National Young Writers Festival 2018

 

The National Young Writer’s Festival (NYWF) has been a go-to for young writers across Australia for over twenty years. Held in Newcastle, NSW, over four days, NYWF is part of the This is Not Art (TiNA) Festival. This year it was held between September 27-30 and it was my first visit to both the festival and Newcastle. My time there has left my mind teeming with new ideas and a better understanding of what it’s like to be a young writer in Australia.

There was something for essentially every writer possible at NYWF. There were panels and workshops on fiction, journalism, and gaming to name just a few. I attended a variety of different topics, from community journalism to getting work as a writer.

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I found there were two particularly memorable panels. The first was ‘Write Off the Page’, where four panellists gathered and discussed games and digital poetry. The panellists included: Andrew Gleeson, Karen Lowry, Chad Toprak, and Cecile Richard. Lowry spoke of her digital poetry and electronic literature, which includes a detective game with poetry (check it out here). Toprak mentioned a game (Cart-Load-of-Fun) he made for the trams in Melbourne to try and bring games into a public sphere. One of his successes of this game was convincing a sceptical stranger and making them smile. Read more about Toprak here. Twine, a game engine, was mentioned and recommended for writers wanting to explore game development.

Another memorable panel was ‘Narrative Prosthesis’, which was panelled by Robin M. Eames and Alistair Baldwin. I went into this panel at random and discovered it was about disability in the arts. Being someone with a disability, I found this panel extremely empowering. It made me feel equal to other issues discussed over the weekend and raised some interesting points about disability in the arts. One fact I discovered is how it’s cheaper to hire a non-disabled person to play a disabled role on television than someone with that disability. I was surprised to hear this and it’s got me asking two questions: why does this happen and how can they get away with it? I wish to explore this further in future.

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As I travelled to NYWF with Empire Times (which I currently edit), I attended and participated in the ‘Student Media Symposium’. Held by the editors from Farrago (Melbourne University student magazine), the Symposium was mainly a discussion about student media, which included topics like what is expected of student media and how we address student politics. We also discussed issues in student media, coming back to common contemporary issues, such as budget, diversity and university politics.

Beyond the panels, discussions and workshops were plenty of other free events to attend across both NYWF and TiNA. Countless readings were on across Newcastle on a variety of different topics. One reading I sat in was called The Best Book I (N)ever Read. It was fascinating to listen to the stories on what other people thought about what are often referred to as the ‘best’ books and why they didn’t read them. Other readings included By the Sea (held at Newcastle Beach), Why I Write, and Late-Night Readings.

Zine Collection

 

Another event that took place was the NYWF Zine Fair. Held on the Sunday at Newcastle Library, the Zine Fair was where attendees could pick up zines from writers from Newcastle and across Australia. It’s here that I picked up copies of The Line (a free Newcastle zine) and a graphic novel called Ghost Beach by Ben Mitchell.

NewsXpress, a newspaper for TiNA, was also present throughout the festival. NewsXpress ran over the four days in different locations of the festival and was created by editor Danni McGrath through screen printing. The newspaper printed a new issue every day of the festival, typically discussing news and what’s happening around Newcastle. I watched McGrath create a copy of the Sunday issue when I picked my copy up (also on Sunday), fascinated by how it was done. It has now left me with the intention to try it out at smaller conventions here in Adelaide in future.

Overall, the 2018 NYWF overall was a lot of fun and full of useful information for every kind of writer. I enjoyed my visit and the addition of panels about gaming and podcasts make it the most contemporary and advanced literary festival I have attended yet. All the panels and workshops were free and the Zine Fair is a fantastic place to pick up a literary souvenir and support local writers and zine-makers. If I have the opportunity, I would love to go back next year, and if you do too, I highly recommend you visit it too.


 

Words and photography by Cameron Lowe

Meet-the-Team-Cameron2

Cameron Lowe is a horror and sci-fi writer, editor and student. He’s had fiction and articles featured in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times. He loves to read, play video games, and drink green tea. He’s one of the 2018 editors at Empire Times. He tweets at @cloweshadowking.

How To Make A Basic Twine Game

Are you new to Twine? Have you just opened up the program and don’t know where to begin? Well, fear no more! I have eight simple steps on creating your very first game with Twine. Today we will be making a basic game that requires very little programming.

