Our submissions manager, Chantelle, contacted Abigail to talk more about her prize-winning piece We came here to find our own names and the inspiration behind it.

So firstly, Abigail, we would like to congratulate you on receiving the 2018 Judith Rodriguez Prize. My first question for you is: have you had many other published works or is Verandah only one of a few?

Verandah is one of a few so far. I am currently working towards 100 rejections!

What was your main inspiration/s for your winning piece We came here to find our own names?

Mark Wahlberg was my initial inspiration! Not many people are aware of this thanks to his white, male privilege, but he committed two hate crimes when he was a young person living in Boston. He blinded a Vietnamese man and threw rocks at a young African American girl. During both attacks he used historically racial slurs against his victims. Since then he and others have defended his present moral integrity by pointing to his age at the time of his attacks (he was sixteen) and arguing his more recent acts of charity in the name of his religion should absolve him.
All three of the main characters in my piece are in different stages of identity change. Some of the characters transitions are more noble and deserved than the others. Funk, the main character, desperately wants to change her moral identity while maintaining a close relationship with the one person who knows the exact details of her questionable past behaviour. Wahlberg has displayed a similar desire by continuing to make movies and reality television that take place in Boston and feature friends and family from his transgressive youth.
I think Wahlberg’s attempts to convince us he has changed asks an interesting question about identity. One that is being played out constantly in pop culture and beyond as centuries old power structures are being dismantled by victims speaking truth to power. How fluid is one’s moral identity? Can people change, or should they be allowed to? As a writer I thought these questions about human nature were worth exploring.

Have you been involved with Verandah before, during /after your time at Deakin University?

I have received a few rejections from Verandah before!

If there was any advice you could give to other writing students attempting to get their work published what would it be?

Write bravely as if you have something to say and eventually you will! Sometimes when I am writing I feel a bit nauseated because I am so unsure of the piece’s natural conclusion. In those moments, when I force myself through the uncertainty, I am always rewarded.
Also, if you are not running you should be stretching. I was an asthmatic, abysmal cross-country runner in high school and I would often stop mid race to walk. My coach would always yell at me if you aren’t running you should be stretching! Meaning if you have to stop running make the pause worthwhile. I often think of these words when I am stuck with my writing. If I find myself unable to write, I check out a big pile of books from the library and I read instead.

Are there any author’s that stand out as role models / inspiration to you and your writing?

Roald Dahl for giving me a lifelong love of the weird and funny.
James Baldwin for his truth telling.
Lydia Davis for showing me how to get to the point.
E. A. (Annie) Prouxl for her brazen ability to hover over the darkest of human emotions.
Where do you hope to see your writing career go in the next few years?

As long as I am alive and still writing I will be content.

Look out for Abigail’s piece We came here to find our own names in Verandah Volume 34!

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Want to know what it’s like to be published in Verandah Journal?

We’ve asked some previous submitters that have been published in Verandah over the years to share their experiences and give a little insight into their work.

Alyson Miller – Poet and Writer


Alyson Miller teaches writing and literature at Deakin University, Melbourne. Her prose poetry and short stories have appeared in both national and international publications, alongside a critical monograph, Haunted by Words: Scandalous Texts, and two collections of prose poems: Dream Animals and Pika-Don (with Cassandra Atherton and Phil Day).

How did you first encounter Verandah

Alyson Miller (AM): I was a student at Deakin, and Verandah was promoted as a publishing opportunity among the cohort, as it continues to be today. I loved the idea that my peers were producing a journal that was so polished and professional, and that had attracted so many writers whose work I had read before and enjoyed.

You have work featured in several different volumes of Verandah; what would you say inspires you as  an author to create such unique pieces every time? 

AM: Inspiration is a bit of a tricky beast, and there is a lot of advice that recommends not relying on it too much to get things done…Having said that, every piece of writing comes from a unique moment, I think, often an instance of something that strikes me as odd or revealing or complex, or is particularly troubling. I’m very interested in the things that haunt us in various ways—those images and occurrences that you can’t quite shake—and so draw from many ‘real world’ events to craft poems or short stories.

How did you feel when you were told your work would be published?

AM: Thrilled! There is nothing quite like having a piece of work accepted by a publication—it is always lovely to hear that your writing has found its home.

