Posted on February 25, 2019 by ACT Writers Centre

James Halford is a Brisbane writer who has spent extended periods in Latin America and often writes about the region. His fiction, creative nonfiction and criticism have been published in Best Australian Stories, Meanjin and Sydney Review of Books. He holds a literature degree and a creative doctorate from the University of Queensland, where he now teaches. James participated in the 2017 HARDCOPY nonfiction program. Applications for 2019 (nonfiction) are open until 15 March. Apply now

Where are you up to with your writing?

I’m really excited about the publication of my first book, Requiem with Yellow Butterflies, which will be published in March 2019 by University of Western Australia Publishing. It’s a Latin America travel book, a love story and a homage to some of my favourite writers from that part of the world. I also teach literature and creative writing at the University of Queensland, so I devote a fair bit of time to writing lectures and academic papers. It’s a tricky balancing act, but I genuinely love teaching. Even if it occupies a lot of time in the short term, I’d like to think that in the long-term it will nourish my creative work.

When you look back on your HARDCOPY experience, what are your reflections?

The timing of the 2017 program was very fortuitous for me. I happened to meet my publisher Terri-Ann White through HARDCOPY just as I completed a full draft of my manuscript. I had been working on it for three years by that stage as part of a PhD in creative writing at UQ with the luxury of a postgraduate scholarship, so it was already reasonably polished. I’d published substantial sections in little magazines and worked with good academic supervisors and editors. Despite these advantages, it’s entirely possible the book wouldn’t have found a publisher without HARDCOPY. Every first book needs a lucky break.

What was the most productive part of HARDCOPY for you?

I suspect most early career writers are drawn to a program like HARDCOPY by the prospect of pitching directly to industry gatekeepers. For me, though, the contact with other writers and with the team at the ACT Writers Centre was equally valuable. It’s energising to spend three weekends in Canberra with talented, knowledgeable people. In addition to learning a lot about the Australian publishing industry, I also learned how to talk about my book in a less academic way – a language that publishing people understand. That’s extremely valuable.

What’s your advice for those considering applying to HARDCOPY?

In my experience, one opportunity tends to lead to another. If you get accepted into a prominent national program like HARDCOPY, you’re automatically in a strong position to apply for funding support from local and state government arts organisations to assist with flights and accommodation. I know the ACT Writers Centre also have some options to help out. So even if you’re in a far flung state and hard up for a crust, it’s definitely worth applying and exploring your options.

What’s next for you?

A long, ambitious novel that has obsessed and tormented me for years. You’ll need to be patient, dear reader!

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