1

Here is the opening menu of the engine. As you can see, I’ve made a couple of games on here already. You have three formats to choose from, which you can find in the “formats” tab. However, for this, we’ll stick with the default Twine 2.0 setting (Harlowe 1.2.2). Begin by clicking the green button that says “+Story”. Name your story and press “+Add”.

2

This is the storyboard blueprints. This is where you will create your game. This is zoomed in, but you can zoom out by clicking the boxes on the tab in the bottom right. You can click the green “+Passage” button to create a new passage, but this will be unconnected so don’t do that. Instead, double-click the “Untitled Passage” box in the middle of the screen.

3

What you have here now is the passage. It is here that you can write your story and build your game. As you can see, I have already begun writing. The [[Begin Learning]] is the most basic form of programming in the engine. This is your button function, which gets you from one passage to the next. Go ahead and write anything in and when done, click the close button in the “Untitled Passage” line. We will ignore the “+tags” function for now as that is for later reference when your game is more complex.

4

As you can see on your blueprints page, you now have a second passage that has appeared. You will also notice a line between them. This means you have successfully linked the two pages, meaning you can go from page one to two now. To continue, double-click this newly made passage.

5

Repeat the same process as you did in Step Three. You don’t have to enter the exact story I have but do a similar one as it will make this easier to follow. This time, add two button functions instead of one. Once you do so, exit the passage.

A note to remember: Twine is very sensitive when it comes to passage names. Always use unique names as a passage can always be linked with the wrong one. I’ve made this mistake many times in my time with the engine.

6

Do you see two passages extending off the one now? If so, you have successfully created a branching narrative. This is where you can make your story with multiple endings. Continue the repeat the processes you did in Step Three and Five.

7

Now we come up to an interesting part of this: linking back to previous pages. As you can see here, I have a vampire in front of the castle. You may want to give your players a choice, either approach them or return to the fork in the road. To return to the fork, simply make a passage called [[Return to the Fork]]. From there, go to this new passage and then simply type the title of the passage (mine is [[Begin Learning]]). It should automatically show up when you begin typing, making it easier.

8

If your storyboard looks like mine then you have successfully created a nonlinear story that gives players choice. If you are happy with this, click either the TEST or PLAY buttons on the bottom right hand corner. You have successfully created a game, congratulations!

*As you can see on your game you have the automatic choice to go back, rendering the [[RETURN TO THE FORK]] function useless. However, keep it in as this will not be present in formats like SugarCube (port of Twine 1 engine).

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BONUS: Publish

You can share your creation with your friends and family by clicking on your story name below. Go to the PUBLISH TO FILE function. Select your save spot and name it whatever you want. Save it as a HTML document. From there, find your file and your game will appear up in your browser of choice. You now have a game up and running. Well done! You can now either decide to work on this story more or explore the program more and create more complex one once you have gotten the hang of it.


Words by Cameron Lowe

Twine: A Game Engine For Writers

Throughout my creative writing degree, I wanted to learn how to write and make video games. However, I found out it was a topic not mentioned much by my tutors, due to it possibly being seen as digital media rather than literary. It was even more difficult finding an engine that uses literary skills rather than digital skills. However, writers rejoice, there is a game engine we can use. This engine allows the use of literary skills to create video games, allowing us to get in on the popularity of games. This engine is called Twine.

First released in 2009, Twine is an open source game engine that allows users to create interactive fiction. This interactive fiction is primarily text-based, much like PC games from the early 1980s like Zork, but can contain images, music and video. The program is free to download and from the time of writing is currently in Twine 2.0 (version 2.2.1). Twine uses three different computer codes to work: JavaScript, CSS, and HTML5. For those writers unfamiliar with coding terms, these are the most basic codes used in computer programming. They are typically used in creating web pages and their functions.

You can create many different narratives with Twine. My personal favourite (and recommended for beginners) is the “Choose Your Own Adventure” narrative. This allows you to create a narrative with multiple endings and make the players think carefully before they making a choice. This was the first story style I created when I started with the engine back in 2016, hence why I recommend it for beginners. The narrative style is simple to create and requires little coding knowledge.