Is there anything you are currently working on or planning that you are excited about?

AM: There are always things bubbling away, and each has its own wonderful and curious energy! I’m currently very excited about a series of creative non-fiction prose poems I have been working on for a little while, and an historical project that is a little gruesome—it involves looking at case studies of children who commit horrific acts of violence, and is not the kind of reading or writing that is best done before bedtime…As I suggested above, I’m fascinated by narratives which haunt and unsettle, but also those that are regarded as taboo, as too difficult to represent, and so many of my current projects are on focused on unspeakable things.

What is your number one tip for aspiring creatives?

AM: It’s an old one but always so true—read everything, anything and everything at every opportunity. Be voracious and critical and interested; the connection between curiosity and writing should be axiomatic, but it is easy to get lazy and stay with the familiar. Read difficult novels and experimental plays you don’t understand and trash magazines and Nigella Lawson’s recipe books (they are remarkably poetic and luscious)—there is nothing that won’t teach you something about how to develop your craft.

You can learn more about Alyson and her publications at her website.

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Alicia Sometimes – Poet and Writer


Alicia Sometimes is a writer, poet and broadcaster. She has been published in Verandah Journal a number of times, across a variety of volumes. Her poetry has also been published in a wide array of publications, including Best Australian Poems, Overland and Southerly. These days she is a frequent guest on 774 and Radio National. Alicia is passionate about Aussie Rules Football and is part of The Outer Sanctum Podcast, an all-female footy-focused podcast.


How did you first encounter Verandah

Alicia Sometimes (AS): I was at a poetry reading at The Lounge in Swanston Street in the mid 90s and someone was reading a copy. I asked if I could have a look and dived straight into a Peter Bakowski poem. Immediately I was transfixed. I went out the next day, grabbed a copy and that was it. I’m a reader for life.

 You have work featured in many different volumes of Verandah; what would you say inspires you as  an author to create such unique pieces every time? 

AS: I think the most important part of submitting to literary journals is subscribing/buying the magazine you want to submit to. You also have to read it to get a feel for it. Every issue of any journal will change from time to time and editors may be come and go but there’s a certain flavour to it. You then submit something that you think might suit. It may not that one time but might the next. What I love about Verandah is that it has always championed new writers and has always been a professional and exciting place to send your work.


How did you feel when you were told your work would be published?

AS: It’s always a thrill. You just never know. It’s always akin to bungee jumping for me. The experience is always a nervous and exhilarating time.


Is there anything you are currently working on or planning that you are excited about?

AS: I am working on a big show that combines science, poetry and visuals that will be on later in the year. It’s on gravitational waves to be exact. I love science and am inspired by it all the time in my work. I also like site-specific works too, taking poetry out of the usual places. Like most writers I am passionate about words, conveying wondrous ideas and (hopefully) occasionally hitting the mark.

 What is your number one tip for aspiring creatives?

AS: It has been said so many times: write, read widely and don’t stop writing. The rejections always come. Always. It’s what else you do after the setbacks that count.

To find our more about Alicia, you can visit her website. If you’re also a lover of AFL, you can check out The Outer Sanctum Podcast here!

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Bonnee Crawford – Author


Bonnee is a freelance editor from Melbourne. She graduated from Deakin University after completing her Honours in 2016. She loves reading and writing, watching cartoons, drinking tea and eating croissants. Her work appears in Imagine Journal, Verandah Journal, WORDLY Magazine and Querelle.


How did you first encounter Verandah

Bonnee Crawford (BC): That would have been during O’week of 2013, my first year at Deakin. I was looking for the writers club and there happened to be some cross-over in what people were involved in, so I discovered Verandah too.

You have work featured in Verandah 31; what would you say  inspires you as  an author to create such unique pieces?

BC: I don’t think there’s a simple answer to that question. Everyone has a unique voice, unique experiences, and unique ways to interpret the world around them. Personally, I love subverting clichés, tropes and common assumptions in my writing.

How did you feel when you were told your work would be published?

BC: I was just happy and excited. I originally drafted the piece in 2014 and kept going back to it because I knew it wasn’t quite ready. I had worked on it for about 2 years by the time I submitted to Verandah. I put a lot of work into the piece so I was glad it had paid off.

Is there anything you are currently working on or planning that you are excited about?

