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Editor’s Note From humble Wordpress beginnings to now,
‘Writing Her Way’
has become a platform in which to support fellow female artists, whether they put paint to parchment or pen to paper. Now, in the first of many issues to come, join us as we celebrate the future storytellers, activists, and empowered women, without whom this project would never have been possible. Melis Anik
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RING BY SPRING ANNIE DUPEE
DISAPPOINTING MY MOTHER
IMPOSTER SYNDROME RACHEL SALZANO
MORE THAN ANYTHING
A WORLD OF HER TEARS
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Annie Dupee Rachel Salzano Akansha Prakash Pim Wangtechawat Emma Ferrier Sienna Vance
RING BY SPRING Annie Dupee
D I S C L A I M E R I don’t think marriage is bad. I don’t even think getting married young is bad. What I don’t like is the idea that being a wife is the measure of success for women.
I got my undergraduate degree at a private Christian college in the United States. The signs of Spring there were much the same as they would be anywhere: flowers blooming, students doing homework on the quad, friends spending the afternoon at Sweet Jeanie’s ice cream parlor. But Spring at Grove City College doesn’t just mean warmer weather and sunnier skies. It also means couples getting engaged. The phenomenon is called ‘Ring by Spring.’ Essentially, there’s a tradition of couples getting engaged by the Spring of their senior year. Some traditions are great; for example, my family watches the extended editions of the Lord of the Rings trilogy every Christmas. But other traditions are outdated and unnecessary. For the four years I spent in undergrad, I was made to believe that getting married was the pinnacle of happiness and success. There was so much pressure to find a husband as soon as humanly possible so I could stop being lonely and my real life could start.
→ I’ve gotten used to engaged and newly married women patting me on the arm and saying, “Don’t worry. You’ll find
But the truth is that I might not. There is no way for me to know when or if I’ll get married. And as soon as I stopped being afraid of being single, I started loving it. 6
Yes, I do want to get married someday. But I have so many other things I want to do, too! I want to write (at least) one book. I want to learn sign language. I want to become a mentor for young women. I want to be the best possible aunt to my baby niece. These goals are no less important to me than finding someone to share my life with, and I don’t have to wait until I’m married to start working on them. I love the independence I have right now; I don’t have to consult anybody before making big decisions about my life. In September, I moved from the United States to Scotland to get my master’s degree in creative writing. It was my decision and my decision only, and I didn’t have to factor in anyone else’s wants or needs.
Women should be able to make their own decisions and chase their own dreams. If you want to get married, then get married. If you don’t want to get married, then don’t. Want to get your PhD? Do it! Want to be a stay at home mom? Go for it! You don’t want any kids? Then don’t have any! The choice is yours.
It would be so easy for me to be bitter toward the institution of marriage or relationships in general. But I refuse to fall into that trap. Instead, I want to celebrate the women in my life who are doing what they want, whether that’s getting married or teaching in Guatemala or getting an advanced degree or adopting a baby. If you want to get your ring by spring, then do it — either way, I’ll be here to celebrate with you.
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Imposter Syndrome Rachel Salzano
“YOU’RE GOING TO CRY, AND THAT’S OKAY.” It isn’t exactly encouraging to hear those words of advice from multiple people when you tell them you’re pursuing a PhD. But it is also the piece of advice I heard the most when I spoke to people after getting accepted into my doctoral programme. I took it in stride, mostly, thinking that it made sense. A PhD is a high stress, low return for a large amount of the time, undertaking. Depending on your motivations, the research topic, your research advisors, your roommates, your funding, etc., you could be setting yourself up for a psychologically damaging 3 years. But then I started my PhD and began to wonder. The advice was good. I’ve already cried multiple times for varying reasons. Mostly to do with funding and keeping myself alive, but sometimes to do with the actual work. I’m not even six months into the programme. I anticipate many more tears, and I’m okay with that. What I did not anticipate was the imposter syndrome.
As women, we’ve been socialised to believe we can’t hack it quite as well as men can. Even in my chosen field, which is proportionally dominated by women, men are more likely to have a high-level position and better pay. No wonder women feel like they aren’t good enough to compete. But here is what I’ve learned so far in my PhD that has nothing to do with the actual research: it’s okay to feel this way.
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It’s okay to feel like you aren’t good enough. But that doesn’t mean you quit. It’s okay to wonder why you’ve been picked for this when obviously you can’t keep up with pace and everyone around you is more competent. But that doesn’t mean you walk away. Breaking down is, to some extent, normal. And it isn’t a reflection of your ability. We can let ourselves feel what we’re feeling, imposter syndrome and all, but use those feelings to inspire us to keep going. Strength isn’t not crying. Strength is continuing on. And whether we do that all on our own or gather friends around us to give us that little extra push we can all find that strength. Our feelings do not make us weak, and they can even give us the ability to soar.
