How Isolation Has Made Author Jessie Tu Feel More Connected Than Ever Before
Novelist Jessie Tu is the powerful force behind the 2020 debut, A Lonely Girl Is a Dangerous Thing. The novel follows a former child prodigy violinist who struggles to find satisfaction in her adult life, using sex to fill the voids that leave her perpetually wanting.
It's a story about female desire, sexism, racism and relationships that every Australian should read. It's also part of The Reads. Collection, our new curated selection of memoirs and novels inspired by our book club, Reads. by Bed Threads.
The novel echoes the author's own life—Jessie spent 15 years training as a classical violinist before becoming a music teacher at a string of private schools in Melbourne, and working in politics and law. Now living in Sydney and working a journalist, Jessie has spent 2020 staying connected online and working on her second novel.
We caught up to find out more what life in 2020 has been like for her.
Generally speaking, what has life looked like for you during lockdown/times of restricted living?
Hours of long zoom calls with friends in America and Canada, Melbourne friends, evenings and weekends cooking for friends, lots of one to one conversations with friends in Sydney, lots of seeing my parents and sisters and brother and nephew and nieces. A lot of conversations and checking in on people. It's been perhaps the most intentionally connected year I've had as an adult. And I'm warmed by how many people are staying connected and writing. Also, long emails. Long emails are my favourite thing in the world.
It feels a lot like love.
Have you been writing this year? More or less than pre-pandemic times?
I'm writing all the time. It's like breathing for me. I can only know how I think about something by writing, so I'm doing it incessantly. I started the first draft of my second novel during the thick of the lockdowns here in Sydney, and I'm stuck on the last third. Patience is something I have to learn. I'm not a patient person. When I begin writing, I just don't stop. I want things done immediately. Learning to be patient is mandatory for any artist. I've been writing more since the pandemic, I think.
What has been the hardest part about life in lockdown?
No theatre or live comedy. That's what I miss most. I love being in a room with a bunch of people and experiencing art.
Is there anything in particular that you've missed this year?
My friend Ally and I had a trip planned and scheduled (and paid for!) to St Petersburg, Moscow, Helsinki and Copenhagen. We had organised it back in January, and I started learning Russian. I took it so seriously. My friend Kyle learned with me. Then COVID happened and we had to cancel it all. I dropped Russian, though I was at one point taking it so seriously, getting a tutor online and speaking with her every second day. I hope to get back to Russian one day soon. And maybe that trip will happen when the world inches closer to a norm. But I'm actually more eager to go back to Taiwan, which is where I was born. There's so much of my own country I have yet to see.
Have you experienced or noticed any positives of life during lockdown?
Selfishly, absolutely. My favourite thing to do on a Friday night is be at home with a blanket on the couch reading a great book, drinking hot chocolate. All my greatest loves are indoors; cinemas, books, cooking. I'm an incredibly domestic creature. So the lockdown hasn't altered my activities very much. I'm not at all someone who likes to go out and stay out at night. I'd rather be at home where I have all my comforts and books. The greatest positive during lockdown has been the long email exchanges I've been having with friends overseas. And the zoom calls. I value friendships just as much if not higher than my romantic relationship. And my friendships have buoyed me so thoroughly during this time.
What/who have you been most grateful for this year?
My family and friends. People are what make a life extraordinary. (Oh, and books. Which are written by people.)
As a writer, you might have better insight into how to stay healthy and look after yourself without the routine of a 9-5. What helps you to stay connected and keep perspective when you're spending a lot of time inside/alone?
Talking to people on the phone. Going for a swim or walk everyday. I have to get out of the house at least once a day. It's important for me to learn to pay attention to the things that don't scream for attention. Like the trees outside my house. I live in the most delightful, gorgeous quiet street in Darlington. I want to pay attention to the trees and the shrubs outside my neighbours houses. Many of us spend our lives looking at a screen for our jobs now. There's a beauty and intelligence to learning to direct your attention away from things that scream at us for attention. I'd rather pay attention to the silent things; like things in nature. Those are the most beautiful things in life, I think.
You can also follow Jessie on Instagram at @jessie_tuuu2.
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