Guest Post: Chiara Sullivan

Welcome to the blog series that delves into issue two of Koru Mag. In this post Chiara discusses fan fiction and her poem “Pynch“. You can read it (for free) in issue two.

I will forever and always stand by fan fiction. When writing or talking about fanfic and my love for it I often mention the story of how I came to write my first fanfic piece: in fifteen minutes; a dare to myself. I guess you could say that everything that followed is history.

Fanfic has played such an important role in my life. It told me that you can want things that the canon doesn’t give you, that you can write that want into the characters, and that characters can be whatever you want them to be – whether they’re someone else’s or your own. Essentially, fanfic opened my eyes in terms of pop culture that I love and my own writing.

I will never stand by and let someone demean fanfic and its importance to fandom as a community. Because fanfic has given so many people an avenue by which to explore themselves, others, and their writing.  Fanfic provides the diversity and representation that the canon should have. It can save people, and help people grow, and show people that they’re not alone. Fanfic is, simply, amazing.

In terms of my piece “Pynch” – a simple title for a nuanced ship, but no other name could capture what the words truly mean – I suppose I could call it a poem. But poetry has rules, and I followed no rules when I wrote “Pynch“. I followed my heart, and the way I feel about and see the ship that is so important to me. But that’s what I love about writing poems – there may be rules, but poetry looks and feels and sounds different to every single person.

And I guess I’ll leave it at that. Break the rules. Ship your ship. Write your fanfic. And do it all unapologetically.

Bio: Chiara Sullivan is a voracious reader who spends far too much time wandering the well-worn paths of her imagination. At any given time you can find her blogging here or here, tweeting, and instagramming. Her work has been previously published on The Regal Fox and Cauldron Anthology

Guest Post: Kirsty A. Niven

Welcome to the blog series that delves into issue two of Koru Mag. In this post Kirsty discusses her poem “Sleeping Beauty“. You can read it (for free) in issue two.

We all know the Walt Disney version of Sleeping Beauty – a beautiful slumbering princess is rescued by the handsome prince. However, not all stories can have perfect fairy tale endings, and this was central to my thought process when writing “Sleeping Beauty.” I enjoy including elements of fairy tales in my poetry and think this kind of intertext can be very interesting to work with as they are such common knowledge and can affect everyone in different ways. The more gruesome editions of these stories, such as the Grimm versions, can be very inspiring in particular. With regards to my own poetry, I think that the contrast between the relatively unspoken topic of miscarriage and the commonplace one of fairy tales was an intriguing one.

I wanted to juxtapose the traditional view of fairy tales as happy and kid-friendly, with the borderline horror elements of the Charles Perrault version of the Sleeping Beauty story and the emotional turmoil of my own poem’s narrative. It depicts a woman’s pregnancy and then subsequent miscarriage, alluding to the womb through natural imagery – for example, the “thorns” of the fairy tale come to represent the thickening of the uterine lining. The references to “Dawn” and “day” were also nods to the children of the Perrault story whose ogre grandmother wished to eat them. Even the title was intended to evoke maternal images, the baby itself being born “sleeping.” I felt that the association between fairy tales and children made this intertext particularly apt, albeit in a cruel kind of way.

Bio: Kirsty A. Niven lives in Dundee, Scotland with her husband and two cats. Her poetry has appeared in GFT Presents: One in Four, The Dawntreader, Mothers Always Write, the anthology A Prince Tribute and several other publications. She also contributed towards the Dylan’s Great Poem Project of 2016.

Guest Post: Nathan Comstock

Welcome to the blog series that delves into issue two of Koru Mag. In this post Nathan discusses his poems “One Link In An Infinite Chain” and “Nightmare – After “Links Awakening“”. You can read them both (for free) in issue two.

The theme of this issue is “Emulate.” It’s a word that has a different meaning to video game aficionados – an emulator is a program that lets you play console video games on a PC. For me, emulate will always bring up that image – reliving the games of my childhood. These games shaped me as much as any cartoon, or book, or any other kind of literature, and re-experiencing one can be like rereading a favourite novel – you go for the nostalgia, but often you end up discovering something you were too young to see the first time around.