LEARN AND GROW
I’d heard about the likelihood of imposter syndrome from my director of studies when I first arrived. I didn’t question her because I’ve struggled with imposter syndrome for years. With that much experience, I thought I’d have a good handle on it in the PhD. I was wrong. But I also noticed something else. The women in my office tend to have more imposter syndrome than the men. This is not to say that the men don’t suffer from it, but the women tend to feel it more. That is, unfortunately, part of being a woman.
Disappointing My MOTHER For eons and eons we’ve been made to believe that there’s someone out there for us like Adam and Eve. Conditioning is a word I tend to overuse, but have you ever wondered if it’s all a ruse? I’m in my late 20s, and I’ve discovered, you see, that being with somebody isn’t for everybody. The cliche may stand, but the message is true, that to love others is to love yourself first, and that’s what I must do.
MY ONLY REGRET IS THAT I’M DISAPPOINTING MY MOTHER.
MORE THAN ANYTHING MORE THAN ANYTHING MORE THAN ANYTHING MORE THAN ANYTHING MORE THAN ANYTHING
MORE THAN ANYTHING More than anything. More than you and me. More than the sunrise, and Shakespeare plays, and used‑to‑bes. I miss those long drives. Sundays beside the sea. Before all I am, and everything, was shared across a screen. That was before now. I miss it more than anything.
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FIFTEEN suppose you were / fifteen again / suppose you were / alone and afraid and / starving for love and attention / suppose you were / trapped in your own imagination / (in your own version of your imagination, anyway) / and you / cry over a boy from another class / who doesn’t look at you twice / suppose you were / spotty and plain and awkward / suppose / you walked the hallways at school / and wanted nothing more / than to disappear / into the ground / suppose you were / naive and heartbroken / (or your version of heartbroken, anyway) / smiling / with lies in your eyes / when people ask you / about the boy / who doesn’t look at you twice / and you say / it doesn’t bother you / that he doesn’t look at you twice / suppose you were / all too hard on yourself / i say / you’re too hard on yourself / you’re only just fifteen / you’re only just starting out
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suppose you were / twenty‑five and writing this / suppose you were / confident and independent / and looking back at who you / supposed yourself to be / would you / still be starving for love / or for attention? / would you think you’re plain and ugly and unattractive? / would you / walk the hallways at school / with your head held a little higher? / suppose you were / another woman altogether at fifteen / would that boy who wouldn’t look at you twice / look at you twice? / and would you want him to? / i suppose / you wouldn’t / want him to / not anymore / (suppose you knew / just how much / you wouldn’t want him to) / suppose you were / fifteen and twenty-five all at once / suppose you were / that girl and this girl / and we’re altogether / walking down that hallway / oh darling / suppose we could / do it all over again / let’s just say / we would be / bringing an army / this time around
by Pim Wangtechawat
W R I T I N G AUTISTICALLY The hardest part of writing for most people is beginning. We hate a blank page. I don’t tend to have that problem. I can sit and churn out words start to finish. I completed NaNoWriMo in 12 days once. I know this probably sounds like I’m bragging, but I’m not. The words that pour out of me at first are never good. I envy anyone
who can write a perfect first draft. Although, I highly doubt they exist. No, the hardest part of writing for me isn’t the blank page.
“THE HARDEST PART FOR ME IS EDITING.”
just not clear. That’s where you’re meant to go in and redraft. Tidy Put simply, my brain doesn’t up. Change things around. It’s not work the same way as everyone easy for anyone but at least if you else’s. It’s a complete mess, a have a normally functioning mind befuddlement of disorder and you know how things should be. chaos. I know how I’m feeling, You can understand what belongs but can’t explain it. I’m constantly at the beginning, middle and end. frustrated at my inability to grasp Editing a draft is impossible for even the simplest things going me on my own. I don’t know how on in my own head. A first draft to make each part go where it is pretty similar to the insides of belongs. my brain. Everything is there, it’s
Emma Ferrier 14
I know there’s no correct way to write or edit. I know we all doubt ourselves. But this is my truth. This is what writing is for me as an autistic person. It’s a struggle. It’s being halfway there and having to stop. It’s never being able to complete the journey. I have three completed first drafts. One of which I feel has a lot of potential. But potential in the first draft isn’t good enough. I know I need to change up some of the plot. The problem is I need guidance. I don’t know how to do it. I don’t know how to take the words I have and tweak them. I don’t know how to write any other way. I need fresh eyes to highlight the flaws, and the plot holes, that I cannot always see.
