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Alumna in Focus: Pip Smith



21 February 2013

Pip Smith
"Don't be afraid to work for free, and get involved in projects just for the experience while you're still studying," says alumna Pip Smith.

Pip Smith MLitt '10 lets her imagination run wild on a daily basis. In fact, that is how she makes a living.

Signifying a dynamic career to date, she has had her poems and stories published in a number of publications and she co-directed the National Young Writers' Festival in 2012. Pip currently runs the monthly short fiction night Penguin Plays Rough which recommences on 21 February 2013, and has edited the group's first book The Penguin Plays Rough Book of Short Stories, launched at the Sydney Writers' Festival in 2011.

With excitement for her year of projects ahead, Pip shares her career experiences and passions with us.

1. What are your happiest memories about your time here as a student?

I loved being in an environment where everyone was on the same page, interrogating what they were interested in. You were instantly thrown into a community of people which I think is particularly important if you're working in a creative field - so many good ideas emerge from simply engaging in conversations with people who approach what you're doing from a different perspective.

2. Who was your favourite Professor while you were a student at the University of Sydney and why?

Judith Beveridge my poetry teacher, who taught me over three years. At the beginning of each semester she put together a reader of her favourite work. It was very comprehensive, like receiving a new anthology every six months. She has a wonder for poetry and was very patient with our work. She would bring the same amount of vigour to everything that anyone turned in, which created a spirit of freedom in the room, where all the ideas we brought to the table were welcomed.

3. What is your proudest achievement?

Bringing out The Penguin Plays Rough Book of Short Stories. I naively thought I'd be able to put it together in a few months, then a year later it was finally published. I pooled resources from a variety of avenues, scrimping and saving every way I could. It was pretty epic because we were matching each story with an illustrator and composer and it ended up being quite a big production.

4. Who inspires you?

So many people! I can't write in a vacuum - reading other people's work wakes me up. A recent poet that had that effect on me was John Forbes, an Australian who died in the 90s. He was part of that crew of poets who re-energised the poetry scene in the 70s, publishing work in New Poetry. Electric stuff.

5. What is the mantra you live by?

"Make the most of every opportunity" - but that can sometimes get you into tricky situations. I used to just say yes to everything, then get overwhelmed and have meltdowns. I'm gradually learning to only say yes to those opportunities that scare or challenge me in ways that energise me, not wipe me out.

6. What are your plans for the future?

I'm currently undertaking a Doctorate in Creative Arts at the University of Western Sydney so my plans for the immediate future are to finish it. I'd also really like to publish my first collection of poetry, which has been a long time coming.

Then I really want to go overseas for a while. I'd love to write for theatre, or for a project where I'm writing to task for something that's bigger than my own imagination. First, though, I've got to get through my DCA alive.

7. What advice would you give to students graduating from the University of Sydney?

Don't be afraid to work for free, and get involved in projects just for the experience while you're still studying. If what you want to do isn't out there, nothing is stopping you from having a stab at creating it yourself. After a while, good things (and paid gigs) will come from that.

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Contact: Kate Mayor

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