Both my poems are a result of this experience of seeing something beloved from my childhood through the eyes of an adult. The first addresses the Legend of Zelda series in general, exploring the cycle of reincarnation that forms the connective tissue of the franchise. Why keep fighting if you can never win? It’s a question that seems incredibly relevant now, as our country seems to be regressing fifty years on social policy issues.

The theme of emulation is present here in a different way as well though – in the question of is each Link the same as the Link that came before, or is he his own person? Does emulating a hero make you one? How much of who we are is rooted in the desires and expectations of the people who surround us?

The second poem has a much narrower focus. It’s a response to Link’s Awakening, the first Zelda game I ever played and a game known for its bizarre, nihilistic ending. That ending had a profound effect on my childhood psyche, and I appreciated the chance to engage with it, to really get in the head of this Link as a character and what he must be going through on this adventure. One of the advantages of a silent protagonist is that his personality can be whatever you want it to be.

If you’re a Zelda fan, I hope my work has given you a new perspective on the series. And if you’re not, I hope you are still able to find something in it that speaks to you.

Bio: Nathan Comstock is a poet and performance artist living in Boston, Massachusetts. His work has been published in such places as Amethyst Arsenic and Maps for Teeth. He has had poetry featured on the Indiefeed Performance Poetry podcast, and has competed at the National Poetry Slam. He also performs music with his twin brother in their band, Pirate Not Included.

Guest Post: Ashely Adams

Welcome to the blog series that delves into issue two! In this post Ashely Adams discusses “Reset”, Undertale, and Homestuck. You can read “Reset” now in issue two for free.

The video game Undertale, in many ways, shows the stunning works that can come from emulation. The game is abound with references to books, plays, video games, anime, memes, and countless other forms of media. The creator, Toby Fox, often credits videogames like Earthbound, Super Mario RPG, Shin Megami Tensei, and bullet hell shooters as major sources of inspiration. When the game was first released, I didn’t know about the history the game was building on. I only even knew it existed after the first vague fanart posts started circling on the web. When I finally made the plunge, I found in the game a world both new and familiar, full of wonderful characters that made me laugh and cry, and a game that brought a positive moment during a time of depression and anxiety.

This poem is an attempt to pay homage to a game that means so much to me. It’s also a chance for me to emulate the emulator. “Reset” is set from the viewpoint of Asriel and the first fallen human, the two characters who start the chain of events the player finds them in during the game. In the poem, I tried to use colour, typography, and dialogue used in game to highlight the connections. It was also a great practice for me as a writer in playing around with formatting and structure of a poem.

Ultimately, I hope readers of this poem will be able to connect with the tragedy of characters whether they have played the game or not, honour a game that has meant so much to me, and perhaps inspire other emulators (or at least get people to play Undertale).

Bio: Ashely Adams is an associate editor for NMU’s literary journal, Passages North. She has been previously published in Rum Punch Press, Heavy Feather Review, Permafrost, Flyway, and Anthropoid. She can be found on Twitter talking about birds, metal music, and writerly things.

Guest Post: Cee Arr

Welcome to the short blog series that delves into issue two. In this post Cee Arr discusses her piece “Not A Sandwich“, the Twilight series, and Bella Swan. You can read “Not A Sandwich” now (for free) in issue two.

You know when you really want to slap some sense into a fictional character? For me, the top of that list is Bella Swan (I want to slap Edward Cullen too – but for being an abusive sh**).

Now let’s get one thing clear: I enjoyed Twilight as a teen. I was privy to the first round of Twilight obsession as it swept the globe. I have no problem with anybody enjoying The Twilight Saga.

But Bella and Edward’s relationship? Not a great example, my friends.

So I sat Bella down (metaphorically) and we had words. How would I have reacted in her shoes? How would I want other people – someone I care about, for example – to react?

