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Working with Words: Jazz Money

Read Monday, 1 Nov 2021

Jazz Money is a poet and artist of Wiradjuri heritage, currently based on sovereign Gadigal land. Her first book, how to make a basket, is a lyrical poetry collection which examines the tensions of living in the Australian colony today. We spoke to her about the influences and collaborative approach that define her writing. 

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Photo credit: Hannah Leser

What was the first piece of writing you had published? 

Aside from a teen millennial fashion blog with a handful of followers (lol) my first *proper* piece of published writing was a poem called ‘Moreton Bay Fig’ in Rabbit Journal. To hold a physical copy of my words felt so incredibly precious. And even more precious was the thought of being read by other people.

What’s the best part of your job? 

I have too many jobs and they’re all wonderful. Between writing, digital production, filmmaking, art making, teaching and collaborating with other folk, I am constantly saying out loud ‘I have the best job.’ In particular, I am so lucky to have opportunities to work between mediums and to collaborate with other First Nations folk to realise their own works.

What’s the worst part of your job? 

Maybe trying to do too much all at once? That and searching through my poorly catalogued emails looking for deadlines.

What’s been the most significant moment in your writing career so far? 

Winning the David Unaipon Award for an unpublished manuscript in 2020 was the moment that my writing suddenly became a possible career. It remains the hugest honour to have been recognised in that way and led to the publishing of my first book how to make a basket.

I think that the more important question is how do we get more platforms to people who don’t regularly have opportunities for self-expression.

What’s the best (or worst) advice you’ve received about writing? 

Best: To read widely and to be actively curious about the world.
Worst: Say yes to everything. I’m trying to unlearn the scarcity mindset of the creative sector.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve ever heard or read about yourself? 

I was getting a coffee once when the person who passed it to me said ‘You’re Jazz Money! The poet!’ And that was truly shocking. I felt something between thrilled and paranoid to be recognised as a *poet*!

If you weren’t writing, what do you think you’d be doing instead? 

All the other things! Maybe if I wasn’t doing the other things I’d be writing more.

There’s much debate on whether creative writing can be taught – what’s your view? 

Storytelling is an art, but writing is a skill that can be taught and as far as I can tell, most good writers get there through practice. Reading is an education all of its own! I’ve learnt more about creative writing through reading than through classrooms. I think that the more important question is how do we get more platforms to people who don’t regularly have opportunities for self-expression.

What’s your advice for someone wanting to be a writer? 

Have fun with it!

Do you buy your books online, in a physical bookshop, or both? 

Both! COVID wasn’t going to stop my consumption of books so I went online, but there is no substitute for the magic of a bookstore. 

If you could go out to dinner with any fictional character, who would it be and why? 

I’d like to hit the clubs with Paul from Paul Takes the Form of A Mortal Girl by Andrea Lawlor. Perhaps a cuppa with Marco Polo in Calvino’s Invisible Cities. Or maybe just a nice sit with the tree from The Giving Tree. And to yarn with any character by Alexis Wright would be world-expanding.

What’s the book that’s had the most significant impact on your life or work – and why?

In 2015 I moved to New York with a copy of Dorothy Porter’s Love Poems and would read it every day on the bus to work. That collection of gorgeous complex queer love was the thing that led me to trying poetry as a form and it completely changed the trajectory of my life.

Jazz’s novel how to make a basket is out now through UQP.

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Acknowledgment of Country

The Wheeler Centre acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the traditional owners of the land on which we work. We pay our respects to the people of the Kulin Nation and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders, past and present.