Journalist Spotlight | Interview with Esther Anatolitis, Editor at Meanjin
This week the Medianet team had the pleasure of interviewing Esther Anatolitis, Editor for Meanjin, one of Australia’s most prominent literary magazines.
Can you tell me a bit about your experience in the media industry and what brought you into your current role at Meanjin?
I’ve spent twenty years heading up the kinds of arts and media organisations that strongly orient themselves to framing the public debate and championing the voices who lead those vital conversations. Festivals, galleries, magazines, ethnic and community broadcasting, regional arts, cultural precincts, national peak bodies… all of this work is patently creative, but it’s also civic, it’s political. And now, at Australia’s journal of record, editing Meanjin is something of a culmination of that work – as well as an open sea of possibility.
How has your previous work in the Australian arts scene and creative industries informed your approach to Meanjin?
David Ryding, Director of the Melbourne UNESCO City of Literature Office, put it beautifully in a recent panel discussion and really got me thinking! He described my leadership approach as collaborative and facilitative, as something I’ve carried across to this role, and I hope he is right, because that means a lot to me. My first steps were to establish the partnerships and cultural oversight that could best guide our work, including forming a Cultural and Literary Advisory, partnering with black&write! and Sweatshop Literacy Movement, and starting to reframe the overall structure to make sure our reading experience would always start with listening closely to First Nations Elders.
What are some of the challenges that come with working at a publication that relies on submissions?
Meanjin receives far more submissions and pitches than we can possibly publish, which is challenging for a lot of reasons! As well as the obvious ones, the biggest challenge for us is that it’s just not possible to offer everyone the kind of valuable feedback that could help develop a writing practice, or suggest other publication options. The last time we opened for general submissions, writers crashed our systems, and it took us nine months to get through all of the work that was proposed!
What has been the most memorable experience of your career to date?
Oh my. Too many to list! The Emerging Writers’ Festival celebrating twenty years, seeing the Regional Arts Victoria Small Town Transformations projects flourish across the state, following the magnificent careers of artists I worked with quite early in their practice, my year at the Bauhaus, my little book Place, Practice, Politics, opening Collingwood Yards, and of course, each and every Meanjin launch.
Is there any upcoming work from you or the Meanjin team we should keep an eye out for?
Meanjin presents ground-breaking essays alongside the nation’s finest poetry, fiction, memoir and experimental pieces. In each edition, Australia’s literary culture sets out its fiercest ambitions. Expect to read the work of well-known Australians alongside writers about to become well-known. It’s a subscription you don’t want to risk being without, especially as we continue reconfiguring who we are and where we’re going as a nation. As for my own work, you’ll keep seeing it I hope in a range of newspapers and journals, orienting contemporary politics to its rich cultural contexts, always challenging the myth of neutrality.
What perspectives and stories are you personally most interested in hearing about through your work?
I seek the finest work by the people who shape Australia, so that as readers we’re emboldened in our own civic resolve. The people who shape the nation aren’t necessarily in political or leadership roles, they’re our most critical and our most creative voices. They’re the Elders who carry the stories that have strengthened culture for countless millennia. They’re the poets whose work stirs our fire. They’re the critics who clarify our thinking. They’re the writers whose work we can’t do without. And reading their work alongside one another is expansive, it’s invigorating – it’s one of life’s great joys.
And lastly, what are the most important qualities you look for in submissions?
Rigour, clarity and conviction.