Edward was a douche. A sexy douche. But a douche. As human beings (or vampires, whatever) we can make the choice to not willingly go into a relationship with a sexy douche, just because he’s pretty. Many people are pretty and not douches. You can find someone attractive without deciding to spend the rest of your life with them because they are (literally) shiny.

So I gave Bella the chance to rewrite her story with me acting as cheerleader in order to burgeon her low levels of self-respect and common sense. I gave her the chance to see that a man who views you as meat is not someone you want to be with and that you deserve better.

I decided to let her give Jacob a chance, but not outright choose one of them. I wanted people to understand that you don’t have to end up with anyone. This isn’t a contest – no-one gets to have you just because the other guy didn’t.

Let’s make something else clear though: Bella did not ask to be treated the way she was. Yes, due to the failings of her creator, she has about as much dynamism as a sheet that’s been through the wash about three times and is still drying out, but that still doesn’t let Edward off the hook. Because people can be wet blankets without douches then taking things to the level of abuse.

And Edward is an abusive little sh** – albeit a sexy one. Again, sexy does not equal entitled. Sexy does not equal automatic relationship.

You are not a prize to be won or an item to be bought. None of them can afford you.

So I say a firm ‘pass’ on both Team Edward and Team Jacob – I’m Team Bella. How about you?

Cee Arr is the pen-name of an international woman of mystery (able to confuse people in multiple countries via the magic of the interweb). A sexually fluid chick with mental health problems, Cee Arr spends her time being a bookish rebel on her blog, DORA (diaryofareadingaddict.blogspot.com), and on Twitter (@CeeArrBookNerd)

Call For Submissions: Indigenous Create

Here at Koru Mag one of our aims is to uplift the work of marginalised groups of people, and that includes Indigenous/Native people. This is why I’m putting together a blog series called Indigenous Create. We’re looking for Indigenous/Native:

  • Authors (especially those that have a book out in 2017-2018)
  • Freelance writers
  • Illustrators
  • Content creators
  • Business owners (especially bookish business that sell bookish candles/t-shirt/bookmarks etc.)

Even if you’re not sure if that sounds like you we’d still love to hear from you! Please use the form below to pitch us your blog piece and include a short bio about yourself that references your culture or heritage. We’re looking for blogs that are 250+ words in length. If you’re not sure what you want to write about, but you’d still like to write something, please let us know in your pitch.

[contact-form to=’korumag@hotmail.com’ subject=’Indigenous Create’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Pitch’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]

I look forward to hearing from you.

Guest Post: Kristen Carter

Welcome to the first in a series of guest posts that delve into issue two. First up is Kristen Carter on the inspiration behind “The Diversity Bait and Switch“. You can read her piece (for free) in issue two.

As I grow older and gain life experience, I’m thinking more critically about the things I watch on a daily basis. Fan culture, media, and representation are some of the topics that have been on my mind for a while. While I am more critical of the things that I watch, I still fall short and make mistakes. Recently, I felt deceived by a few of my favourite television shows that seem diverse and inclusive, but they are not. On the surface, they seem like they are doing well, but when you dig deeper, it turns out to be a lie. Unfortunately, I have fallen victim to these shows a lot lately. And frankly, I am sick of it. I’m tired of feeling like I finally found a good show and then have my hopes dashed.

In “The Diversity Bait and Switch,” I work through my thoughts and feelings when I get duped by these kinds of shows. I also try to envision what other fans of colour might feel as well. Honestly, misleading portrayals of minorities affects more than just fans of colour; it affects every marginalised person who saw themselves represented for the first time on television and then had their hopes dashed to hell. Sometimes you feel grateful just for being represented. And other times you are fed up and just want to see someone who either looks like you or has your marginalisation get a happy ending. The “The Diversity Bait and Switch” was written during one of those moments of need and frustration. I am tired of being deceived and sincerely want Hollywood to do better.

