Interviews

Ever wondered what it’s like behind the scenes at Verandah?
Our Advertising and Digital Media Manager, Laura, speaks with some of our talented and hard-working team members.

Neil (Tran Dac Nghia) – Designer for Verandah 34

Neil is a graphic designer and digital artist who loves creating beautiful visual designs. Neil focuses on aesthetically pleasing visual elements such as layout, branding, artwork and so on. His background in music assists his work in unexpected ways. Neil is passionate about using his knowledge and experience to design visually impactful projects. He prides himself on his ability to constantly learn and adapt to challenges including those that the editorial team might place him in. He treasures his work as part of his identity and upholds a high self-expectation.

How did you first hear of Verandah?
I saw the call out for designers on Deakin Visual Art Society’s page. I also saw some friends on social media sharing their works that were published in V33.

What would you say is unique about you as a designer or artist? Or what would you say your style is?
I do not focus on any one particular art style. To me, the fun in creating art or designing is exploring the unknown. There are so many great designers and artists with amazing styles and visions from which I can learn, as well as brand new directions that no one has yet followed for me to experience. I consider limiting oneself to just one style as being a massive loss.

What inspires you as a designer or artist?
The list is long, but the biggest source of inspiration to my art is other successful artists and designers. I learn most of my skills from observing their work instead of classes or tutorials.

What has been the most rewarding thing about being a designer?
I love it when my work brings happiness to people. The most rewarding moment of my short career was when someone left a comment on one of my artwork posts online, saying that it brought them peace. I’m happy when my work means something special to someone.

What kinds of things do you look for when working on or accepting a project like Verandah?
I look for passion in my colleagues. I try to find out what motivates them about the job and how much that resonates with my own motivations. A team with a similar drive and goals have less trivial issues and can achieve much more.

What do you like most about working with Verandah 34?
Verandah 34 is supportive and gives me a lot of space to define myself. I can set my own work goals and standard, learn and adapt and express my opinions. The work environment is thus stress-free, but also encouraging.

Is there anything that you are currently working on or planning that you are excited about?
I am making various artwork sketches to submit to V34 later in the year, as well as researching layouts and patterns for its print edition for 2019.

What is your top tip for aspiring creatives?
First of all, I think the creative process works differently for different people. If there is one great formula, all of us would be successful creatives. Building a recognised and unique set of skills is a challenging but essential part of the journey to become excellent creatives. With that said, my personal top tip is courage. I often find myself disappointed with how my works look in their early stages and that feeling hinders their progress as well as my desire to start new projects. I overcame this once I found the courage to pick up the pen (or music instrument, chisel, brushes, or whatever your creative tools are) to create new works without the fear of how they might turn out. If you make 100 pieces of work and only one of them turns out to be a masterpiece, you deserve to be very proud!

Tom (Minh Trung Hoang) – Designer for Verandah 34

Tom is doing his Masters of Visual Communication Design. He is passionate about art, design and literature. He was attracted to Verandah because he believes that it suits his design style and interests. Tom says he is inspired by Verandah’s editorial team and everything that they are working towards, their personalities, abilities and their vision. The two most unique things about Tom are his design skills and understanding of what the team is communicating to him for their target audience. He has a special ability to meet a wide range of design styles with pleasing aesthetics that proves to be an asset to Verandah’s branding and marketing. Tom is proud that he can efficiently problem solve when the team is needing quick and creative designs.

How did you first hear of Verandah?
I heard about Verandah from a friend who was studying creative writing at Deakin. A year later, I saw an advertisement for Verandah on one of Deakin’s websites. I decided to try my luck by applying to the designer position.

What would you say is unique about you as a designer or artist? Or what would you say your style is?
I believe I am a flexible designer. I don’t limit myself to just one style, even though I do have my preferences. I tend to perform better when working for brands that target young people, as I find I better understand them. Approaching other groups of people to gather insight into their needs as target audiences is my next challenge in becoming a professional designer!

What inspires you as a designer or artist?
My inspirations consist not only of existing designs, but also customers themselves. I enjoy listening to their stories and opinions, observing their behaviours and styles of work and finding current trends that are of interest to them. This helps me gather ideas and contributes to my design solutions. I’m also passionate about technology and how it changes societies. I update myself with latest innovations so as to secure work.

Where is your favourite place to design?
I work in various places depending on the project. When I was completing a re-branding project for a coffee shop, I spent a lot of time drinking coffee and enjoying the great ambience. I get inspiration for the relevant project, for example from the smell of the coffee, the interiors, and importantly, the stories of customers in there. My favourite place to design is anywhere I can listen to the voice of customers.

