26 October 2015
Spotlight On Scribe: Zoya Patel
This week, we’re bringing you daily Q&A’s from our Scribe Nonfiction Prize Long-listed writers. Read on for more information on their work, writing journeys, and all their tips, tricks and advice for budding young non-fic creators.
Zoya Patel is the editor and founder of Feminartsy, and former Editor-In-Chief of Lip Magazine. She was a selected editor for the 2015 Seizure Viva La Novella prize, and the 2014 recipient of the Anne Edgeworth Young Writer’s Fellowship. Zoya was named 2015 ACT Young Woman of the Year, for her work in raising the profile of women’s voices through writing and the media.
How old are you?
What state or territory do you live in?
How did you begin writing?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, so it’s difficult to pinpoint a specific time! As a kid I wrote lots of terrible poems and short stories, and started writing feminist articles and feature pieces when I was a teenager. Now, I still write about feminism, as well as race and other cultural issues. I also write short-fiction, and reflective essays.
Why do you write nonfiction?
I never particularly set out to write non-fiction, but as my writing experience and style has evolved, and I’ve started to better define the topics I’m interested in interrogating, non-fiction has become my focus.
I think particularly when exploring race and identity, there is great power in telling the ‘true’ stories, and sharing experiences through non-fiction writing.
Tell us a bit about your longlisted Scribe submission.
My longlisted submission, Match-fixing: Arranged marriages in Australia explores the nature of arranged marriages as they exist for culturally diverse Australians. I specifically look at two stories through interviews conducted with young Australian women from subcontinental backgrounds.
I wanted to focus on subcontinental cultures because as an Indian-Australian, I understand these cultures better, and am able to research more closely through networks I know of.
The goal of the piece is to demonstrate the complexities of arranged marriages, and the impacts they have (both positive and negative) on Australians – and to really make the point that they happen here, and are an issue we have to interrogate when building an inclusive, multicultural Australia.
Why did you choose to write on this topic as a young writer?
Arranged marriages have been a big feature of my life, and the source of significant tension in my family. I chose to write about this because as I shared my own story with friends and acquaintances, I was exposed to many other stories, both starkly different and incredibly similar to mine. It made me realise the importance of this issue, and the lack of general awareness in the broader community about arranged marriages.
How long have you been working on your submission, or where in development was your piece prior to entering the Scribe prize?
I started working on Match-fixing in early 2014, mostly just as a side-project around my other main areas of work. I put it out there that I was looking to interview people, and started just making time to interview subjects as the opportunity arose. I started formally writing the piece in April 2015, when I decided I would enter the Scribe prize. It gave me a useful deadline to work towards, and helped me start building the narrative a bit more clearly!
How important is Australia to you and your writing?
Incredibly important – particularly because I look specifically at the experiences of migrants in Australia. Being Indian and Australian has completely influenced how I experience either of those cultures, and how I construct my own identity. I’d probably be short of a lot of material if I wasn’t Indian-Australian!
What the best and worst piece of advice that you’ve received about writing?
Best piece of advice is the most obvious piece of advice – ‘write what you know’. Being able to focus my writing energy on the topics that are most relevant and interesting to me has helped me actually produce content, rather than being overwhelmed by how little I know about particular content areas.
I don’t think I’ve ever received any truly bad advice about writing, though I’ve certainly received a lot that isn’t relevant to me. For example, I’m constantly told to plan my work more, and to map out longer projects. That just doesn’t work for me – it’s about finding the techniques that suit your inherent style and process as a writer.
What is your favourite or most influential work of nonfiction that you’ve read? How has it affected your writing?
There are so many, I actually can’t choose one. However, a non-fiction book I constantly come back to, and that I use to influence my style and technique is Anna Funder’s Stasiland. Funder’s way of exploring complex issues through human stories is inspirational, and something I really want to be able to do!
Can you share a piece of your published nonfiction work that you’re particularly proud of?
This is a memoir piece I wrote for the online journal I edit, Feminarty. It’s about my journey to atheism, as someone who was raised as a Muslim. http://feminartsy.com/?p=120
The Scribe Nonfiction Prize for Young Writers is a developmental award to foster talented writers aged 30 or under who are working on a longform or book-length nonfiction work.
In addition to a cash prize of $1,500, the winner receives the opportunity to meet with a publisher or an editor and to experience the process of working with an editor on their writing. The winner also receives a year-long subscription to Scribe: each month for 12 months, one new-release title will be sent out to them before it’s in stores.
The 2015 Scribe Nonfiction Prize shortlist will be announced on November 2nd, 6pm, at The Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas. This event is free, but bookings are essential.