With a list of past contributors that includes such Oz lit luminaries as Patrick White, Peter Carey, Elizabeth Jolley, David Williamson, Judith Wright, Thea Astley, Xavier Herbert, Bruce Dawe, Frank Moorhouse, Manning Clark, Christina Stead—to name just a few—the pages of Overland have long been considered one of Australia’s premier literary storehouses.
However, there is much more to the magazine than simply promoting the who’s who of Australian intelligentsia. Overland, like all good journals should be, is active in promoting and encouraging Australia’s emerging writers. The Overland Victoria University Short Story Prize for New and Emerging Writers is currently open and offering $8000 dollars in prizes, as well as publication and serious exposure for the winning authors. The doors are also about to open for The Overland Judith Wright Poetry Prize for New and Emerging Poets. So check out the links for more details.
Radically political, Overland has a long-standing commitment to providing a platform for dissenting opinions, marginalised voices, and alternative viewpoints. That being said, a romp through the pages of Overland is not all socialist manifestos or scenes from Zola. There is a wonderful eclecticism, which has seen recent issues include a short story by 19-year-old Stephen Pham, an article on the leftist politics of steampunk fiction, and a fascinating and provocative editorial on the ongoing epidemic of American mass shootings by Overland editor Jeff Sparrow.
Speakeasy recently caught up with Jeff.
Speakeasy: Overland announces itself as ‘the most radical of Australia’s long-standing literary and cultural magazines’. What does this ideological stance mean to the journal’s content, in particular the creative content (e.g., fiction, poetry, etc.)? In what ways do you look for this ethos to be reflected in submissions?
Jeff Sparrow (JS): We are a political literary journal. That doesn’t mean that every poem or story must be about striking coal miners or the plight of refugees. Rather that, both with essays and creative work, we look for writers who have something to say and know how to say it; that while we seek to publish fine writing, we’re not simply after belles-lettres so much as work that engages with the questions of its era. But really, the best way to get a sense of what Overland publishes is to look at previous issues.
Speakeasy: Despite remaining committed to the print journal, Overland’s online presence seems to offer further opportunities for the exchange of opinions in a more dynamic and immediate way than what is available to more traditional print media. Can you speak a little about this and how the foray into online publishing has altered what Overland is capable of?
JS: As you say, Overland is still very much committed to the print journal. Most writers prefer publishing in print and it’s still the favoured option for many readers.
At the same time, we are increasingly devoting resources to our website, which publishes new material most days.
Online publishing has several great advantages. It’s instant, for a start, and so can respond to current debates in a way that a quarterly print journal simply can’t. It also facilitates a dialogue with readers: the Overland blog fosters a very lively ongoing debate about culture and politics. Finally, you can publish different kinds of content online. For instance, we’ve just put online our first ever selection of spoken-word poetry, a really exciting new venture for us.
Speakeasy: Overland has a long and proud tradition of publishing some of Australia’s most celebrated writers. This legacy can often be daunting to emerging writers. That being said, Overland recently published a story by 19-year-old Stephen Pham. What advice would you give to emerging writers who would love to see their work published in Overland?
JS: It’s important not to think of publication as an end in and of itself, but to ask why you want to see a particular piece of work in print. What are you trying to do with it? What do you seek to convey? When you are clear on those answers to those questions, it’s a lot easier to assess the writing.
Specifically, when it comes to Overland, we encourage writers to get involved. Visit the website, engage in the discussions, take out a subscription. When you interact with the journal in its various forms, you can get a sense of what its project is, and then you can decide whether it’s something of which you want to be a part.
Speakeasy: I know it’s cutting it close to the deadline, but could you tell us a little about The Overland Victoria University Short Story Prize for New and Emerging Writers and The Overland Judith Wright Poetry Prize for New and Emerging Poets?
JS: Both prizes are attempts to provide opportunities for new writers. The Australian publishing industry is going through lean times at the moment, and it’s very difficult for emerging writers to catch a break. These prizes offer substantial cash prizes as well as publication, and they’re exclusively for writers who have not yet had a book published under their own name. There’s more details about both on the Overland website.
Speakeasy: The Overland website is announcing two new projects: an online fiction series and Audio Overland. Could you tell us a little about these projects, and any associated publication opportunities that our readers might be interested in?
JS: As I mentioned, we’re putting a lot of resources into the Overland website. As part of that, we’re using the site to expand the amount of fiction we can publish, as well as providing opportunities for emerging editors. Next year, we’ll be supplementing our print editions with a certain number of special online fiction supplements, showcasing the work of emerging writers. We will shortly announce a similar project for poetry, including spoken-word and digital poetry.
Speakeasy: Is there anything else you would like to mention to our readers?
JS: Again, I’d encourage people to get involved. We are a not-for-profit organisation, depending on the support of our community. Overland subscriptions are incredibly cheap. If you like the project, consider becoming a subscriber.
For more details about anything mentioned above, visit the Overland website. Remember that entries for The Overland Victoria University Short Story Prize for New and Emerging Writers close midnight, 31 August 2012, so get busy
Julian Thumm is a freelance editor and writer. He has degrees from The University of Queensland and The University of Adelaide. He has worked with the Australian Journal of Communication, The University of Queensland Press, and Corporate Communication International through The City University of New York. He is currently based in Brisbane.