If you are looking to create a more complex game like a survival horror or RPG, then you will need to learn coding. Thankfully, it is very easy to create code in Twine. The internet contains many tips and shares source code on how to develop functions like keys, playback video, and health points. For those interested, check out this example from Twine Wiki about creating a key using code. A word of warning: some codes were written a few years ago and may be incompatible with newer versions of Twine. It will also take time to learn this, but it will let you create more complex stories.

One piece of advice before creating anything in Twine: plan your narrative. You need to know what happens on each panel before you begin in the engine. You have to make sure your story makes sense before constructing it, or you will find it to be very difficult and tedious going back and fixing everything later on. I know this because I have made the same mistake. I am usually someone who never plans when writing, which is fine for short stories or novels, but not for video games.

You can also use Twine as a basis for developing a game further in another engine like Unity. Due to its basic coding script, you can develop a game completely within the engine and give it to a friend or colleague who knows game programming. The narrative aspect of the engine also allows your programming friend to get a feel for your game which they can replicate in another engine.

If you are looking into writing for video games, Twine is a great starting point. It allows literary writers to transfer their skills to digital media with ease. Check out some examples of what people have made here. You can download the engine from the link to their site here.


Words by Cameron Lowe 

camCameron Lowe is a horror and sci-fi writer, editor and student. He’s had fiction and articles featured in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times. He loves to read, play video games, and drink green tea. He’s one of the 2018 editors at Empire Times. He tweets at @cloweshadowking.

Restarting Your Creativity: Part III

PART THREE: FINDING MOTIVATION

Some advice I was given (and tried my best to follow) is to write something, anything every single day. Writing is like sport, and like any sport you need to practice to get good. Sometimes this might be a few thousand words, sometimes a paragraph or a sentence or even a single word. Everyone works in different ways but the surest and strongest way to get started is to do just that. Start. And everything starts somewhere.

These are some ways in which you can find your motivation today!

1.) Clean your workspace

It sounds counter-productive and sometimes it is. If your workspace isn’t how you want it, it might put you off for days, weeks, or even months. Clean it. Tidy it. Make sure it’s not a distraction.

2.) Set yourself a challenge

As with finding time, challenges can be very handy to motivate you. If you need to get 3,000 words done by Friday and you have a friend holding you to it, you’re not going to want to disappoint that friend. Generally you have an understanding of your own working ability so it is up to you to set yourself a goal or challenge that you will realistically meet. If you are a slow writer you might aim for 500 words or a page a day, or if you’re a quick writer a few thousand words might not be too ambitious. But a challenge that works for you won’t necessarily work for everyone.

 

3.) Enter a competition

Competitions give you deadlines not just for a word count but for a polished copy of whatever it is you’re writing. Working towards this deadline, in theory, means working towards a deadline of at least one week ahead and then taking the time to edit thoroughly before submission. Even if you don’t end up entering your work you put the time and effort into creating it.

4.) Ask a friend or family member to read your work

This would also appear on a lot of lists of what not to do. But in the end you want to be motivated right? You want to hear about how much talent you have and how wonderful you are. So get someone who loves you to read your work and bask in their praise. Hopefully, if you push on, people who don’t know you will also want to praise you.

5.) Tell someone about your writing

In telling someone about your project you’re making it real. They might remember and ask you how the writing is coming along. Plus, if you’re talking about it you’re thinking about it, and if you’re thinking about it you’re working on it. Don’t worry if it comes to nothing or if you switch from one project to another, just keep voicing those ideas.

6.) Read good books

Writers are always encouraged to be constantly reading. The advantage of this is you’re surrounding yourself with good writing, which encourages you to also produce good writing. As I mentioned in Rediscovering your Inspiration, reading something that provokes you (in a good or bad way) is also helpful. It encourages you to do better and to respond to the work. The caution here of course is to let yourself read bad books, but not bad writing. Bad books make you want to do better (and destroy your faith in humanity), but bad writing is just… bad.

7.) Read literary magazines

Find out what’s going on in the writing world and stay in touch with it. Know it’s where you belong and stay there. You might write highly experimental literary fiction and find places like The Lifted Brow and (increasingly) Voiceworks a great comfort. Or you might prefer Meanjin, Kill Your Darlings, or Overland, there are plenty of literary magazines out there. You might even just want to stay up to date with Tulpa Magazine (we have a newsletter, you should sign up!). Whatever you decide to do, keep literary magazines in mind—we certainly have plenty to offer. Tulpa is currently free to read, and other places (if you don’t want to pay subscription fees) are generally available in your library.