What kinds of things do you look for when working on or accepting a project like Verandah?
I found the previous volume of Verandah interesting, with a series of delicate designs that maintain consistency. I seek something unique to differentiate projects from others. I aim for projects where I can tell a story with colours and shapes, assisting Verandah to become more distinctive.

What do you like most about working with Verandah 34?
I love working with responsible and energetic people. Right away at the job interview, I knew I wanted to be a part of this team. The project, certainly, matches all of my interests. I am able to immerse myself in this project.

What is the story or idea behind your design for Verandah 34’s banner?
As a literature and art journal, Verandah’s audience is special. I used several themes such as the flower to pay homage to one of Verandah’s late mentors, Judith Rodriguez. I used imagery relating to people such as faces, feet and hands, acting as metaphors of different stories and experiences of people and writers. Lastly, the abstract, flowing kind of watery feel to the design relates to art and its fluidity in not keeping a uniform or consistent shape, as well as art and literature having the power to control the flow of art. 

Is there anything that you are currently working on or planning that you are excited about?
Verandah’s next steps in creating more advertisement posts and designing the actual print journal! I can’t wait to work on the journal’s design and typography most of all.

What is your top tip for aspiring creatives?
Creative ideas don’t emerge the same way for everyone. For me, experiences are the source of creativity. I’d say you don’t have to start by looking at artwork only, but to also just listen to customers’ thoughts and different voices. 

Interview with Genevieve Fitzgerald – Founding Editor

What prompted you to start the journal?
As students of Professional Writing & Editing in their final year of the degree, we were inspired to do something about the fact that – whilst there were fantastic options for learning about writing techniques – there was nothing much that formally addressed the necessary skills an editor might need. If the degree was not only about writing, we wanted to learn what an editor’s job looked like, and to create a literary journal that showcased the talents of writers and artists emerging from across the four campuses from Deakin University.

How did you get it off the ground?
The first thing we did was plot! I had some experience with the campus administration, having established an on-campus radio station called RAW (Radio At Work). Anne Casey, who had the initial idea for a journal, figured that we could harness my knowledge to formalise the project (and get up a successful funding application). Each of us wanted particular elements enshrined into the project model, but all agreed that such an intensely demanding project shouldn’t be done without academic recognition. Fortunately, we did get a second semester credit (which diminished some of the agony of juggling the journal with our other full time study in Semester One). We also wanted to make sure that the journal was inclusive of the student body across the four campuses of what was then Victoria College (later to become Deakin University). We agreed that visual as well as written text should be included. We were emphatic that none of us should do more than one year so that the next group of editors would be free from the dictates of a supposed expert.

We’d heard that a literary journal had been produced by the Prahran Art School before the writing course was shifted to the Toorak campus, and that our literature lecturer Julian Gitzen had been its editor. So off we tromped to see Julian, secure his blessings and ongoing support. From his office and pumped with optimism, we went to our fiction lecturer Gerald Murnane for further impetus. He, being a wonderful teacher and mentor, gave the thumbs up and endless encouragement without hesitation.

Once we had nutted out what we wanted to do, we drafted a formal proposal that requested accreditation for a specific editing unit. We took this to the course co-ordinator Alan Mahar, and onto the Acting Dean Stan Van Hooft, who expressed his keen interest in seeing the project get off the ground.

TAS (the Toorak Association of Students) agreed to put a grant of $2,500 on the table to use as a lever for other financial input. With this as insurance, we made a visit to the in-house university printers based at Burwood. A rough estimate of the costs (at the time totalling $4,000) clarified the funding chase and an approach to the student associations of the three other campuses (i.e. Rusden, Burwood and Prahran) met with the welcome news that each campus was willing to contribute an additional $500 grant.

With a budget, an accredited editing unit sorted by Alan Mahar and the above-mentioned supporting staff members, the challenge became how to secure content. Unanimous agreement to produce a good-looking publication, with quality paper and mindful attention to font + white space + an interesting mix of fiction, poetry, non-fiction, essays and graphics (both print & photographic) was easy to achieve. The most difficult part of the process was deciding on the name! What would most successfully articulate the experience of studying the arts in a university setting? What could symbolize the experience of writing, creating and editing? Here we were, wandering through the beautiful external landscape and the historic building, Stonnington, mincing along the eastern wing of the enclosed verandah where we sat for our exams, with rough scratchings on notepads with crazy linguistic combinations until it became so obvious it was almost embarrassing. The verandah: the site of our academic struggles where we were put to the test was a perfect metaphor of the intensity of our L-plated editorial experience.

The choice of including the ‘h’ at the end was deliberate: somehow it finishes the word, itself acting as a closure to the structure. Verandah: it’s a word that in itself is musical and somehow poetic, historic in that it featured prominently in the Australian vernacular, encapsulating in an architectural sense to invite the reader onto the deck and into a comfy chair, with the feet up for a leisurely read. The editors of Volume Six explained the choice of name as “representative of the Australian way of life and the attitudes of its people”. That’s true too. A verandah is wide and expansive, big enough to accommodate a multitude of meanings.

