Featured Fem | Meet Sylvia Arthur

Sylvia Arthur (avatar)Sylvia Arthur is a narrative nonfiction writer from the U.K. She has written for Clutch magazine, The Guardian, the BBC and News Africa magazine. She is currently working on a book of interconnected essays called African and Other Curse Words.

Fem: In the reading you gave for your upcoming work African, & Other Curse Words, you talk about your experience as a black woman from the U.K. living in Brussels. You say, “If I said I was British, they would say I was African. If I said I was African, they would question why I spoke English, why I spoke it with an English accent, and why I spoke it so fluently.” Can you talk a little bit about that feeling of not really belonging to any of the categories people had for you?

Sylvia Arthur: It’s not so much about not belonging as not being accepted. I think they’re two interrelated but slightly different things. I belong to all of those categories, but people wanted to pigeonhole me into one, reducing me to something they could easily understand rather than trying to comprehend the complexity of who I am. But belonging has as much to do with the internal as the external. I know what I am, who I am, and where I belong, yet it’s so frustrating to tell the truth and be consistently interrogated, which is when you start doubting yourself and what you know to be true. It’s not only frustrating, it’s disorientating, infuriating, and nauseating. It’s like emotional waterboarding. I am Black British, or British Ghanaian, or Ghanaian British. I see no contradiction in that, but the Europeans I encountered just wouldn’t, or couldn’t, accept that. Continue reading “Featured Fem | Meet Sylvia Arthur”

Featured Fem | Meet Frankie Concepcion

frankie concepcionFrankie Concepcion was born in the Phillipines and currently lives in Somerville, MA. She has written essays for The Toast, Vagabond City Lit and TheRappler.com among others, and poetry for such places as Straylight Literary Magazine, The Fat Cat Review and Literary Orphans. She is also the founder of GUNITA, an online collective for Filipino artists. This is her website.

Fem: Tell us about GUNITA. What space did you feel like it was filling and how has it evolved?

Frankie Conception: I started GUNITA because I wanted Filipinos to have a safe and encouraging space to think about our identities and current events going on in our country. In the U.S. there are so many opportunities to do exactly that, be it on the internet, in schools, or organizations where people can get together and just talk about what they’re seeing on the news, in their communities. But there aren’t many spaces to do that in the Philippines. So I wanted GUNITA to be a jumping off point, a springboard where people can talk about and explore issues that matter to them and be inspired to do something about it. Continue reading “Featured Fem | Meet Frankie Concepcion”

Featured Fem | Meet Teow Lim Goh

Author PhotoTeow Lim Goh is the author of Islanders (Conundrum Press, May 2016), a book of poems on the history of the Angel Island Immigration Station. Her writing has appeared in PANK, The Toast, Guernica, The Rumpus, Winter Tangerine Review, and Open Letters Monthly, among other publications. She also makes letterpress and art editions of poetry and other writings at her imprint Black Orchid Press. She lives in Denver.

Fem: Tell us about Islanders.

Teow Lim Goh: Between 1910 and 1940, Chinese immigrants to America were detained at the Angel Island Immigration Station in the San Francisco Bay. As they waited for weeks and months to know if they could land, some of them wrote poems on the walls. All the poems we have on record were found in the men’s barracks: the women’s quarters were destroyed in a fire. Continue reading “Featured Fem | Meet Teow Lim Goh”

Featured Fem | Meet Kathryn Burns

IMG_3177Kathryn Burns is a bipolar twenty-two year old cashier who spends most of her time trying to run interference between her five cats and the keyboard of her laptop.

Fem: Why is validating identities in writing personal for you? 

Kathryn Burns: I believe that validating identities should be a priority for every writer of any type of media, but the reasons why it is such a significant goal for me are definitely personal. Until the age of nineteen, I considered myself straight. I was attracted to guys, and I could relate to heterosexual storylines in every platform of literature I consumed, from books and movies to music. Having never even heard of the concept of heteronormativity, I had no idea how much I was limiting myself. But then after a drunken kiss with a female friend of mine, I started to feel confused. Looking back on my memories from puberty, I realized that the “girl crush” I had on Catherine Zeta Jones in Chicago wasn’t quite what I thought it was. I didn’t watch that movie on a daily basis because I wanted to be her… It was because her deep, throaty singing and intriguing dark lipstick were a huge factor of my sexual awakening. It was during this period of memory analysis that I watched a video describing pansexuality. I had never heard the term before, but suddenly I felt warm all over, as if it had wrapped around me like an afghan. I was safe. I was understood. Continue reading “Featured Fem | Meet Kathryn Burns”

Featured Fem | Meet Jessica Meats

linkedin profileJessica Meats is a British science fiction author with a degree in mathematics and computer science. She works in the IT industry as a specialist in Microsoft technologies and draws on her knowledge of computers to add a dash of reality to her science fiction adventures. Outside of work and writing, Jessica enjoys reading, making jewellery, and studying martial arts.

Fem: You have a background in mathematics and computer science. What sparked your interest in these areas?

Jessica Meats: I always did well in maths lessons at school. It was something I just accepted about myself from an early age: “good at maths” was part of who I was just like “brown hair” and “hates mushrooms.” It was something encouraged by my family and my teachers, and, like most people, I like doing well in things, so when I was picking my A-Level subjects , it seemed a natural choice. When it came to university degrees though, I was less certain because I couldn’t see many logical progressions from a mathematics degree into an obvious career. We did various strengths tests and career planning exercises at school and one option that came up was computer science, apparently a good fit for someone who is good at maths. Continue reading “Featured Fem | Meet Jessica Meats”

Featured Fem | Vasilina Orlova

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Vasilina Orlova was born in the village of Dunnai in the Russian Far East in 1979. She has lived in Vladivostok, Moscow, and London, and is now based in Austin, United States, working her way through the PhD program in anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin.