8.) Stop reading

Yes I am contradicting my earlier point. If you’re like me (constantly reading) you might find that this motivates you to write. You’re so used to being in a story that you need to write just to get back into the zone. You’ll be desperate to finish your project just so that you can escape back into a good book.

9.) Have a plan

Some writers are pantsers and some are planners. Know which one you are and how much planning you need to have done in order to succeed. If you’re a pantser hold on tight to your idea, sit down, and start writing. If you’re a planner, like me, you might want to have a highly detailed plan and over-write the hell out of your piece. As long as it works for you it works!

10.) Have a write-in

You might work best on your own but there is seriously nothing like writing with others. Hearing other keyboards going, pens scraping paper, having the occasional chat and talking about your work is always a wonderful experience. I’ve personally found this can also work well with visual artists because you’re all doing something creative and losing yourself in your work in the same way. Writers SA run a write-in called TWELVE each quarter where you spend twelve hours working on a creative project. Alternately Simone Corletto and Mhairi Tocher run a regular virtual write-in called the YA Jungle which you are welcome to follow along with. To find out more check out their website.

One of the biggest things I would like for you to take from my Restarting Your Creativity series is that you are more than capable of writing. You can finish your project. You can find the time, inspiration, and motivation to fulfill your goals. There are so many things you can do to get yourself ready to write but the easiest and most effective thing to do is to just sit down and write. Make the time, get inspired, and get motivated.


Art by Rhianna Carr

Words by Kayla Gaskell

Kayla Gaskell is an Adelaide based writer and reviewer whose work has appeared in Empire Times, Readplus, Buzzcuts, Where’s Pluto, and now Tulpa.

 

OTHER PARTS IN THIS SERIES:

Part I: Finding the Time to Write

Part II: Rediscovering your Inspiration

 

Restarting Your Creativity: Part II

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PART TWO: REDISCOVERING YOUR INSPIRATION

Being a writer is scary business and what most people tend to ask is what project you’re working on now. But what if there isn’t any current project? What if you’re just pottering around and looking for inspiration? Well I’m here to tell you that inspiration is everywhere!

In my first-year creative writing class we were told that when a “normal” person looks at a tree all they see is a tree, but when a creative person looks at a tree they see a range of things: colour, shape, texture, smell, sound, life… We recognise that there are endless things happening inside, on, and around the tree. I’ve always found this interesting when thinking about inspiration. There is so much around us to be inspired by that we often don’t know where to look or even begin looking.

Here are some ways in which you can find inspiration today:

1.) Go outside. I mean it. Don’t just look out your window.

Like the tree analogy it’s always great to get outside, breath in the fresh air, and look around you at what you can see. There might be a bird zipping through a nearby tree, but how would you describe it? How would you get the motion, noise, and impression onto the page? Piri Eddy’s ‘The Bus Stop of Innumerable Displeasures’ is a great example of using this technique.

You could go for a walk and write about what you see. Write a walk poem and see where that takes you. Who would be walking the same route? Why? What would they be thinking of? Are they trying to reach something or someone? Or are they trying to escape?

2.) Go somewhere new

I always find that going somewhere new ignites creativity. You don’t even have to go far. You might just hop on a bus to the next town and have a wander. Just go somewhere unfamiliar. While you’re trying to find your way around you’re also trying to take in everything. Most times in fiction you have an outsider character, and this is a good way to embrace this situation by letting yourself get and feel a little lost. You’ll find you’re trying to take in everything at once and that’s just what your character is doing too!

3.) Talk to a stranger

Remember how as a kid you were always told not to talk to strangers? Do it. Every single person you know and have ever seen is a wealth of information on something. You just need to get them talking and find out what. Every single person you ever interact with can help you with your writing, even if you simply notice one mannerism that is somehow different or intriguing. You can use that in your writing. Think about what it means.