AUTISM HAS ITS PERKS, AT TIMES.
It might be harder for me to edit, but nothing beats the feeling of having a scene, one that you’ve visualised for numerous chapters, come to life. Nothing beats discovering the story along with your characters. Nothing beats feeling like you’ve known them your whole life. Nothing beats writing, and regardless of the challenges, nothing beats writing autistically.
“I REFUSE TO GIVE UP”
“I JUST HAVE TO KEEP TRYING”
“I KNOW EVERY WRITER STRUGGLES”
BEING AUTISTIC brings something to writing I don’t think neurotypical writers get. Autistic people are super imaginative and creative. When I write, I live in my world. I close my eyes at night and my characters are there, not necessarily living within the story, but existing outside of it.
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WORLD OF HER TEARS
Once upon a time, a princess called Asmara married a prince called Fredrick. He was a burly blond from the Kingdom of Polaris, like no man Asmara had ever seen in Muria, a realm with lush green trees, warm sunlight and a spicy cuisine that made her tongue salivate and tingle. One day, the princess was so sick of Polaris that she vowed to do anything to get away from the brutish prince, whom she despised. Asmara ventured to a blue lagoon on a grey winter’s day. When she dipped her toes into its steamy water, memories of her past flooded in. The princess began to cry as she pictured misty jungles surrounding her palace and imagined the smell of sizzling curry wafting into her nose… She would give anything just to frolic in greenery one last time. She wanted to swim in tropical seas and kiss the boy that she had to leave behind. Fredrick would never let her cry like this in front of him. He preferred Asmara in silence, stoic yet pretty like most of the Polarian women, with her coily hair combed and her lips a shade of crimson red. Living with the prince was nothing like living in Muria, where Asmara could be loud and vibrant in her expression.
Asmara pressed her palms together and decided to call on her sun god, begging, “Please, please give me a home here.” But a bright, yellow sun god didn’t answer the princess. Instead, a blue‑skinned woman appeared out of thin air, floating in the mist above the water. Asmara’s breath hitched. It was Valüra, the Polarian goddess of the lagoons. She recognised her from the castle murals. The one with the tall coiled horn sticking out of her head. Asmara sunk deeper into the lagoon and asked, “Why…why are you here?” Valüra’s voice was as serene as a mermaid’s song. “You’re exactly what I need to change the world. To give those who are slaughtered a second chance at life.” The princess closed her eyes and remembered. She saw the whales, the fish, the merchant ships and pirates that Fredrick and his fleet went after each day. What a hypocrite, she thought. He had once called Murians uncivilised when he often resorted to violence without question. The goddess hovered toward the princess.“Kiss me and your tears will change the world,” she said.
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SHORT STORY OF THE ISSUE
S I E N N A
Asmara was skeptical, but she also had nothing else to lose. She had already lost her parents, and she had already lost her first love. She had lost everything that she ever called home because of her stupid husband. She lost track of time when the lagoon began to flood. The tears flowed over icy hills and rose above snow-capped mountains. Towers and castles became submerged in a newborn sea. When Polaris was completely underwater, a bright blue glow filled the princess’ eyes. A horn like Valüra’s began growing atop of her head and her hair colour changed from black to white. Her brown skin began to sparkle like sapphires, and her long legs transformed into something slick and scaly like the snakes in her jungle. Asmara pulled away from the goddess and observed her new body. The goddess vanished, and Asmara was left in the expanse of blue surrounded by hundreds of horns pointing in her direction. Dolphins, seals and fish began swimming all around her. Her white hair was blowing in the wind like the
flurries of snow dancing above the lagoon. Asmara grasped Valüra’s hair into her hands and pulled the goddess’ body into the water. She kissed her and began to shed thousands of tears. “A…tail,” she said. She had become a deity, just like Valüra. Drowned Polarians began falling down into the depths of the sea, their bodies transforming as they circled around Asmara. She observed their glittering faces, glowing blue eyes, horns and tails. The princess looked toward Valüra and asked, “What have you done?” “I’ve given you the power to make your own home, where creatures are loved,” the goddess said. “To give you a chance to be someplace where you are loved.” “All hail the supreme goddess of the seas!” the deities chanted. Asmara stared at them in an awestruck gaze. She had become the maker of their world. The Queen of the Newborn Sea.
V A N C E 17
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Illustrations by Kelly Seville @sweetpea_watercolours
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