UQP acquires debut short fiction collection by The Next Chapter’s Adam Thompson
Late last week, University of Queensland Press announced that it had acquired the rights to publish Born Into This – the debut collection of short stories by 2018 The Next Chapter recipient Adam Thompson. We spoke with Thompson – and with UQP publisher Aviva Tuffield – about the news.
Adam Thompson, author
Tell us about the work you’re publishing. What draws these stories together?
The work is titled Born Into This and it is a collection of short fiction set in my homelands of lutruwita (Tasmania). While the voices are uniquely Tasmanian (authenticity is important to me), some of the themes – such as identity, racism and heritage destruction – are common across the country.
The connecting thread between these stories is reflected in the title: Born Into This. Aboriginal people inherit values and an identity that are different to those of the majority of ‘Australians’ – yet we all have to live together. This wrestle between cultures, values and rights creates a whole range of interesting scenarios – some of which I have tried to capture in these stories. The rapidly changing world adds another layer of complexity.
Where were you up to with this collection when you started The Next Chapter scheme?
Before I started The Next Chapter scheme, I had written about ten stories. I am a fairly new writer. I began writing short fiction in late 2016 – but I was writing very sporadically. I got a bit more serious after I won a short-story competition. It was then that I applied for and received an Arts Tasmania grant to be mentored by Tasmanian writer, Kate Gordon. And it was in the following 12 or so months that I wrote the majority of the stories that I had going into The Next Chapter.
'I have never had a creative writing education, so I found the feedback extremely helpful – and still do!'
Tell us a little about your process of working with your mentor, Cate Kennedy, and how your work has changed over the past year.
I would describe my mentorship with Cate Kennedy as relaxed and supportive. Cate and I respected each other’s busy lives – so we weren’t too demanding of each other. Basically, I sent Cate my existing stories plus new ones that I wrote during the mentorship, and she sent them back with detailed notes. We went back and forth a few times. I have never had a creative writing education, so I found the feedback extremely helpful – and still do! I often refer back to Cate’s notes for guidance, and to the great resources she sent me.
I really admire Cate’s work – particularly her short fiction. If I were to name something about Cate’s mentoring that I found to be the most beneficial, I would say it was her advice around ‘immediacy’ and keeping the reader immersed in the story. Not that I have mastered that – but I certainly aspire to. The knowledge Cate shared of the [publishing] industry and of industry people has also turned out to be valuable to me.
How does it feel to be bringing this work into the hands of readers?
Strange! I imagine it is normal for a writer to have mixed feelings about getting their work ‘out there’. It’s a thrill to think people will be reading my stories and thinking about them (hopefully) after they have put the book down and gotten on with their day. But I have woven a lot of myself and my own life experiences into my work, so I feel exposed, which is a bit scary – like I’m about to walk out on stage with no clothes on.
That being said, I really can’t wait for it to be published – and I can’t stress enough how stoked and grateful I am to be teaming up with Aviva Tuffield and UQP. I am really looking forward to people reading this collection in its entirety. I think it is much more than the sum of its parts – which a good collection should be.
Aviva Tuffield, publisher
How has your awareness and interest in Adam’s writing developed – and what drew you to these stories, this writing?
I can’t remember if I first took notice of Adam Thompson when he was announced as a 2018 Next Chapter recipient, or because I read his story ‘Honey’ in Kill Your Darlings, which was highly recommended to me by another incredible Aboriginal writer, Ellen van Neerven. But whichever came first, Adam has been in my sights for a while! Once his mentorship had ended and I finally had the opportunity to read his completed manuscript, I was struck by the freshness of his voice, and the intelligence and punchiness of the stories: each one forces you to look at the world in a different way.
'I was struck by the freshness of his voice, and the intelligence and punchiness of the stories: each one forces you to look at the world in a different way.'
In a bookselling/publishing climate that can be circumspect about short-story collections, what drives you to choose and publish this kind of writing?
I adore the short-story form so I’m never going to shy away from publishing them, whatever the current assessment of the market for them is. That’s always shifting, in any case: they’re in vogue … they’re out again … they’re back! The best short stories are so satisfying – whole lives compressed into just a few pages – and don’t provide all the answers, so you’re often still thinking about them days or weeks later.
Has The Next Chapter scheme been a part of your connection to this book? If so, how?
Yes, definitely. All The Next Chapter fellows are on publishers’ radars because we know the fellows are having a year-long intensive mentorship with a respected writer and so are receiving invaluable advice and insights into the writing process. And on top of that they are given a series of workshops on the publishing industry and the various stages of the publication process, along with personal introductions to various publishers. That’s how I finally got to meet Adam and to express my interest in his work to him directly.
I think The Next Chapter scheme is an invaluable opportunity and I particular appreciate that it is targeted towards writers from marginalised communities who often don’t have access to self-funded – and often expensive – writing programs, residencies and mentorships, which usually include some kind of links with, or access to, publishers. So The Next Chapter is helping me to discover writers in new ways too.