Writing for Publication During a Pandemic

Anahita Ebrahimi

By now we have accepted COVID-19 and the changes it brought to the professional and personal lives of students. Whilst we may have become accustomed to ‘the new norm’ of working from home, Zoom calls and online tutorials – it is important to reflect on how we, as creatives, found ways to adapt our artistic goals when faced with adversity. I’ll be focusing on Scratch That’s response to Covid-19 as well as how the QUT writing scene has adapted to the changes brought upon us.

At the commencement of Semester 1, the students of Situated Creative Practice were gearing up for their creative projects. I applied for Rohan Wilson’s Writing for Publication project as I wanted a chance to collaborate with my cohort on a magazine – one that we eventually named Scratch That. Being involved with the QUT Guild Magazine and the QUT Literary Salon, I thought this would be an exciting opportunity to connect QUT’s various writing ‘scenes’ whilst simultaneously promoting my class’s exciting new venture.

The QUT Literary Salon is a monthly reading series featuring short works from some of QUT’s most talented creative writers. Pre-COVID-19 we were hosting our salons at The Bearded Lady in West End. So far this year, we’ve hosted our Poets on Paintings workshop with the QUT Art Museum during Orientation Week. I had big, but not entirely new, plans for the Salon. Blissfully unaware of what was to come, the Team and I were about to get a little more innovative!

I was in Week 4 when the COVID-19 situation began to escalate, and the university began to roll out decisions on lectures and tutorials. By Week 5, the government had announced we could no longer have mass gatherings, and as such the QUT Literary Salon team had to cancel their March salon. Writing for Publication had our final in-person tutorial and made the swift transition to Slack and Zoom. The girls at Glass started working from home and creatives throughout Brisbane had to indefinitely postpone ‘real-life’ activities related to their works.

So, what happened to Scratch That?

Luckily, we had already entered a consistent groove of editing and critiquing. We had also established our various teams,  consisting of the Editorial Board, the Production Management Team, the Social Media Management Team, and the Writers. I initially started off as a Writer but made the transition to Project Liaison Officer later down the track. My job was to connect Scratch That with other Situated Creative Practice projects so that we could support each other in showcasing our work.

So far, we’ve made a connection with the Vermilion Music Project and we’re brainstorming ways in which we can collaborate. We hope to publish articles relating to music releases or interviews with the artists who are a part of Vermilion. I’ve also made a call-out post to other  Situated Creative Practice projects through Facebook and encouraged all projects to e-mail us with any articles they wish to showcase through Scratch That.

The Social Media Team remained active on the front line – posting updates, answering questions, and editing social media content to share with our audience. Our Instagram page was thriving as the team helped get the word around and we are still gaining followers. Our Writers continue to remain tightknit through Slack, where we have the option of uploading our work so that other team members can give feedback. I’ve found critique work easier to deliver online as all our files can be uploaded through the appropriate threads and remain there for easy access to refer back to. The brilliant creativity from our Production Management Team did not stop with self-isolation, and our Editorial Team worked hard to collate the impressive volume of submissions and prepare the chosen pieces for publication.

Yes, we were faced with challenges and we were dealing with a global crisis in our private lives – but we knew that our end goal was to create an arts and culture publication that celebrated students across all faculties. Whenever I found my motivation levels dipping, I thought of my class sitting around in Z9 Block, passionately debating the name of our magazine,  its logo and the colour scheme. Our mode of delivery and collaboration may have changed – but our ambition remains.

The Literary Salon had plans to collaborate with Scratch That and have a few of the publication’s contributors present snippets of their work at the April Salon. Unfortunately, come April, regulations on gatherings had tightened and the traditional Salons had to come to a halt. This does not mean that Scratch That has lost the Literary Salon as an industry connection, as the Salon can continue to promote the publication via social media. There has also been a discussion surrounding the soft launch of the first edition of Scratch That and the possibility of linking up with the Literary Salon.

In late March I wrote an article for Glass Media titled, ‘What’s Happening with Our QUT Creatives?’. I mentioned individual students who were undertaking person creative projects, a student-run independent online publication, the Literary Salon, Scratch That, and Concrescence – a zine co-founded by QUT’s own Chloe Mills. Just a week before publishing my article online, I’d met Chloe in the  Situated Creative Practice tutorial, where she shared her zine with Writing for Publication and several students expressed an interest in working with her. Submissions for the Special Bumper Issue and Issue 4 have now closed, but Chloe is still operating Concrescence and we eagerly await the announcement of her launch.

It’s incredibly inspiring to see the Brisbane Creative Writing scene carry on despite the restrictions placed on us. Scratch That has been lucky to be a part of a community that encourages us to keep creating and curating. Not only have we had the pleasure of students submitting their work to us, but we have had advice and guidance from industry professionals such as our tutor Rohan, Chloe from Concrescence, and Greg our Situated Creative Practice unit coordinator. What began as a conversation in a classroom is now a publication of creative non-fiction, prose, fast-fiction, poetry and artistic talent. Rather than put our creativity on hold amongst all the adversity, as a cohort, we let our skills rise up in the face of a crisis and we now have Scratch That as a testament to our unwavering creative potential.

Anahita is a fifth year Law and Creative/Professional Writing student and Co-President of the 2020 QUT Literary Salon. She loves coffee, psychological thrillers, fan-fics and anything that involves vampires. You can find her poetry in Glass Media or read her articles at qutglass.com.