Bio: Kristen Carter was born and raised in Philadelphia, PA. Reading and writing stories has been an obsession since childhood. Currently, she attends college for Communication Studies. Besides writing, Kristen fancies herself an amateur photographer. She likes binge watching shows on Netflix, sleeping in late, and baking.

Issue Two of Koru Mag is out now!

Koru Mag: Issue Two is out now! This issue is all about fan fiction, fan poetry, and non-fiction. Issue Two has poetry inspired by Harry Potter, The Legend of Zelda, and Sleeping Beauty. We have non-fiction about Star Wars, Voltron, Sleepy Hollow, and Teen Wolf. And lastly we have fiction inspired by Twilight and The Faraway Tree series. You can read the issue two (for free) here!

A huge thank you goes out to the following to Abigale C. Dagher for our beautiful cover. Next thank you to our wonderful editors for this issue Britt Pickett, Gabriela Martins, Jazzmin, Jennifer, Meleika, Sarah Beth Kolodziej, and T.W. Marszalek. Shout out to our copy editors Candice Richards, Sumudu, and Lila, y’all rock! Thank you to Aimal Farooq for doing the text for the cover and to the ever lovely Mairéad Asche Böttger for helping out with the layout. Special mentions goes to Alexa for agreeing to go over everything one more time and to Catherine Haines for doing all she could to help me out when I needed it. Koru Mag isn’t possibly without my team of people helping me out; thank you all so much!

I hope you enjoy issue two and I look forward to starting work on issue three!

Review: Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton

Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton
Rating: 4 Stars

Goodreads Blurb:

Gigi, Bette, and June, three top students at an exclusive Manhattan ballet school, have seen their fair share of drama. Free-spirited new girl Gigi just wants to dance—but the very act might kill her. Privileged New Yorker Bette’s desire to escape the shadow of her ballet star sister brings out a dangerous edge in her. And perfectionist June needs to land a lead role this year or her controlling mother will put an end to her dancing dreams forever. When every dancer is both friend and foe, the girls will sacrifice, manipulate, and backstab to be the best of the best.

 

I’ve actually wanted to read Tiny Pretty Things for a while now. A book starring not only women, but also women of colour, and set in the drama-filled world of ballet. What’s not to love there honestly?

But the real turning point for me was going to YallFest and getting to actually sit down with Dhonielle at a Penguin/Epic Reads Event where authors would move from table to table (sort of like speed dating but 5-8 readers per table) and talk to fellow readers at the event. She was really great, and really fun even though we only had about 5 minutes to talk.

(This also meant I was so mad at myself for missing her signing and not having my own copy of Tiny Pretty Things yet! I did try right after to go buy a signed edition at YallFest’s book tent, but alas, they didn’t have any.)

I have to commend Sona and Dhonielle for writing this book, because there’s one element that really sticks out to me in not just this book, but also the sequel, that I’ve only ever seen in the likes of books like Six of Crows or Vicious. I mean, don’t get me wrong, there’s so much to love about these two books, but there’s just one thing that really, really sticks out to me.

These two created some of the most unlikable likable characters I’ve ever read, and no, that’s not a typo. Sure there are cases where an unlikable character finds redemption, or hell we can begin to sympathize with them, but I’ve never really seen it done on this level. Bette is your typical mean-girl (it’s fitting that her voice actress sounds exactly like Emma Roberts honestly), but the more you find out about her, the way she’s blamed for things she didn’t do, or the way she lives constantly under the shadow of her sister and her emotionally abusive mother. At the end of the day I didn’t like Bette, but at the same time I did?

Same with June, although her villainy is a bit less obvious. But the things she’s dealing with, her unsupportive mother, trying to figure out who her father is, her eating disorder. You really feel for these girls, and come to sympathize with them all throughout. I mean, June does something really, really terrible towards the end of the book, but I couldn’t find myself completely hating her, because I knew what she’d been through thus far.

