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May 1, 2024

Member Spotlight: Sam Elkin

We’re thrilled to share our May Member Spotlight features Sam Elkin! Sam won an ASA/CA Award Mentorship in 2021 and has now had his first book published, Detachable Penis: A Queer Legal Saga.

Sam Elkin is a writer, lawyer and radio maker. Born in England and raised on unceded Noongar land, Sam currently lives on unceded Wurundjeri land near the Maribyrnong River. He is a co-host of 3RRR radio show Queer View Mirror and the ABC History Listen’s Crossing Time: A History of Transgender Australia. Sam’s essays have been published in Kill Your Darlings, Griffith Review, Meanjin and Overland. In 2020, Sam was a Wheeler Centre Next Chapter fellow, and in 2022 he co-edited Nothing to Hide: Voices of Trans and Gender Diverse Australia. Detachable Penis: A Queer Legal Saga is his first book.

What inspired you to begin a writing career?

My first dream job was to be a scriptwriter for the World Wrestling Federation, writing plotlines for beefs between babyfaces and heels in spandex tights. Since I lived in Perth, far from Madison Square Garden, it did not work out. I instead did a single creative writing subject at Curtin University run by author Simone Lazaroo. While my tutor was not blown away by my nineteen-year-old ramblings, she did encourage me by saying ‘there’s something in this,’ and ‘to keep going.’ So, I did. I kept writing on and off for the next decade, but it wasn’t until I came second in the LGBTIQ outstanding writers prize for a 500-word micro memoir piece in 2016 that I started believing that I could ever get a book published.

What does it mean for you to have your debut book published after winning an ASA/CA Award Mentorship?

I’ve always been a big reader and had a great love of books from an early age, so the thought of my very own book appearing in my favourite bookshops is a dream come true. I was so lucky to receive an ASA/CA Award Mentorship in 2021 and be paired with Nadine Davidoff. Her astute feedback and provision of deadlines was incredibly helpful, particularly during the fog of Melbourne’s various COVID-19 lockdowns. I’m great at starting projects but not so great at finishing them, so having someone to be accountable to was critical to getting those early drafts down. Also, having someone from outside my own cultural bubble was useful to help me think about what a so-called ‘general reader’ would need on the page to connect with the book. 

What do you know now that you wish you’d known at the start of your career?

I spent a lot of time on my own trying to write without seeking out writers’ groups. Being a part of a supportive group where everyone is working towards publication is hugely motivating, so I wish I’d cottoned onto that sooner. Also, like so many aspects of life, opportunities often spring from who you know, and different people putting you forward for things behind the scenes. So, even if you are an introvert like me, it’s important to take the time to get to know people and back others by attending their events and just generally getting in the mix. 

Which Australian authors/illustrators have been influential for you?

Tom Cho’s 2009 Look Who’s Morphing (Giramondo), a fantastical series of queer short stories, really blew me away. It was the first time I’d read a piece of writing by a trans masculine person and felt light years ahead of a lot of what was out there in the gender non-conforming space at the time. More recently, observing Yves Rees’s pathway to publication of their 2021 debut memoir All About Yves: Notes on A Transition (Allen & Unwin) taught me so much about how the book industry works. I’m a great lover of Rick Morton and Chloe Hooper’s books and journalism and continue to look to them for guidance on how to write about administrative and criminal law issues in a way that makes people sit up and listen. 

Why do you think it’s important to be a member of the ASA?

The stereotype of the lone genius tapping away on his typewriter is far from the truth. We need the ASA to create opportunities to connect with other writers, editors and potential publishers, and to advocate for our rights in an increasingly hellish digital landscape for writers with the rise of AI. I’ve been on the website almost daily to check the ASA Rates of Pay guide and am forever grateful that there is a professional body holding the line for fair pay and conditions for working authors.   


Find out more about Sam Elkin at