4.) Go people-watching

Similar to talking to strangers, but without having to talk. This is very much a sport for introverts. Those kids on the train discussing their friend’s girlfriend? They’re your inspiration. The babies learning to walk and talk? Doesn’t that teach you something? The strange Russian man on the street giving you dinner recommendations in your own town? He

is inspiring! Who is he? What is he doing here? Why did he come to Adelaide? These are all questions you can start asking yourself to ignite your creativity!

5.) Look up writing prompts

This is perhaps one of the easiest options. Use a prompt. There are plenty of generators online and the AWC does a monthly competition called Furious Fiction where you’re given an image and asked to write a 500 word short story beginning with what you see. If you don’t have access to the internet you can also use books, photos, and objects as a writing prompt. That blue zippo you saw on your walk home? Where did it come from? What’s it’s story? Was it dropped by accident? Was it thrown away? Did someone have a fight? Is this someone’s way of quitting smoking or cleaning up their lives? Or does it belong to someone who likes lighting fires?

6.) Have a conversation with your characters

Does this sound stupid? Maybe, but you’re a writer so who cares! You probably know that all your characters have their own unique voices, knowledge, and habits. Which means it’s safe to say they know more than you do when it comes to themselves. Whether you treat it as if they exist in a parallel universe or just in your head, you can always sit down and have a conversation with them. Sometimes it helps to do this on paper—and I wouldn’t be too worried if they start abusing you. They’re a part of you and what is a writer other than self- deprecating?

7.) Be your character

I like to pretend that I am my character sometimes. I do everything that they would do (within reason) and get a feel for how they think. If my character knows a language I want to know the language too. If my character likes science, I want to know all about their interest in science.

8.) Free write

The aim of free writing is to not overthink it. But guess what, you’re a writer and you’ll probably overthink it until you get used to it. Free writing is writing whatever comes into your mind without worrying about spelling, grammar, or punctuation. Sometimes this will be entirely useless, but other times you’ll strike upon a gem of a phrase, the start to a scene, or overcome a problem you’ve been trying to solve since you were eight years old. When you free write it can be about anything or anyone. There is no right and no wrong way to do it. You just write.

9.) Indulge in some other creative practice

Paint, sing, play guitar, sew, make something—do something that is creative but has nothing to do with writing. You’d be surprised (even if you’re not good at whatever creative pursuit you try) at how much it helps to reset your mind. Art is all about expression and when you can’t seem to express yourself in one way, you should try to do it in another.

10.) Read a provocative writing book/post

This is my little secret. Generally, the idea is you read something about writing to inspire you, instead I think you should read bad advice about writing which will provoke you. For

me it’s Harry Bingham’s How to Write, which I do not own on principle. I came across the book at my local library when I was doing my research project in high school. I’m not going to tell you that the book is bad, I haven’t attempted to read it since, but there were certain quotes and passages I found provoking. I found that this particular book goaded me and during a write-in with Writers SA I came across the book again. And again, it encouraged me to get things done. So, read books about writing. Get to know which ones are good, which are bad, and which motivate you to succeed.

11.) Hang out with other writers/creatives

In part one I discussed the idea of a writers group. This is something which is good in all three respects (time, inspiration, and motivation) because you’ll be constantly challenged by your peers. When you talk to other writers or other creatives in general about their work it tends to be inspiring. Certain words or phrases lead you back to consider your own work and how you could be as together and as motivated as your fellow writer.

12.) Have a shower

Showers are a good way to reset your mind and body. In the shower your mind will often drift, and you’ll find yourself considering problems and scenarios both in your everyday life and your character’s. In the shower you can plan the next steps of your writing and get clean at the same time!

With any luck some of the above points will help you to rediscover your inspiration. Inspiration can be tricky sometimes, but it’s never gone completely and there are plenty of ways to rediscover it.


Art by Rhianna Carr

Words by Kayla Gaskell

Kayla Gaskell is an Adelaide based writer and reviewer whose work has appeared in Empire Times, Readplus, Buzzcuts, Where’s Pluto, and now Tulpa.

 

OTHER PARTS IN THIS SERIES:

Part I: Finding the Time to Write

Part III: Finding Motivation

 

Restarting Your Creativity: Part I

Make the time, get inspired, and get motivated!

In my experience, any writer needs three main things: time, motivation, and inspiration. Sometimes one, two, or all of those things are hard to come by. So if you’re struggling to find any of those three things, I’ve complied some suggestions for how to restart your creativity!