Even Gigi has her moments (thought I don’t want to spoil anything because there are more of these moments for her in book 2 than in the first), though it’s clear that she’s our entry character. She’s a little naive, wants to see the best in everyone, give them the benefit of the doubt, which is exactly what we end up doing for June and Bette in a way. It’s incredibly heartbreaking and sad to watch the world around her break her a little at a time. She’s the one you’re really rooting for, the one who should rightfully win at the end of the day. But by the end of the book, she’s lost, she’s suffered.

It really goes to show the skill that Sona and Dhonielle have when it comes to crafting characters and story. Not too many books come to mind where you want to sympathize with fairly vile people. But the reality is that these girls are all teenagers, they’re still learning, and they’re living in this world that has taught them that they aren’t good enough, and if they don’t do whatever it takes to win, then they can’t.

I will say that a few times it felt like the drama was a touch too much. Like, can’t these girls catch a break or get some sleep or something? But what can you expect, in a school where it is abundantly clear that the teachers don’t care about the well-being of the students, establishing a toxic learning environment where girls are pitted against each other.

There were also moments where I could just imagine the ballet that was being described happen right in front of me. I could just close my eyes and see exactly what was going on. That was probably due to the help of audio, but it was so easy to imagine what was going on, playing out on a stage in front of me. This is an incredibly visual novel and I’d actually really love to see a television adaptation of it, maybe a tamer version of Black Swan.

 

The Audiobook

The voice actresses are all top-notch, even though their imitation of Russian-English accents was a tad silly at times.

All of the actresses do incredibly well. As I mentioned before Bette’s is a dead ringer for Emma Roberts, really adding to the mean girl vibe we see in shows like Scream Queens. Gigi’s was calmer and more relaxed, giving way to the naivety of the character, but when push came to shove she could put a lot of power behind the voice. June’s was excellent as well, though there wasn’t anything specific that stood out to me.

Overall it’s a great audiobook, though I can’t really recommend one over the other. I have a feeling the audio will lead you to the more visual experience I had with this book. It was almost like I could imagine a movie or television version with the audio playing. I also think that maybe the inclusion of music here and there could’ve helped, maybe when the girls are dancing, just that little extra something to make it really stand out.

Interview with Steph Bowe on Night Swimming

Steph Bowe burst onto the scene in 2010 (at the tender age of 16) with her debut novel Girl Saves Boy. Four years later she released her sophomore novel All This Could End and now she’s back with her latest offering, Night Swimming. I spoke to Steph Bowe about writing what was first titled as GOAT TRAGEDY, families in YA, and the importance of the queer love story in Night Swimming.


Anjulie: Your debut novel Girl Saves Boy was published seven years ago. Looking back on it now, what was it like being a teen author?

Steph: It was incredibly surreal and nerve-wracking and exciting and overwhelming. I didn’t expect that everything would work out well – I knew that years of rejection was more likely. So when I got a book deal, I was a little unprepared. But it was an amazing experience – to be able to work with an editor and a publisher, to be treated as a professional writer and have opportunities to develop my skills, to appear at festivals and visit schools and be interviewed… it was a really steep learning curve, and I had to overcome a lot of shyness, but it was ultimately really rewarding and worthwhile. I’ve made so many friends and had so many awesome experiences in the last seven years, it’s impossible for me to imagine my life if I weren’t an author.

Anjulie: Is there any difference between publishing as a teen and publishing as an adult?

Steph: It’s tricky for me to say because I don’t know what it’s like to publish a debut novel as an adult. As an adult publishing novels, I’ve already experienced being published before. I think your debut novel being published is the most nerve-wracking and the most exciting no matter your age, because everything is new. Maybe being older and having other professional experience makes it easier, but I’m not sure.

I feel a lot more confident publishing as an adult, because I now have a lot of experience talking about my writing. I feel much more comfortable doing public speaking and promoting the novel. I still worry a lot that people won’t like the novel or that it will sell poorly, but I think that’s common regardless of age or how established you are as a writer.