BC: I’ve been working on an academic paper on one of my favourite cartoon series, The Legend of Korra. It is due to be published through Routledge this year. It will be a chapter in an edited book called Children, Youth and American Television. 

What is your number one tip for aspiring creatives?

BC: Write down every idea that springs to mind. I keep a little notebook handy so that when I think up a line or a concept that I like, I can save it somewhere before I forget about it. Then I can go back and flesh it out when I’m ready.

If you are interested in reading Bonnee’s work, she is featured in Verandah 31 that can be purchased, in both print and digital copies, here.

Bonnee also has her own website where you can learn more about her editing services. Check it out at Bonnee Crawford Editing!

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Deb Wain – Author

Deb Wain

Deb Wain is a writer who is curious about food and the environment. She teaches creative writing at a number of universities (including Deakin); she enjoys having jobs where she talks for a living. When not writing or talking you can find Deb cooking, drinking coffee, or playing in the garden. Deb holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Deakin University.

How did you first encounter Verandah

Deb Wain (DW): I first heard about Verandah when I was studying my undergraduate education degree a very long time ago. (Let’s not go into just how long ago but as an indication, it was still the journal of Victoria College at the time!) I took some literary studies units where the journal was mentioned. I wasn’t confident enough to consider submitting anything at the time which is probably best for everyone concerned because I was writing fairly dreadful, angsty poetry at the time.

You have work featured in volume 24 of Verandah; what would you say inspired you as  an author to create the piece?

DW: Many years later, I wrote my first short story in response to the requirements of a subject I was taking when I returned to study at Deakin. The subject was Fiction Writing: Story, Structure and Starting Out which I believe is still a current unit. I had a short story to write as the unit assessment and as part of the unit we had read Margaret Atwood’s “Duplicity: The Jekyll Hand, the Hyde hand, and the slippery double: Why there are always two” from Negotiating with the Dead. This piece made me feel comfortable about not knowing where the piece might go so I sat down with the image of a town and a character in my mind and started writing. This piece became “morning stranger” which was published in Verandah 24.

How did you feel when you were told your work would be published?

DW: In my memory, I received an email letting me know that my piece had been accepted, about which I was thrilled. I was still on a high about my first ever publication when I received a phonecall to let me know that I had won the Editor’s Choice Award and was being invited to read an excerpt from my story at the launch, which was part of the Melbourne Writers Festival at the time. This was such a joy, but was perhaps an overly positive way to begin my short story writing experience because what followed were many more rejections than acceptances. But seriously, I think this boost to my fragile writer’s ego and Verandah’s support of my writing was fundamental to my continued efforts in this form.

Is there anything you are currently working on or planning that you are excited about?

DW: Interestingly, I’m currently working on some more short fiction based loosely on one or two of the characters from that very first story. That’s not all I’ve been doing, honest. In the meantime I’ve also completed a PhD which included a novel-length collection of short fiction. This manuscript has recently earned me a Publisher Introduction Programme Fellowship at Varuna. It’s just that I have recently returned to the fictional town of that first short story and I’m pursuing some other stories based on the lives of the characters who live there.

What is your number one tip for aspiring creatives?

DW: Gosh, what a hard question! About eighteen months ago I read this article: Why You Should Aim For 100 Rejections a Year and it has changed my life in terms of finding a thick enough skin to deal with rejection. I’ve written about my experiences of trying to gain 100 rejections here:  The Year of 100 Rejections: A Personal Reflection. Ultimately, I think you have to get the words on the page, you have to care enough about them to polish them until they are the best words you can produce, and then you have to trust yourself enough to let them go.

If you are interested in exploring more of Deb’s work, you can visit her website!

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Mel O’Connor – Artist and Author

Mel's Art

Mel O’Connor (20) hosts Dungeons & Dragons in her spare time and studies creative writing at Deakin University. She edits for Verandah Journal and WORDLY Magazine. There are cat-people, there are dog-people—she considers herself an octopus-person.

How did you first encounter Verandah

Mel O’Connor (MOC): Emma Taylor (Verandah 32 editor) popped into one of my second-year units last year with a grocery bag overflowing with Verandah back copies. Like any starving student, I grabbed as many as I could carry.

