Q&A with Jane Howard

Else Fitzgerald  

For the month of November, we are running our annual open call out for EWF 2016 (which you can find out more about here. We talked to some of this year’s amazing participants about their experience, which writers they are excited about at the moment, and what they’ve been up to since EWF15

Jane Howard is an arts journalist, critic, and researcher who has worked throughout Australia and the UK. In 2015 she was Kill Your Darlings’ theatre and performing arts columnist, her work has appeared in publications including ABC Arts Online, RealTime, and Fest. She is a regular contributor to Guardian Australia and The Lifted Brow.

Could you tell us about your experience as an EWF artist? What does the festival mean to you?

I was an EWF artist in ’14 and ’15, and both times has been such a joy. Writing can be a lonely pursuit, and getting to spend time intensely thinking, listening, and talking with your peers is so important. The most gratifying thing, though, has been realising just who my ‘peers’ are: getting thrown onto panels with people I love to read and deeply admire and realising these people are my colleagues is incredible.

What have you been up to since EWF15?

I travelled to the UK for the first time this year to take up a dream writing job with Fest magazine during the Edinburgh festival. I landed at 4pm, started seeing work to review at 10am the next morning, and barely stopped until our last issue went to print. It was terrifying and difficult and challenged me in so many ways, and was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. When I was there I thought I could never do it again; now I’m just itching to go back.

Who are some of the writers and artists that you’re excited about at the moment?

Rather than giving you an endless (ever changing, ever growing) list, I’ll just give a shout out to the incredible team at Exeunt Magazine – if there is a weak link amongst them I haven’t found it yet. They publish consistently intelligent criticism, feature articles, and commentary looking at theatre and performance from beautiful and unexpected angles, while also really considering the form their responses take.

Can you tell us about the last book you read and loved, and what’s currently on your to-read pile?

I’ve spent much of this year shifting between Scottish fiction and various review collections, and absolutely loved Janice Galloway’s The Trick Is To Keep Breathing – a beautiful meditation especially for anyone who has experienced intense grief – and Jessica Hooper’s The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic – I know very little about rock music, but her passionate and intelligent writing made me care so much.

I’m slowly making my way through Arlene Croce’s collected criticism Writing in the Dark, Dancing in the New Yorker – it’s brilliant, but massive – and the rest of my summer reading pile is currently Elena Ferrante’s books, Alasdair Grey’s Lanark, and Abigail Ulman’s Hot Little Hands.

What have you been working on lately?

I feel like I’ve just wrapped up all my big projects for the year! My final Kill Your Darlings column has been written, and I’ve just finished a major experimental criticism project called Simple Art Transfer Protocol, where over five days me and three other critics (plus some of our subscribers) sent 73 emails totalling over 33,000 words to build up a picture of how criticism can be a collaborative, international act.

Right now I’m mostly trying to figure out what shape 2016 is going to take for me and my writing, and conquering making the perfect elderflower and Prosecco jelly.

Where can we read some of your writing?

You can read Simple Art Transfer Protocol here, or catch up on my Killings column here. Or pick up the new issue of The Lifted Brow where I have an essay about some of the work I saw in London and the importance of theatre feeling violent, and the new RealTime where I have reviewed some dance featured in the OzAsia festival.

Have you got any advice for other emerging writers?

Find your peers and nurture your friendships – both online, but also in your physical corner of the world. Building a community of writers who can inspire you and make you laugh is so important, and a community who will be there for you when you’re crying and crippled with self-doubt is even more so.