It was also more common when I was younger for people to be dismissive of me and my work. I really dislike the idea that young people are lesser writers, but it’s something that some people still believe, unfortunately. I don’t feel I have to prove myself as much as an adult writer. That might be because of my age, or because I’ve now been writing and publishing for several years, or just having more confidence and more experience. There’s no longer a worry of ‘what if I was only published because of the novelty of my age?’.

As a reader, I don’t care how old the author is, though obviously I think it’s awesome when young people are published. I would encourage anyone interested in becoming an author to pursue it, regardless of their age. I never found being young to be a barrier, however I also don’t think being published as a teenager matters in the long run. If you are a teenaged writer, don’t put pressure on yourself to publish by a certain age – it’s possible, but a lot of luck is involved along with hard work, and the best thing about writing is always the writing. So focus on enjoying it, and don’t feel dismayed by rejection – everyone is on their own path.

Anjulie: How did you get the idea for Night Swimming?

Steph: Sometime in April 2015, I woke up in the middle of the night with what I thought was a genius idea, which is a relatively common occurrence for me (though the ideas never seem genius in the morning). I wrote it messily on a notebook near my bed, then fell asleep. I did not recall this in the morning, but found the notebook. I had written in very large, messy letters ‘GOAT TRAGEDY’. I have no idea where that came from, or what I originally intended to happen. What tragedy was supposed to befall the goat? I’ll never know, but after that point I started thinking about writing a story featuring goats (…and started watching a lot of goat videos on YouTube). Stanley, Kirby’s pet goat in the novel, was the eventual result, and the story began to grow from this idea of a girl living on a goat farm.

There were so many other things that had happened in my life or ideas that had percolated in my head that naturally started to fit into the story. The aspect most directly drawn from my life was Kirby’s grandfather suffering with dementia, which was inspired by someone in my family being diagnosed with dementia. My life changed a lot in a short period of time as a result, and I started thinking a lot about what makes us who we are, and I really wanted to explore dealing with that in the novel as it’s something that so many people experience.

Anjulie: It’s been a few years since your second novel was released. Was writing Night Swimming difficult?

Steph: Night Swimming was actually relatively easy to write – I had a much tougher time writing my second novel, All This Could End. It just took me a long time to get to writing it – I wrote a couple of other manuscripts in between, in a very stop-start way, and they weren’t quite right. Once I started writing Night Swimming, writing became fun again.

Anjulie: The story is set in a rural Australian town. How important is the setting to Night Swimming?

Steph: I think the commonest setting in Australian novels, after Sydney or Melbourne, is a country town. Rural Australia has a history of being very romanticised in our fiction. So I wanted to reference that literary tradition, but also represent small-town life in a realistic way. For me, that meant representing the true diversity of a small town. I also wanted to capture the variety of different ways young people feel about their home towns.  Being from a small town in the country informs so much about Kirby (the protagonist) and Clancy (her best friend), including their goals and dreams and perspective on life, but in different ways. So the setting is central; it creates a lot of conflict in the story, as Kirby grapples with the fact that she loves her home town and doesn’t want anything to change, but finds life changing around her.

Anjulie: Unlike many YA novels, Night Swimming puts an emphasis on family. How important is the representation of families in teen fiction?

Steph: As much as I love YA novels where the parents are conveniently ‘disappeared’ so the teens can take centre stage (like when they’re saving the world!), I think representing families is really important in YA. Family is important to so many young readers, and exploring family dynamics creates realism and depth and so many more story possibilities. I think representing diverse families is particularly important – there isn’t one normal or default family model, and for young people to be able to see families like theirs represented in fiction is vital. As writers, we can sometimes default to what we most often see in fiction – white, straight, able-bodied, neurotypical, cis-gender, middle-class characters – and that can extend to families – the ‘nuclear’ family with a married stay-at-home mum and working dad plus kids. In reality, people are far more diverse and families are far more varied. So I try to reflect that in my writing.

Anjulie: One of the central threads of the novel is the f/f romance between Kirby and Iris. Can you tell us a bit more about these two characters and their relationship?

