If you’ve been following the Speakeasy blog for the past six months you will have become familiar with AWM intern TJ Wilkshire. Unfortunately, TJ’s time at AWM has come to a close, but before she headed off, AWM decided to take five with her to find out what it’s like being an emerging writer and arts worker in Australia.

tjYou’ve been an intern with AWM for six months. What are some of the things you’ve learned about the writing industry in that time?

During my internship I learnt that the writing industry encompasses so many more elements than I realised. From PR for writing, to event organising, to website maintaining. I had this idea in my head that you could write or teach writing, but the industry is so much more expansive than that.

You’ve interviewed lots of different writers, publishers, poets and booksellers. Do you have a favourite? Do you have any stories to tell?

It’s hard to pick a favourite. The first author I interviewed was Cass Moriarty and she was so lovely and supportive. We ended up having coffee and she introduced me to her friend and author Karen Foxlee, who I also interviewed. Michelle Law had the best answers and I’d love to interview her again. She was funny and insightful and honestly seems like the best person to hang out with.

I suppose the best story I have to tell is interviewing Jodi Picoult. I basically pestered publishing companies and publicists to interview as many authors as I could, and somehow I ended up with thirty minutes on the phone with a New York Times best-selling author.

In addition to being intern extraordinaire, you’re also a writer, poet, and painter. How do you juggle working across all those mediums? What is it about each that draws you?

I love to always have something I’m working on. Writing and painting have always been my passions and in the past year or so they have started to inform each other. I do a lot of research on birds for my post-graduate thesis and that gives me creative writing inspiration as well as aesthetic inspiration. I never want to only do one thing with my life. There are so many things I want to do. Sometimes I get myself into situations where, for example, I have an exhibition, assignments due, writing commitments, and then something else I’ve somehow gotten myself into at the same time like helping out a photographer on a shoot for three days or speaking at a university up in Noosa and I get really stressed and think to myself ‘why can’t I just not have interests?’ But writing always comes first at the end of the day.

Writing, either creative or not, has always drawn me in because I love learning and I love the way an author can write one thing, but a million meanings can come through. The first poet I fell in love with was actually Edgar Allan Poe. The same goes for art. There is some art that has political or social meaning, but mine is more how I see the world: I painting animals and I like them to be colourful, and yet a million meanings come through.

How do you feel as an emerging writer and creative in Australia right now? With a contracting arts sector and cuts to arts funding, do you think it’s getting harder to be emerging? Or do you think there are more opportunities and frontiers to emerge on?

I think artists and writers have always had a difficult time. I once dropped off some art at a gallery in Byron Bay and the owner asked if the prices I was charging covered my costs. Before I could answer, she said ‘they never do, do they. You poor things.’

I do worry that marginalised people and minorities will miss out on opportunities because of these arts funding cuts and creative careers will become something limited only to the privileged.
I do love how there are more frontiers to emerge on and I think this can definitely widen your audience and help you network. More blogs and websites publish writers and it helps to just get your name out there.

What’s next for TJ Wilkshire?

I’m in my final semester of my Writing, Editing and Publishing Masters at UQ, so I’ll be mainly working on my thesis for a few months. I’ve been working on a novel that I’d love to finish by the end of this year and at the same time I started writing and illustrating a children’s book so I’d like to finish that too. After my Masters I do want to continue studying. Eventually I would like to do a PhD in Creative Writing, but we’ll see.

You can find out more about TJ’s art here.

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