You have work featured in Verandah 32, and furthermore, you have had both literature and artwork published; what would you say inspires you as  an author, and an artist, to create such unique pieces every time? 

MOC: I’d hate to copy all the tropes and clichés. Whenever I write, I aim to be original. I want to do something that nobody’s done before—at least, as much as you can when current writing is automatically contextually inspired by so much. I usually create pieces based around what’s on my mind at the time. I ask myself: What am I thinking about right now? What can’t I stop thinking about? For example, when my grandfather died last year, I let my grief take form in my writing. I had to get it out. Creative expression is reliable like that.

How did you feel when you were told your work would be published?

MOC: Giddiness! But I didn’t let myself celebrate until I’d signed the contract and sent it back. That’s what makes it real. Like, “You can’t get rid of me now”. Then the impulse to update my author bio set in. I had to include that new tidbit of professional development. “Previously published in Verandah Journal“–it sounds so good.

Is there anything you are currently working on or planning that you are excited about?

MOC: I finally put a novella to bed recently. I’m still buzzing about it. But I’ve been brewing an idea about what I’ll do next. I want to write a creative writing piece in the adult LGBT genre, hybridising with supernatural fiction, inspired by Irish folklore. It would be a ghost story showing the ghosts we make of queer women. It’s a little raw at the moment–it probably shows just from that description—but I’m hopeful. Wish me luck!

 What is your number one tip for aspiring creatives?

MOC: Please, please, take on feedback. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone refuse to listen. There’s nothing worse for an artist than that mentality of “my critics just don’t get understand”. If they don’t understand, that’s a problem with your writing, not their reading. This is one of the most important lessons an artist needs to learn to accept, particularly the writers. If your readers are missing the point, that’s because you didn’t show them well enough. Keep trying. Keep improving.

If you would like to see more of Mel’s work, you can see her art as above in Verandah 32’s print edition or experience both her art and writing by purchasing a copy of the Verandah 32 eBook! Both still available here!

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Ananda Braxton-Smith – Author

pic of me as author 2009

Ananda Braxton-Smith graduated from Deakin’s Professional Writing stream in 2005. Since then she has released a YA history The Death: the Horror of the Plague (2009), a YA novel series Merrow (2010), Tantony (2011) and GhostHeart (2013), and Plenty (2015) a children’s novel. Her picture book Backyard is available later this year.

Ananda is published through Black Dog books/Walker Books.

Do you recall your first encounter with Verandah

Ananda Braxton-Smith (ABS): I don’t, I’m sorry. When I first sent the poem in 1988 I was getting info about where to send my writing from library collections of literary journals, phone books and word of mouth. No internet. No writing group. Hardly any books on how and where to get published. Just a bunch of mystified friends with proper jobs. I do remember looking up ‘University Literary Journals’ in some list somewhere, and finding a few.

You have work featured in a couple of different volumes of Verandah; what would you say inspires you as an author to create such unique pieces every time? 

ABS: The reason they’re so unique is that the two items were written about fifteen years apart. The poem [published in Verandah 3] was written in my mid twenties. I’d just come back to Oz after a trip that involved a stopover in Kuala Lumpar. I’d never been to Asia before: I’d never been anywhere before. On the way in to that city from the airport, I passed these tall newly built apartment blocks. Everything about them was new and modern and shiny except—they had no front wall. They were open to the street like a doll’s house. People were living there! You could see families squatting around little gas or kero stoves, cooking, talking, eating. The apartments had little furniture: A few mattresses, some crates, and these families. It was the strangest meeting of wealth and poverty, or of aspiration and need I ever saw. It was like a small, shiny miracle.

And then I got into the city proper, which at that time was full of clamorous, crowded life and the striving to survive (I don’t know what it’s like now). Coming from well-off, lackadaisical Australia — it was a real moment! It engendered a sort of feeling of complicity in me, a guilt of some sort. I also wrote poems about my gleaming black-and-gold passport (British) that allowed me to move freely, my fat wallet and the skinny children, and about Peking duck ‘hanging horrifically orange in their noisy shopfront graves’.😊 So it was a particular experience of a particular time from my particular perspective — that’s where unique lives.

