• Jessie Tu says the best writers had a lot of doubt. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
"I think there's a real freedom in, and liberation in actually allowing yourself to just say what you want to say, in plain language, on the page."
By
Zoe Victoria

10 Aug 2021 - 6:10 AM  UPDATED 11 Aug 2021 - 4:13 PM

The New Writer's Room Episode 3: Jessie Tu

In this episode Caitlin and Candice speak to Jessie Tu, author of 'A Lonely Girl Is A Dangerous Thing' about writing about desire and intimacy.

In the latest episode of The New Writer's Room, award-winning author Jessie Tu explains how she tackles the challenge of writing about desire and intimacy.

Tu is the author of the poetry collection you should have told me we have nothing left and the novel A Lonely Girl is a Dangerous Thing which was longlisted for the 2021 Stella Prize.

Tu's interest in writing about desire, particularly female desire comes from a deep place of anger. She is angry at the existence of what she calls a "gaping hole" of stories that deal with the desires of women.

"My anger is something that I hope will never diminish as I get older because that's really why I do what I do. Because I want to see the world change."

Her writing rails against the historical suppression of female desire. She says: "My interest always lies in the things that have not been talked about. Or the things that have not been allowed the space to be publicly discussed, things that are not commonly observed."

Tu is thankful that she continues to feel the anger which fuels her writing. "My anger is something that I hope will never diminish as I get older because that's really why I do what I do. Because I want to see the world change," she says.

For Tu, changing the world through her writing means being honest with herself and unafraid to put that same honesty on the page. "I think there's a real freedom in, and liberation in actually allowing yourself to just say what you want to say, in plain language, on the page."

Young writers tend to fall into the trap of using too many flowery words to convey their message, says Tu. She warns that good readers always pick up when an author is trying to compensate for their insecurities as a writer. 

One writer who has helped Tu understand how to overcome that insecurity is American author, Garth Greenwell. Greenwell's writing style achieves the simplicity that Tu strives for. She says, "His sentences are honestly likel seeing something outerworldly. When I read his sentences, it feels like magic...They're so simple and yet so majestic and honest."

"So much about him letting go and doing what he wants to do with his flesh is bound up in meaning that he gets to create himself. I'm not a gay man but there's something about that, that really connects with me as an Asian woman."

Greenwell has also helped Tu to reflect on the important of writing honestly about desire and intimacy. As a gay man who grew up in Kentucky, Tu explains, "His body was so politicised, he wasn't able to express his desires in a way that hetero people can...So much about him letting go and doing what he wants to do with his flesh is bound up in meaning that he gets to create himself. I'm not a gay man but there's something about that, that really connects with me as an Asian woman."

Greenwell's work inspires Tu to write without judging her own private desires. And she encourages other writers to do the same. "All our greatest writers had a lot of doubt," she says. But ultimately, she believes that you need to let go of that and just let the writing speak for itself. 

Listen to Jessie Tu on the latest episode of the New Writer's Room here

SBS wants to hear your story...because there's a writer in all of us. Submit your story of 1000-2000 words that speaks to the beauty and/or challenges of being Between Two Worlds in diverse Australia and you could win up to $5000 and kickstart your career. Entries are open from August 16-September 16. Go to www.sbs.com.au/writers for more information and register here to enter.

Listen to SBS Voices' new podcast, The New Writer’s Room, in the SBS Radio appApple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

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