Interviews

We’ve expanded to radio!

Hear one of our editors, Chantelle, speak to Kylie Whyte about Verandah on their KickArts show, 94.7FM The Pulse, here!

And another of our editors, Jo, chat with Jacqui Baker on Triple R – 3RRR 102.7FM here!

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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!

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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. 

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Abigail Elder – Judith Rodriguez Prize Winner 2018

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

Abigail Eder

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 or 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 or inspiration for 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 34!

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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.

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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

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 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

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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

AL

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-8951

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 on our website.

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