entire list and from that we had a series of meetings where we went through every single submission. We then voted and got a long list – we had about 50 to 60 stories on our long list. And then we debated among ourselves about which were ready to be published, and which should be published.”

But ultimately, it was those stories that best worked as stand-alone pieces of writing that made the cut.

“There was a lot of fantastic writing, really great writing. But we were essentially looking for completed stories. When it comes to the fiction we wanted to include, we wanted stories complete in their own right,” Zoe says.

Of course, it wasn’t just fiction that was selected. The anthology is a compilation of work from creative writing students across many styles and genres.

“We also wanted to make sure we showcased the variety of writing that the students produced. So we’ve got non-fiction, we’ve got fiction, poetry. We’ve even got a script in there,” she says.

The quality of the writing and expertise of the editors successfully quash any notion that a student-produced anthology can’t meet the standards expected from a commercially published book.

“We do a professional book with a completely amateur editorial team who are totally new to editing, book production, everything, in six months,” says Debra. “That means we do it in half the time it takes in the industry. It’s an amazing achievement.”

The success of the anthology – and of Seeds and Skeletons – is not only in its polished appearance and experienced veneer, it also reminds us that new writing is exciting and deserves readers. As Graeme Simsion says, “There are rewards and surprises for the reader throughout the UTS Anthology. The writers’ craft will only strengthen with time, but here is how they chose to use it first.”

The UTS Writers’ Anthology, Seeds and Skeletons, will be launched tonight by Catherine Keenan, in Sydney Dance 2 from 4.30-5.30. The announcement of the Guy Morrison Prize for Literary Journalism will follow.

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