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PART ONE: FINDING THE TIME TO WRITE

Finding time to write has been a struggle the older (and more responsible) I get. Throughout the last few years it’s been work, study, and family commitments draining my creative time—not to mention attempting to have some semblance of a social life. So, in this busy, fast-paced world how did I find the time to write creatively? Well honestly, sometimes I didn’t. And that doesn’t make me (or you) any less of a writer.

So, what can you do to find time?

1.) Wake up early

This might sound like a no-brainer but how many of us, particularly in the colder months, are willing to drag ourselves out of bed a half hour earlier to write? I’ve tried this one and while it does work, you’ve got to be able to maintain that motivation.

2.) Make time to write, and protect it at all costs

If you have dedicated writing time you’ve got less excuses to not write. You might work in the morning, in the afternoon, or at night. Whatever works for you. But it is important to work out what time of day works and make time to write then, if possible. I’ve known writers who have writing days and seem to be entirely productive and if you can do that, great. It sounds like an ideal arrangement, but it doesn’t work for everyone. And if it doesn’t work for you that doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong. You just need to think about how you work best. So once you’ve picked out your time, make yourself unavailable. Turn off your phone, make no plans, and don’t take any visitors. You’ve got the rest of your life for that!

3.) Have a writing ritual

If you don’t have a specific time to write, have a ritual. Have a shower, go for a run, make a cup of coffee. You might even have a specific pen you only use for your writing or a specific cup/mug you use only when you’re writing. All these little things come together and remind you that THIS IS WHEN YOU WRITE.

4.) Join a writing group, or alternately, start your own

Having gone through a creative writing degree I’ve learned the importance of surrounding yourself with other writers. You all want to be the best writer you can be and get the work done—why not motivate each other with cups of tea (or coffee), encouragement, and the soundtrack of computer keys clacking? This can be with another writer or a handful of people. If you don’t have any writers to turn to try students or artists. Anyone that requires the same concentration as you and can encourage you to be productive (but not distract you too much).

5.) Go on a writer’s retreat

This isn’t something I’ve ever done but it sounds like a good idea right? Get away from the chaos for a week or two and just write. There are plenty of writer retreats around, you can even make your own if you want. Go by yourself or with other writing buddies and spend days writing and nights discussing your work. Plus, if you’re on a writing retreat you might not have to explain yourself if and when you start talking aloud to your characters!

6.) Set yourself writing goals

This one in particular works for me. Usually I’ll set a word count to be completed each day or over a number of days (depending on the project) and I won’t sleep until I’ve reached it, even if it’s not my best work—why? Because you can always edit later. When doing this I write each day’s word count in my diary and keep track of any words that I owe myself (if I didn’t hit my word count on a given day).

7.) Leave the house

If you can’t concentrate on pumping out those words at home why not go somewhere else? A library or a coffee shop or a friend’s place. Coffee shops are good for two reasons, the first is coffee, and the second is people watching—which can be a great source of inspiration.. Libraries are usually peaceful places to write, with a variety of atmospheres. And if you go to a friend’s place you get to steal their wifi, tea and coffee, and it counts as “being social”.

8.) Always carry a notebook

It’s a cliché to say “you never know when inspiration will hit” but it’s also true. Having a notebook with you might scream “I AM A WRITER” to some people. You might have to explain yourself to people on the bus or on the train, you’ll always have somewhere to write down anything that comes to mind. This might be a line, a snippet of a poem, or even the outline for the next Harry Potter. Although if you’re aiming to be the next JK you’ve got a fair amount of competition.

I won’t ever claim to be a writing expert. I doubt anyone truly would—and if they did I’d advise you not to trust them. These are just some ways you might be able to make time in your daily life to write. Some things will work, some things won’t. Sometimes you’ll be too tired. Sometimes you’ll be too busy. Just remember, while you’re thinking up excuses you’re wasting time. So, get out the pen and paper, switch on your laptop, and get writing!


Art by Rhianna Carr

Words by Kayla Gaskell

Kayla Gaskell is an Adelaide based writer and reviewer whose work has appeared in Empire Times, Readplus, Buzzcuts, Where’s Pluto, and now Tulpa.