Steph: Kirby is an apprentice carpenter who lives with her mum on a goat farm, and loves her small town, her family and her pet goat, Stanley. She is often drawn into ill-advised money-making schemes by her musical theatre-obsessed best friend Clancy. Iris is the mandolin-playing, pun-making, always fabulously dressed new girl in town, whose parents’ restaurant has just opened across the road from the restaurant belonging to Clancy’s parents. Their relationship is complicated by Clancy being infatuated with Iris and Kirby being perpetually socially awkward. It’s my favourite romance that I’ve written. I love all types of love stories (and I approached writing it in the same way I would a boy/girl romance), but I think representation of queer love stories is really important in YA.

Anjulie: What are some of your favourite #LoveOzYA queer novels?

Steph: I just finished reading two amazing Australian YA novels, both of which feature queer protagonists: The Flywheel by Erin Gough and The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis. I also love Clancy of the Undertow by Christopher Currie, and About A Girl by Joanne Horniman (which was probably the first Australian YA novel I read which featured two girls falling in love, and is beyond gorgeous).

Anjulie: What would you say to queer teen writers out there who want to become authors?

Steph: Your stories are important, and they are stories only you can write. I think far too often young people’s opinions and writing can be dismissed on the basis of their youth, which is completely wrong – the stories of young people count just as much as those of older people. Everyone matters, and everyone has a unique viewpoint. And that’s especially true of young writers who are marginalised: the stories and perspectives of queer teen writers are really needed. There’s still a lot of homogeneity in writing and publishing, so we really need that next generation of diverse writers to come in and change that (and for the established writers to make room for that, and the industry as a whole to support them).

So, write as much as you possibly can. Write the stories that you want to read and that you feel inspired to write. Read as much and as widely as you can (and watch films and TV, and read comics, and listen to music, and seek out everything that inspires you). Don’t focus on the publishing part or whether there’s a market for what you’re writing – just write the best work you can, and be true to yourself. Always keep an eye out for opportunities for young writers and for diverse writers – there are more and more of these available, and things like mentorships early in your career can make such a difference. Creating a network with other writers (online or in person) is so important – writing can be lonely, and having support and people to ask for feedback can help motivate you. Fight self-doubt. Know that your stories are needed – and that they may someday mean a lot to young, marginalised readers, who deserve to see themselves and their realities reflected in fiction.

Anjulie: And lastly, what is essential to a Steph Bowe novel?

Steph: I feel that humour and a fair bit of quirkiness is always inevitable. I do sometimes try to be serious but I can’t seem to avoid some silliness. There is always comic relief – usually in the form of a wacky best friend, sometimes in the form of a wacky pet. And I love pop culture references and writing about tricky family dynamics and adorable romance and swimming at night.

Anjulie: Thank you for joining us!


About Night Swimming

Steph Bowe is back. Night Swimming is a love story with a twist, and a whole lot of heart.

Imagine being the only two seventeen-year-olds in a small town. That’s life for Kirby Arrow—named after the most dissenting judge in Australia’s history—and her best friend Clancy Lee, would-be musical star.


Clancy wants nothing more than to leave town and head for the big smoke, but Kirby is worried: her family has a history of leaving. She hasn’t heard from her father since he left when she was a baby. Shouldn’t she stay to help her mother with the goat’s-milk soap-making business, look after her grandfather who suffers from dementia, be an apprentice carpenter to old Mr Pool? And how could she leave her pet goat, Stanley, her dog Maude, and her cat Marianne?


But two things happen that change everything for Kirby. She finds an article in the newspaper about her father, and Iris arrives in town. Iris is beautiful, wears crazy clothes, plays the mandolin, and seems perfect, really, thinks Kirby. Clancy has his heart set on winning over Iris. Trouble is Kirby is also falling in love with Iris…

Where you can find Night Swimming:

You can find a hardcopy at Readings, Dymocks, Angus & Robertson, Booktopia, and Text Publishing (Text has free shipping in Australia!). The ebook is available on Amazon, iTunes, eBooks.com, and Kobo.

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