‘Roo Tail Soup [published in Verandah 16] was written while I was studying Professional Writing & Literature at Deakin in 2001. I was forty years old. I had children by then. I’d travelled more. I’d had time for deep reading, thoughtfulness, for paying attention, and to work quietly by myself. So I think it’s a much more contained and pointed piece — the poem is a howl of shame married with some phrasing and wordplay. I loved the sound and feel and taste of words more than structure in those days. It doesn’t really go anywhere. The story is based on a memory of hitching from Perth to Sydney when I was sixteen, but written when I was forty. It was a particular experience of a particular time — (Nutmeg?! Yes you can get a high from it but it’s so disgusting to eat, and the high is a horrible high, so I say Just Say No! to that – maybe even No thank you to keep it nice and non-judgmental) — but the perspective is purposefully smeared by drug action and a resistance to ready-made identities.

I haven’t read either for years. I was a bit embarrassed by the poem, but quite interested in the story. Except I’d move  the story of the Woman Who ran With the Roos right up front these days. And end with the word ‘Nothing’.

Oh well.

How did you feel when you were told your work would be published? 

ABS: In Verandah? In 1988 I just wanted to shake the letter in some faces and shout SEE! In 2001 I had a lot more equanimity. In other words I’d given up on publishing and learnt to meditate instead. I was quietly gratified.

By Black Dog books/Walker Books? Relief. Triumphalism. A feeling of quiet rightness — like someone had seen me, like I’d come suddenly into focus. And deep, deep anxiety. All of those feelings have proved to be the correct ones.

Is there anything you are currently working on or planning that you are excited about?

ABS: My latest project is a picture book for little ones called Backyard, published by Black Dog books/Walker Books and illustrated by Lizzie Newcomb. It’s just been released. I’m excited because I love picture books myself. My father was an artist, and I love visual arts too. I’m thinking of learning to illustrate. Hope it’s not too late!

What is your number one tip for aspiring creatives?

ABS: It is a three-pointed inseparable trident of a number one tip:

Immerse yourself in your medium. For writers, that means READ. Read widely, instinctively, and without snobbery about age, genre, or fashion.

LIVE. Live without holding back, make mistakes, pay attention.

And learn to meditate.

If you would like to read more of Ananda’s work, you can find them listed at the Walker Books website.

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Andrea Levens – Author


Andrea is a Pakistani-Australian writer, and a passionate full-time ranter. Her hobbies include taking naps in unusual places, taking photos of other people’s pets, and taking misused semicolons out of other people’s writing. Andrea’s biggest aspirations are to work in the editing industry and to learn how to parallel park.

How did you first encounter Verandah

Andrea Levens (AL): I first came across Verandah when I was in my first year studying Professional and Creative Writing at Deakin University. As a new, unpublished writer with little professional self-confidence, I was emboldened by Verandah‘s commitment to showcasing emerging voices; it felt like the perfect place to submit!

You have had your work featured in Verandah 31; what would you say inspires you as an author to create such a unique piece? 

AL: My submission to Verandah 31, entitled Worms, was loosely inspired by dynamics observed in my own extended family. Nearly all of my stories come from my family, simply because these are the people that I understand most and, thus, they inspire the most well-rounded characters and narrative arcs.

How did you feel when you were told your work would be published?

AL: I was thrilled when I found out that Verandah 31 had accepted my work! It was my first time being published, and it instilled me with a lot of confidence as a writer. Verandah motivated me to write more and to write better.

Is there anything you are currently working on or planning that you are excited about?

AL: The most exciting thing that I am working on right now is the production of Verandah 33! Since being published, my passion for writing has transformed into an even greater passion for editing. Nothing excites me more than having a place in Verandah‘s long editorial history.

What is your number one tip for aspiring creatives?

AL: The best advice I can give to aspiring creatives is to let themselves be fuelled by what makes them different. Whether it’s their culture, their family life, their aspirations, or their history, embracing their differences and exploring the implications of those differences will make their work stand out.

If you would like to read Andrea’s work, you can still purchase a copy of Verandah 31 on our Buy the Book page.

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Josephine Scicluna – Author and Poet


Josephine Scicluna is a poet and fiction writer who collaborates with musicians and sound artists to create works for radio and live performance. These have been broadcast on RRR and ABC RN.  She teaches creative writing at Deakin University and is on the committee of PEN Melbourne, part of a worldwide organization dedicated to the art of writing and freedom of expression.

