How does a Sick Little Monkey become a taxi driver, film librarian and author? Just ask Jon Steiner.
The American-born writer graduated from New York State’s Vassar College in 1993 where he majored in film, before pursuing a music career in Texas with his college band, Sick Little Monkey. There, he drove taxis to earn extra money before the band moved back to New York nearly four years later.
In 2000, Steiner moved to Australia. Five years later, he enrolled in UTS’s Graduate Diploma of Creative Writing.
“I was working at the ABC while I completed the course,” recalls Steiner. “I’d have a three-hour class on Thursday nights so it took me right out of working with databases all day and into this creative outlet, which I loved.”
Over the next three years, Steiner completed the degree while also working full-time as a film preservation coordinator at the ABC. (He has since taken a step up the corporate ladder and now supervises the film preservation coordinator.)
“The great thing about the course was that all the lecturers had real-world experience. They were all writers and film-makers and creative producers.
“At the time I was living in Darlington, so essentially my whole world was in this little two-kilometre radius. I would just go to a pub after class and fill up pages and pages of a notebook writing down story ideas.”
He even formed a writing group within the first few months of the course. It’s a group that still meets regularly and fellow member, UTS design Lecturer Zoë Sadokierski, even designed the cover of his first book – The Last Wilkie’s and Other Stories.
The Last Wilkie’s, as Steiner affectionately refers to it, is a reflection of the author’s eclectic life and is loosely based around people looking for their place in the world.
“I agonised a bit over the running order of the book, but the unifying theme is about people discovering themselves and how they fit in with the rest of the world, which is an ongoing theme in my own life.”
When it comes to his writing, Steiner says he draws inspiration from historical explorers, like Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan, as well as writers including American novelist David Foster Wallace.
“For me it’s about seeing something interesting and wanting to preserve it. I think that ties into working in the archives at the ABC as well – I want the stories to be there forever and I want characters to be saved.”
With a job he loves at the ABC, a five-and-a-half-year-old daughter and family life, Steiner is realistic about the role writing plays in his life.
“I don’t really entertain the illusion that I will write full-time eventually, I’m just enjoying having my first book published. But I will continue to write scraps of short stories and maybe publish another book.”
Before then, Steiner has another creative project in the works – writing the film script for Reuben Field’s adaptation of the book Strange Places. As always for Steiner, it’s a case of ‘watch this space’!