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Foreword: I wanted to take the time to veer away from guest columns and try out an interview, which I hope will extend into a series for the 2017 edition of The Weekly Degree. My goal is to specifically address individuals who are not from the Greater Philadelphia region, or preferably, not from the United States at all. This category would include, but not limited to: foreign citizens, immigrants, individuals holding a work visa, refugees, and tourists. Being a lifelong Pennsylvanian and liberal arts graduate, I am a firm believer in networking and branching out as being a crucial, and nonetheless pivotal, approach to delving into various cultures and mindset that differ from my own. With that being said, I want to introduce the youngest members of the Tilde Writers’ Collective, Harry Howard and Emma Charlton. Both are Australian natives that have worked closely with other members to also network and to simply be cordial with. Personally, I see plenty of potential with these two, despite only chatting with them virtually. Being an only child, I have unconsciously adopted them as my siblings, (without sounding too sentimental) and wish to give them mentorship as they see fit. Below is the interview that I simultaneously gave to both of them. Hope you enjoy!
J: What interview can’t start without an introduction?
H: There isn’t a whole lot to me, so this interview might be lacking an introduction of any substance, aha. I’m an 18-year-old from a small town in Victoria, Australia and I just recently graduated from high school. Other than that, I guess I’m a writer of sorts. @harhoward
E: This interview if I backspaced that question [laughs]. Until Josh asked me to do this interview, I was just a seventeen-year-old high school student who filled too many notebooks and used enough typewriter ribbon to wrap around the world at least once, and since Josh asked me to do this interview I am still that seventeen-year-old high school student who fills too many notebooks and uses enough typewriter ribbon to wrap around the world at least once (and make my bank account cry a little), none the more, none the less. I also take on an alter-ego as @everythingaboutsilence on Instagram (shameless self-promotion). I also enjoy a good book and a quiet place.
J: Given that I hardly know what time it is in your time zone; how does your location effect your communication with your friends’ north of the equator?
H: I suppose the time zone difference can be a bit of a hassle at times, but lately my sleep schedule has been pretty horrible, so I’ve basically been acting as if I was living over there anyway. However, when I’m operating on a more standard sleep schedule it can be tough. Usually it’s a matter of communicating in a really delayed kind of format – you’ll ask something, or send something to someone and go to sleep, and by the time you wake up they’ve replied. It’s not super-efficient, but it works.
E: With a majority of the IG writing community that I have connections with living north of the equator, it becomes difficult find a time to have a conversation with each other without one of us disappearing to fall asleep to then wake up the next morning to find the other disappearing on us; it’s a never-ending cycle, really. Not to mention the fact that physical face-to-face conversations are limited by distance with these people (and mentors in writing).
J: Tell me a little about your literary ‘models’, as I like to call them. Who do admire the most? Who challenges your budding writing careers? If you were given one shot to pitch a novel to a famous author (dead or alive), who would you choose?
H: Lately I think I’ve really drawn inspiration from a poet, Frank Stanford. When I first read his work it completely changed how I looked at poetry as a whole – I started thinking of ways I can use metaphor to give my work something more, creating images that exist on their own, instead of using them simply to enhance another idea. Stanford didn’t just compare one thing to another to simply make an object more emphatic, his use of metaphor often expanded the poem in such a way that the reader was left with multiple strains of reality existing within the one piece. Expanding a poem outside of the idea that exists at its core is a really interesting thing to play with, because you often find yourself running some drastically different images and ideas alongside the original one, creating an almost surreal feel to the whole thing. As far as pitching a novel goes – that’s tough. I think it’d be a toss-up between Ernest Hemingway and William S. Burroughs. Hemingway so that he could just tear the idea to shreds and laugh at how horrible it was and Burroughs on the chance that he could offer some advice on how to structure it in a sense of time and narrative, I’ve always admired the command he had over how a narrative is presented to the reader.
E: Anyone who talks to me about writing will probably hear the names Heidi Wong and Mal Morgan a few too many times. Not only do I admire their voice in writing, but I also admire the writers they have come to be/had come to be (unfortunately Mal Morgan is no longer alive). I fell in love with Morgan’s writing when I found one of his chapbooks in a second-hand book store. I read and reread all of his poems over and over and I learned so much about him and his life. The way he expresses emotion in such a real raw way is something that I aim to be able to do. I honestly would have loved to meet Morgan himself and attend one of his spoken word events where he used to be a hugely admired figure in the Melbourne poetry scene.
My ‘budding writing career’ is challenged by my @tildewc friends as I admire all their successes and am lucky enough to be involved so much with them. All that they have to say about writing is so encouraging and inspiring which inevitably pushes me to aim high whilst also staying humble.
J: Hopefully that last question didn’t take the wind out of you! Let’s tone it down some. How has social media impacted your writing, your audience, and your networking?
H: I suppose it’s had both negative and positive impacts. When I first started writing and sharing my work when I was sixteen or so, the quality of my writing was pretty horrible. I wrote in the style I had continually seen through the likes of Instagram – benign, shitty (for lack of a better term) inspirational life and love advice with artificial line breaks (laughs). The thing about the writing community on Instagram is that a lot of the people who participate aren’t willing or are unable to give actual critique and feedback. No one told me how crappy my writing was, so I thought I was doing something right. It wasn’t until I started reading more heavily and really looking at what I was producing that I realized that I had a lot of work to do in regards to style and technique. In another sense though, social media has been great for my writing – it’s allowed me to connect with a small group of writers that aren’t only passionate about their own writing, but writing as a whole. So, through the aforementioned Tilde, I’ve been able to bounce ideas between like-minded individuals and look to them, particularly Josh, for solid and useful criticism. Outside of Tilde, I’ve met some amazing people like Joe Straynge (@joestraynge) who is as good of a writer as he is a person – I don’t think I can count the amount of times that I’ve been stuck in life and he’s offered his ear to me and given some advice to keep me plodding along.