How did you first encounter Verandah

Josephine Scicluna (JS): When I began my literature and creative writing degree at Deakin in the 90s. Back then the course was located at the Stonnington campus in Malvern. It was small and lovely and we all knew each other. Our lecturers’ offices were in a house on the property! I believe Verandah might have been named for the verandah on the beautiful old building there.

You have work featured in various editions of Verandah; what would you say

inspired you as  an author to create the piece?

JS: I didn’t get published in Verandah on my first try, and maybe not even on my second, but then I got a poem in a couple of years running. I can’t remember my inspiration for those, but I do remember the inspiration for my first piece of published fiction. It was inspired after someone crashed into my ’73 Holden and very sadly I had to let it go as it was deemed irreparable. This was the car that my friends and I used to travel to the Verandah launches in every year when the MWF was held at the Malthouse in South Melbourne. We always got lost on the way, every year, and it was on one of these trips that the car got dubbed ‘The feminist plane collective’. I can’t remember who came up with it or why, but it stuck.

How did you feel when you were told your work would be published?

JS: I was utterly surprised as I didn’t think I could write fiction and thought I only had half a chance with the poems I’d sent in. Then I was over the moon! It showed me that sometimes we aren’t the best judges of our own work and I might well have not submitted it anywhere.

Is there anything you are currently working on or planning that you are excited about?

JS: I’m planning a video poem. The writing hasn’t emerged yet but a voice seems to be creeping up on me.  I’m also about to revisit a novel I’ve written and see if I can give it a stronger edge for publication. I’m going to be on a diet of a chapter a day for 30-ish days.

What is your number one tip for aspiring creatives?

JS: Patience. There’s no formula and every piece of writing has its own time. Some pieces have taken me years on and off to craft for publication, but it’s important to keep sending your work off. Each time you submit your work and a publisher says no, you can revisit your writing with fresh eyes.  Each draft helps you gain a bit more of an edge.  One of my writing teachers, the novelist Gerald Murnane, told our class once that if a story you’ve drafted is meant to be, it keeps niggling at you on and off over time. You won’t forget it. This has held true for me over the years I’ve been slowly writing.

If you would like to find out more about Josephine’s work with PEN Melbourne, you can visit their website.

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Katelin Farnsworth – Author

Katelin Farnsworth

Hailing from the Dandenong Ranges, Katelin has been published in various Australian journals including Overland Literary JournalFeminartsyLip Magazine, Tincture JournalAward Winning Australian Writing 2015 & 2017The Victorian Writer, and Writers Bloc, amongst others. Katelin is represented by Hindsight Literary Agency.

How did you first encounter Verandah?

Katelin Farnsworth (KF): I was introduced to Verandah by a friend before I started university and I always planned to submit but never quite got around to it. When the 2016 editors came to one of my creative writing classes, I was reminded again of the journal and encouraged to submit! It’s a beautiful publication and it is always filled with interesting and insightful content. I really wanted to contribute to that in some way!

You have work featured in both Verandah 31 and 32; what would you say inspires you as an author to create such unique pieces every time? 

KF: I love writing about grief, and the different ways it can manifest. My work always, in one way or another, touches on ideas of grief and loss. These themes fascinate me because grief is such an individual thing and affects everyone differently.

How did you feel when you were told your work would be published?

KF: I was delighted when my work was accepted! Verandah is such a wonderful journal and I think it’s a great platform for emerging writers and artists. I’ve had three pieces published in Verandah and each time, it has been an incredibly nurturing experience. It is always such a joy when your work is well received by a publication!

Is there anything you are currently working on or planning that you are excited about?

KF: I am currently working on a few different projects, including a novel about a mother-daughter relationship. It has elements of magical realism woven throughout it and has been a lot of fun to write so far. I like writing about small moments, so it has a lot of little stories in it that hopefully all tie together at the end.

What is your number one tip for aspiring creatives?

KF: My number one tip for aspiring creatives would be to engage with others in your field. I think, as an artist, it can often be an isolating experience. I believe it’s important to make friends with other people in your area of expertise and remember that you’re not alone!

If you would like to check out some of Katelin’s work, you can find it in Verandah 31 and 32; which if you haven’t grabbed a copy yet, you can purchase them here.

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