Loose Canons26.09.23
#PIJF#Loose Canons

Loose Canons: Emma Ling Sidnam

Wellington-based writer, Emma Ling Sidnam shares the five things that inspire her as she debuts with her coming-of-age novel Backwaters.

Loose Canons is a series in which we invite artists we love to share five things that have informed their work. Meet the rest of our Loose Canons here.

Emma Ling Sidnam is a Wellington-based writer and lawyer. As a fourth-generation Asian New Zealander, she is passionate about representation and ensuring that all voices are heard. She is an award-winning slam poet and her work has been published in the Spinoff, Capital, Newsroom and the anthologies A Clear Dawn and Middle Distance. In 2022, she was awarded the prestigious Michael Gifkins Prize for an unpublished manuscript. In 2023 she won the Auckland Surrey Residency for her second book, a collection of short stories.

Her debut novel Backwaters comes out September 27th 2023.

  • Wellington launch will be Unity Books, at 6pm on Wednesday 27 September. More details here.
  • Auckland launch will be Webb’s, at 5:30pm on Tuesday 3 October. RSVP here.

Live Music

In the last year I've seen some of my favorite artists play live - Lucy Dacus, Japanese Breakfast, Rosalía, Aurora, and Fred Again. In each of their performances I felt near tears. I don't really know why, but when I love an artist, seeing them live feels borderline spiritual. I feel every guitar strum in my bones and the lyrics hit me in completely new ways. I know this is a very common experience, which is why live music unites so many people. Japanese Breakfast sang 'Posing for Cars' for their encore, and that song continues to live rent free in my head.


It's when the sun hits my skin that I feel most connected to Papatūānuku. Nothing grounds me better than being surrounded by mountains, trees, and large bodies of water. When life gets too overwhelming, I always seek the ocean, where I can watch the waves and realize how insignificant I am. Nature is also wonderfully sensual. I love the feel of morning mist on my face, the solidity of tree bark against my fingers, the crust of salt between my toes.


I feel this intense thirst for travel and I want to visit as many countries as possible before I die. I love exploring and seeing new places, cultures, and ways of life. And I love how travelling makes us into children again. When I'm a tourist, a useless person who needs a guide, I don't have any real responsibilities. I get to just take it all in and be excited about old architecture and paintings, and that's how I like it.

Meeting New People

It sounds ridiculous, but sometimes I'm genuinely sad about the fact that I won't be able to meet every person on this earth. I'm just endlessly fascinated by people because people are worlds and I want to discover all of them (but not in the crappy colonial kind of way). I love hearing about people's childhoods and passions and future dreams. I love it when people are so completely different from mine and I can't even follow how they think. My favorite thing is the world is when I meet someone new and we just click and we have this really intense conversation.


So many of my short stories and poems are written right after watching a film. In many ways, film is the perfect art form. For two hours, a viewer can enter into this other world and almost completely forget reality. It's addictive and it's beautiful. My favourite films capture something interesting about love and desire and how that fits into life. They inspire me to write stories that feel real and emotionally charged. Favourite directors: Agnes Varda, Luca Guadagnino, Wong Kar-wai, Richard Linklater, Celine Sciamma. Favourite movies: Call Me By Your Name, In the Mood for Love, Le Bonheur, Before Sunset, Portrait of a Lady on Fire.

Read by Category

The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

Your Order (0)

Your Cart is empty