E: Social media has both nurtured and enhanced my writing in a way that I probably wouldn’t have been able to come about myself. The ability to share and expose my ideas and thoughts is something that has always appealed to me. I share to inspire others to take part in something that has both allowed me to understand myself on a deeper level, as well as to encourage others to indulge in the therapeutic qualities of creating something that allows you to see yourself through your words in the utmost raw and honest way possible.
Instagram, specifically, has been a great influence. With such a spread of talent and success it has impacted not only my role as both a reader and a writer but has also made me appreciate the value of the importance of supporting indie writers.
J: Branching out from question 4, are there any Australian literary groups you have reached out to? Given your ages, I can see how your experiences may be limited, (but nonetheless growing from here) but I would love to know of any connections!
H: I have some friends that are pretty talented writers – Linus Tolliday, particularly, who has connections to Farrago Magazine, a university publication that publishes some great writing. So through him I’ve been able to expand my reading to include some local writers. I’ve also submitted some work to Voiceworks, another local literary publication that publishes young writers. I haven’t had a piece accepted yet, but they always provide really solid and useful critique with their rejection letters, which is great as far as improving my writing goes.
E: As of yet, I haven’t reached out to any Australian literary groups but I do aim to once I’ve completed school when I have a lot sparer time on my hands. There are small publication opportunities available within my city of Melbourne which I have submitted to and been lucky enough to be a part of. Outside of Australia, I have been lucky enough to contribute to Rad Press Publishing’s Paradox and Wanderlust, as well as Corva’s Indie Affair.
J: What are your goals as you enter adulthood? University? Workforce? Travel?
H: Up until this morning I had planned on going to university to study a BFA in Creative Writing, but I received an email this morning letting me know that I hadn’t passed pre-selection into the course. I haven’t had a lot of time to think things over yet, but I’m looking at doing some travel now. Though I might see if I can go back to the idea of tertiary study later in life.
E: This past year I have grown so much in myself that I have completely changed my plans for post-secondary education. From wanting to study something in the medical field, to now wanting to study in the language and literature field. I think that writing has treated me well, not to mention how much it has helped me understand myself emotionally. Pursuing something related to writing is something that appeals to me. I’ve yet to consider the options I have in relation to such but I’m almost certain that I have my heart set on becoming an English studies teacher or Literature teacher; perhaps even teaching primary school students. I can personally vouch in saying my primary school teachers had a tremendous impact on my love for all things writing and reading at an early age. As I enter adulthood it’d be a dream come true to publish a novel or a poetry chapbook.
J: What do you think about Thirty West Publishing House? Be as honest as you may, despite the fact you know me personally.
H: From what I’ve seen so far – it looks promising. The fact that as an organization you’re actively seeking out promising and talented writers and artists rather than taking in anyone and everyone is courageous as well as necessary. I think that the writing community, particularly that of Instagram, has this attitude that anyone can be a writer – which is true, but many fail to align this view with the required amount of effort and work goes into honing that craft. I see you guys as the reward for that hard work, you’re willing to publish work that actually deserves to be published.
E: Thirty West Publishing House offers members of the indie writing community an opportunity to share their writing through the means of a platform that truly appreciates their value in the writing community. Sometimes small writers may be disregarded for their art, and I think that Thirty West offers a range of opportunities as well as more artist-to-publisher communication which gives the artist a sense of trust when the publisher deals with their art.
J: Harry, given that you’ve been published in our September #hintfiction competition, let us know if your experiences with submitting were better/worse/the same as any other submission that you have participated in thus far.
H: I’d say that the experience was pretty similar to that of other publications. Using a system like Submittable really works to standardize how submissions operate across the board. Almost every other publication that I’ve submitted work to has used it with the exception of one, which ran an email based submission system. I think the only thing that you could improve on would be doing something similar to Voiceworks in providing feedback and criticism to failed submissions (which I understand isn’t always an easy task), though at that point you would be going above and beyond in terms of your responsibility as a publication.
J: Last question: the event horizon. Where do you see yourself in 3 years? 5 years? 10 years?
H: This is never an easy question to answer (laughs). While I doubt I can really put any specifics down, I’m confident that over the years I’ll continue to write, but outside of that there isn’t a whole lot of certainty. I think it’s not only difficult, but also somewhat naïve to plan for the future – you never really know what’s going to happen in your life, what obstacles might present themselves. For all I know I might drop dead tomorrow, so I guess I prefer to live day to day, that way there’s a lot less disappointment.
E: In three years, I see myself as a developed working/studying adult who has a clear vision for the future and feels a sense of security in knowing where she’s going. In five years, I see myself in full-time work in a career which I am passionate about where I feel satisfied with every ounce of effort I’ve put in to getting to where I end up. In ten years, I’ll be 27. I see myself stable in a career which I will be forever passionate about. I would have traveled, purchased a home, and married with children or with plans on raising children. I’d still be writing and would (hopefully) have published a book.