Inevitably, once word had got out that we were publishing and the submissions started to roll in, editorial tastes led to healthy arguments about the merit of one piece above another. The choice of inclusion is a tough one, particularly when the standard of work is consistently high. This is an essential part of the training for editors, and breaking the news to the unsuccessful one of the hardest of tasks. If we’d had a bigger budget, we would have printed more of the submissions we received. Maybe it’s good we didn’t because Verandah is right-sized.

As any editor knows, the great part of publishing is when ‘the baby’ comes back from the printers and the official launch christens the public legitimacy of the book. The launch of the first Verandah was held in the great hall of Stonnington, at the steps the stairwell that leads to the testing ground of the upstairs Verandah. It was a fantastic event, graced with the presence of family, friends, supportive academics and the artists who had been included as well as by acclaimed Australian writers Helen Garner and Garry Disher. At $4 a copy, it was a bargain as well as a great read.

How do you think the journal has developed over the years?
One thing in retrospect is how minimal our preface was. It’s inspiring to read embodied reflections from other editorial teams, and I laugh at how timid ours appears. The fact that we were exhausted shows in the text we produced in launching that first edition. I gave birth to my first daughter a few weeks after Volume One was launched.

As I think about the imminent publication of another volume, the thing I most treasure is the adherence to what the founding editors saw as the fundamental rule: that the editors can only produce one volume and then must move on. We were aware that a continuing editor could too easily morph into a meglomaniac, dictating the rules and missing the whole point of the process. The editorial experience is richest for students who start from scratch and stumble through the labyrinth with a rough map (hastily sketched and passed on by those who have travelled before) to find a new way of expressing the view from the verandah.

Each volume is reflective of the content and the context in which it was published. As the journal evolves, the artwork has included more photography, which is a welcome addition. The quality of the journal has been maintained, with the original design honoured without burdening each edition with a tired layout. Fresh energy and ideas help the journal to evolve, and as it turns 28, there is no doubt that Verandah has grown into a truly remarkable training ground and an impressive body of work.

Why do you think the journal is important?
In the original (and extremely brief!) Editorial Foreword, the importance of small literary magazines for writers was noted. Nothing much has changed. Verandah remains a platform for editors to hone their skills and for artists (whether text-based or otherwise) to experience the joy of being celebrated.

Without doubt, a professional editing and writing course is not fully realized unless there are choices across the spectrum – which includes formal opportunities to train as an editor. Verandah provides experiential learning, including how to negotiate with others who may be in complete disagreement with your opinion. Not having the chance to act as an editor is like going for a swim and only getting your feet wet. A student-managed literary journal puts the theory into practice.

Publication is always a good thing. For those artists (whatever their medium) who are new to the experience, it’s a gentle nudge to keep going because there are people who think the work is good enough to share with others. As for the editorial experience, I paraphrase from Robin Freeman’s preface in Volume 26 because the training does equate to running a small business: securing funding, managing budgets, advertising for and shortlisting contributions for publication, proofing and editing, overseeing production with designers and printers, negotiating and collaborating with each other as well as the content contributors, organising the launch, the promotion, the media and fundamentally getting a kick arse golden opportunity to experience the world of publishing as well as supporting the fertile ground of small literary journals. It’s a demanding task that bears delicious fruit.

What are you doing now?
The last I heard of the others, Katie has had three kids and a flourishing career as senior editor at Lonely Planet. I’m not sure what Anne and Dianne got up to next. As for me, I’ve done various things that have all been informed by the training I received in writing and editing – including an intense involvement as media and funding co-ordinator in the campaign to get some water back into the Snowy River. Right now I’m at uni, undertaking an Honours Thesis year (as part of a Bachelor of Science – go figure!). The thesis investigates the politics of power through the case study of the Snowy. I love it! I hope next year to secure a 3-yr PhD scholarship that will allow me to broaden the scope of the research, allowing as well for the production of a book or two and some documentary work (radio & film).

That baby I gave birth to a month after Volume One was launched is now 25, and last year completed a writing & editing course at RMIT. Sometimes I wonder if she had no other choice, considering her gestation phase! One thing’s for sure: the training I gained from Verandah taught me profound lessons about courage and risk, creativity and collaboration, about how a good idea can become a generous reality that applies the ‘pay it forward’ principle if everyone is willing to share. I am forever grateful to the people who helped to get the journal off the notepad and onto the bookshelf, to all those who continue to nourish it and to the ever-increasing family that grows from Verandah’s annual publication.

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

AM

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

AliciaSometimes
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 PoemsOverland 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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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!