She holds a PhD in philosophy and is the author of seven novels in Russian—among them The Voice of Fine Stillness, The Wilderness, and The Supper of a Praying Mantis. Mostly they were published in Novy Mir literary journal. She has also published several books of prose and poetry, including Yesterday, The Wilderness, and Quartet.

Fem: Describe your latest publication.

Vasilina Orlova: My latest publication is a poem, dedicated to one of my peers, anthropologist Joseph Russo. It came out in a small New-Yorkian zine. The poem is about basilisk who has a valise and embarks on a kind of journey. It largely emerged out of play with sound, pure alliteration. It’s a little piece that I like. Continue reading “Featured Fem | Vasilina Orlova”

Featured Fem | Meet Azia DuPont

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Azia DuPont is a mother, writer and editor living in Southern California. She is the Co. Founder and current Editor-in-chief of Dirty Chai Magazine. You can find her online via Twitter or online.

Fem: Explain your involvement with Dirty Chai Magazine. How did it come about?

Azia DuPont: Dirty Chai was something that I had been playing around with in my mind since 2011. At that time, I wasn’t an “active” member of the lit community. What I mean by that is mostly I was an avid reader who did not actively engage with anyone (read: writers on the internet) outside of my small circle of IRL writer friends. I was on the internet but I did a lot of lurking and was not involved to the extent I am now.  I had a few favorite poets and I would follow their work from journal to journal, and I kept seeing their work published alongside the same names time and again. I definitely saw the merit in the work but I also wanted to see some fresh meat – I knew there had to be other people writing!  Continue reading “Featured Fem | Meet Azia DuPont”

Featured Fem | Meet Sarah Yaw

SarahYawHiResSarah Yaw’s novel You Are Free To Go (Engine Books, 2014) won the 2013 Engine Books Novel Prize and the 2015 CNY Book Award for fiction; her short work has appeared in Salt Hill. Sarah received an MFA in fiction from Sarah Lawrence College. She is associate professor and coordinator of Cayuga Advantage at Cayuga Community College.

 

Fem: What drew you to fiction?

Sarah Yaw: I was a musician who’d lost her music and needed an artistic outlet to satisfy the parts of me music once satisfied. In college, I was a women’s studies minor and landed in a women writers course at SUNY Albany. I didn’t know I wanted to write fiction. I’d even forgotten that I’d shown early promise in school. Later, I remembered shutting down the desire to write because I thought only men wrote—sounds simplistic and stupid, but that limiting belief wormed its way in and stayed there until it was forcibly dislodged by that women writers class. For our final paper, we could write a literary analysis or a creative piece in the voice of one of the authors we’d read that semester. I’d read Colette for the first time in that class and she blew my doors off. So I attempted to write pieces in her voice and a whole new world opened up for me. I was a senior, so that was disorienting. Eventually, I found my way to graduate school where I learned the writing tools I’d missed out on in my undergraduate education. Continue reading “Featured Fem | Meet Sarah Yaw”

Featured Fem | Meet Vanessa Willoughby

photoVanessa Willoughby is an editor and writer. Her work has been featured on The Toast, The Hairpin, Vice, Hazlitt, and Bitch. She is Creative Director for Winter Tangerine.

Fem: Tell us about Winter Tangerine. What do you do as a Creative Director?

Vanessa Willoughby: Winter Tangerine is an online literary and arts journal founded by Yasmin Belkhyr. We started out doing just print issues, but now we’ve moved everything online and expanded upon features and columns. We’re really committed to finding and promoting marginalized writers who are often overlooked, ignored and dismissed by mainstream publishing. I’ve been with the journal since the beginning and am so proud to be a member of a collaborative team that shares my passion for challenging the white status quo of publishing and the literary world. As someone who is both an editor and a writer, it’s been, to say the least, an uphill battle to be even considered as a serious candidate in publishing. Publishing, whether they agree or not, is largely dominated by whiteness and connections (or nepotism). You can be an extremely hard-worker, a brilliant editor/writer, done some internships, even be overqualified, but your blackness will always be the first thing these people in power see. People will work themselves into mental gymnastics in order to justify the lack of POC in publishing. I’m glad to be a part of WT and thus be able to find relief from the publishing industry’s demands to appease the white gaze. Continue reading “Featured Fem | Meet Vanessa Willoughby”

Featured Fem | Meet Sarah Rafael García

Fem Project - HeadshotSarah Rafael García is a writer, community educator and traveler. Since publishing Las Niñas, she founded Barrio Writers and obtained a M.F.A. in Creative Writing. She writes poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction. Her writing has appeared in LATINO Magazine, Contrapuntos III, Outrage: A Protest Anthology For Injustice in a Post 9/11 World, La Tolteca Zine and will be featured in Issue 03 of Lumen Magazine.

Most recently, Sarah Rafael was awarded for Santana’s Fairy Tales, which is supported in part by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, through a grant supporting the Artist-in-Residence initiative at Grand Central Art Center in Southern California. Sarah Rafael is currently the Editor for the annual Barrio Writers anthology and Co-editor of the forthcoming Pariahs: Writing From Outside the Margins anthology.

Fem: Tell us about Barrio Writers. 

Sarah Rafael García: The Barrio Writers (BW) program aims to empower teens through creative writing, higher education and cultural arts. It consists of free 1-week intensive summer workshops and additional “café hours” (one-on-one tutoring). It also includes access to higher education resources and cultural arts field trips. Through the BW program youth build skills in reading, grammar, creative writing, critical-thinking and freedom of expression through the cultural arts. Continue reading “Featured Fem | Meet Sarah Rafael García”