How being from a small town inspired Joshua Pomare to dream big
JUDGING by his impressive works of fiction and essays, one would never have guessed that Joshua had come from such humble beginnings – a horse-racing farm in the land-even-further-down-under.
Pomare is based in Melbourne now, where he dove right into developing his craft by soaking in the vibes from the booming creative scene and entrenching himself in the Australian literary community.
To date, his work has been published in several journals including Meanjin, Kill Your Darlings, Takahe, and Mascara Literary Review. He has also won, and been short and longlisted for a number of prizes include the KYD Unpublished Manuscript Prize.
He also produced and hosted a podcast called On Writing, during which he honed his interviewing chops, speaking to local and international authors including Joyce Carol Oates, John Safran, Dorthe Nors, E Lockheart, Chris Wormersley, and Sofie Laguna.
To add on, Pomare is about to release his debut novel, Call Me Evie, in January 2019.
You would think that now would be a good time for him to take a breather. No siree, not for New Zealand-born Joshua Pomare who, from the quiet city of Rotorua, let the small town charms inspire his dreams and encourage his imagination to fly.
Come October, he will be at The Ubud Writers & Readers Festival 2018 in Ubud on the Indonesian paradise island of Bali, where he will be speaking at Small Towns, Big Imagination.
Let’s get to know him a little bit better:
How do your roots of being from the land-even-further-down-under, New Zealand, inspire your writings?
Well, I think it’s impossible for any writer to divorce themselves from their formative years when they’re trying to write with honesty.
Until the age of 18, New Zealand (and my small hometown of Rotorua) was all I knew of the world and so when I try to write about the world in a meaningful way it’s always refracted through that sense of place and my attachment to my hometown.
Not only that, I feel my stories are all inspired by places.
In Call Me Evie, I set out to capture that eerie small-town claustrophobia of rural New Zealand by writing about a place called Maketu. It’s beautiful and brutal, it’s so small yet so rich with stories and characters.
Do your travels inspire your writings at all? If so, do share your experience on where and how?
Absolutely. Every time I travel I come home refreshed and brimming with ideas. One of my first published articles was a personal essay about my time in Delhi.
So much of Call Me Evie is set in and around Melbourne. I also spent a month in Thailand when I was younger and managed to produce almost 100,000 words, the entire story was driven by that sense of place.
The only time I’ve kept a journal was when I was traveling through South America and every time I come to Ubud, I can’t help but feel inspired.
Travelling pushes you outside of routine, and that is precisely where the best stories are found, and that is what makes good literature – life is happening, then suddenly something changes and your worldview is altered in some way.
What would you say are some of the biggest misconceptions about New Zealand?
Something people don’t realize about New Zealand is the fact we don’t actually have that many sheep.
At one stage there were twenty times as many sheep as there were people, but the population has steadily grown while the sheep population has fallen, and it is now approaching six sheep to one person.
We have fallen out of the top five countries for total sheep and we have about the same proportion of sheep to land mass as the UK. I doubt any of this will prevent the sheep jokes though.
What were you initially taken aback by when you first moved to Melbourne, Australia?
The culture in the city.
Melbourne is such a spectacularly diverse place, not just in terms of the people who live there (although Melburnians do pride themselves on multiculturalism) but the diversity of the cultural experiences available.
We have world-class galleries and exhibitions, a buffet of sporting events, a “foodie” scene to rival Paris, London or New York, a thriving literary community and Melbourne is an amazing incubator for emerging musicians.
It’s not just the cultural hub of Australia. For me, it’s the cultural hub of the world.
What are some aspects of the Australian culture you feel you have picked up over time?
Australians (and in particular Melburnians) are enormous coffee snobs. It’s like an entirely new vernacular in the coffee scene.
I’ve come a long way from my Mochaccino days, now I brew my own coffee every morning with my V60 pour over kit or my Aeropress. Like the Melbourne dress sense, coffee must be black.
Another aspect I picked up over time was a love for sports. Australia prides itself on over-achieving at the Olympics and in other sporting realms. I’ve come to love AFL, Rugby League, tennis, and soccer over the last decade of living in Australia.
Describe what we can look forward to during the Small Towns, Big Imagination session at the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival.
A great panel filled with ideas about what it means to take small town experiences and broadcast them to the world. I hope to interrogate the dark places of rural communities, and our obsession with small-town crime.
Tell us why this year’s Ubud Writers & Readers Festival is not to be missed.
Although this year I am a speaker, I have been to this festival as a guest in previous years and I sincerely believe it is the best literary festival I have been involved with. 2018 I suspect it will be the best year yet.
Firstly, it’s the 15th year the festival has been running and the team has pulled together some of the biggest names from around the planet.
I’m particularly excited to see two-time Miles Franklin winner Kim Scott, fearless feminist Clementine Ford, and Ndaba Mandela speaking about how his grandfather’s legacy.
There are also a number of local writers I’m eager to check out and meet.
The program this year is so rich, ideas surrounding Islam, #MeToo, natural disasters, and travel among innumerable others will be considered and interrogated by some of the world’s leading minds.
This year’s Ubud Writers & Readers Festival cannot be missed.
The Ubud Writers & Readers Festival is the major annual project of the not-for-profit foundation, the Yayasan Mudra Swari Saraswati.
It was first conceived of by Janet DeNeefe, co-founder of the foundation, as a healing project in response to the first Bali bombing.