interview

Interview: Savana Ogburn on Colourful Photography, Calming Environments, and Tumblr as Inspiration

12:00 pm


Today's interview is with the absurdly talented photographer, Savana Ogburn, who creates fantastically fun and colourful images straight out of a fantasy world. She doesn't like to confine herself to one medium, finding inspiration online, and creating her own mood boards to get out of a creative rut. I absolutely love her series 'Identity Crisis', oozing some sort of twisted Hollywood glamour and garish shades. I could definitely see one hanging on my wall.

This will be my last interview of 2017, so have a happy and safe time surrounded by the ones you love and all of the best food! I'll be on hiatus at the beginning of 2018, but watch this space for new and shiny things for a new and shiny year...

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Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Savana! First of all, for any readers who don’t know your background, will you tell me a little bit about yourself and where you are today?

Savana Ogburn:
Thank YOU for having me on your site! I’m a 19-year-old artist based in Atlanta, Georgia. I work in a variety of mediums, but my favorites are photography, set design, and collage.

Magic & Musings:
If you could describe your photography in three words, what would they be?

Savana Ogburn:
Colorful, wacky, and fun.

Magic & Musings:
When did you first get into photography? Is this something you’ve been formally trained in?

Savana Ogburn:
I first picked up a camera seriously at age 12 or 13 and quickly fell in love with the shooting/editing process. I was taking the stereotypical shots that most photographers take at first (streetlights, flowers, dogs, etc), but quickly realized that I really loved photographing people and creating worlds in my work. I took a couple of photo classes in high school which were helpful, and I’m currently working on a BFA in photography at SCAD. However, I did teach myself the basics of photography and post-processing before I ever took any classes (just saying this to make a point that it’s totally doable!).


Magic & Musings:
Did you have to overcome any self-confidence barriers in order to get to that place where you could share your photographs?

Savana Ogburn:
Honestly, I’ve been sharing my work from the get go. My family has always been very encouraging, so in the beginning I was sharing very freely on Facebook and Flickr, and continue to now on sites like Instagram and Tumblr. I’ll occasionally have a photo or two that I’m nervous to share for any number of reasons, but I think that’s pretty normal!

Magic & Musings:
Of all of your projects, which are you the happiest with and why?

Savana Ogburn:
I love Identity Crisis. It's an ongoing project, and I started it as a project for school earlier this year when a professor encouraged me to research Cindy Sherman after he saw some of my self portraiture. This was around the time that I was also starting to get into drag, so it seemed very natural to combine the interests and shoot some really wacky looks inspired by things I love! It’s a very freeing project to do because a lot of the time it’s just me in my bedroom putting on makeup at 1am and shooting self portraits. I love not being on a deadline and not having to answer to anyone (an editor, etc) with this project which also makes it fun for me.

Magic & Musings:
On Magic & Musings I love talking about female-identifying or non-binary artists and their work. Which photographers, if any, would you say have been influences on your work? Do you have any favourites to look at when you need a spark of inspiration?

Savana Ogburn:
My favorite photographer of all time is Tim Walker - his work is what initially got me interested in set design and continues to be one of my biggest inspirations. I also love Cindy Sherman, clearly, and Cecil Beaton. I’m also obsessed with Andy Warhol’s photography as of late.


Magic & Musings:
This is a question I like to ask purely because of the variety of answers I get! I’m really interested in how people work and get things done. Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done, like a milky cup of tea or a particular album of music you listen to? 

Savana Ogburn:
Sure! I can’t work in a chaotic environment, so I like things to be relatively neat and quiet when I’m editing or planning shoots. I love choosing music to listen to while editing based on what I want the images to feel like- I always find myself listening to Florence and the Machine when I’m editing something on the moodier side, and I also tend to listen to a lot of Top 40 and like, club music when I’m editing at night and trying to stay awake.



Magic & Musings:
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively?

Savana Ogburn:
I typically try to work through it! I’ll look through images that I love (I keep a Tumblr that I use as a running moodboard and to keep track of things that I like), make a moodboard, and start working on a concept. When that doesn’t work I like to print out photos (ones that I took or just images that I love), and cut them up and draw on them until I make something I like. I just try to allow myself to create freely and without worrying if the product will look good on my Instagram or whatever.

Magic & Musings:
What are some things you like to do in your spare time when you’re not working?

Savana Ogburn:
I love reading when I can, I also like watching a couple TV shows (I’m a big fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race and Project Runway, as well as Parks and Rec, Broad City, 30 Rock, SNL, and shows in that vein). I’m also obsessed with my friends and love hanging out with them as much as possible.


Magic & Musings:
What tools do you use to keep yourself organised?

Savana Ogburn:
I have an agenda from Bando that is my literal everything. I always joke that it’s my external hard drive and that I don’t keep any information in my actual brain, but instead in the agenda. It keeps me super organized and helps me prioritize. I also have a steno notepad that I write down ideas, sketch, and plan shoots in. Both of those are always on me! Digitally, I have a few external hard drives that I use to backup and organize work and they are invaluable to me.

Magic & Musings:
Have you ever explored working in a medium other than photography? Is this something you would consider in the future?

Savana Ogburn:
Yes! I make so much art and would hate to be confined to just one medium. Photography is the medium that I’m most comfortable in and love the most but I have a huge love for set design (sculpture, hi!), collage, and illustration (which I’ve dabbled in as well but am nowhere near being good at it!). I also love zines and they’re a huge part of my work as well.

Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out as a photographer?

Savana Ogburn:
To not confine myself to a particular style. When I first started shooting seriously I was very into Flickr and the community of conceptual fine art photographers there (some of which I still keep up with and love), and when I would take a picture that didn’t fit the “moody fine art” look, I would disregard it even if it was a good picture. Which is really lame! I think it’s important to let yourself play in a variety of styles and mediums so that you can find what you really like doing.


Magic & Musings:
Onto a fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you've enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song? 

Savana Ogburn:
I recently read David Sedaris’s Squirrel Seeking Chipmunk and it was hilarious and lighthearted, but also pertinent to what’s going on in the world right now. He’s my favorite author ever. I don’t watch movies very often, but I do listen to a lot of music—I’m currently loving Allie X’s CollXtion II as well as Courtney Barnett’s Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit

Magic & Musings:
I also really like David Sedaris, and Courtney Barnett is absolutely wonderful!
Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work? What’s on the horizon for you in the next few months?

Savana Ogburn:
My work is on www.savanaogburn.com as well as www.instagram.com/savanaogburn, and everything important is posted on those two pages. In the next few months, all of the work I’ve made this summer should be making its way out into the world (eeeep!), and I’m headed back to school so I’m sure there’s lots of fun new stuff to come. I’m excited!

interview

Interview: Chloe Hall on Freelance Illustration, Social Media Promotion, and Botanical Art

12:00 pm


Fun fact: Chloe and I went to the same university and graduated the same year, but we didn't find this out until the interview was well underway! She's now a freelance illustrator and pattern designer, creating gorgeous, fresh, botanical prints that ooze nature. We talk about many number of things, focusing a lot on books advising creatives on how to run their business, and on using social media to market yourself and your work.

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Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Chloe! Would you like to introduce yourself and what you do?

Chloe Hall:
That’s okay, thank you for asking me! My name is Chloe, I’m a freelance illustrator/pattern designer. I focus on nature and plants as my inspiration and create illustrations and prints which I apply to stationary items. I love the idea of bringing the outdoors inside through my illustrations and also touching on the benefits nature and being outdoors has on our wellbeing and health.

Magic & Musings:
When did you first get into illustration? Is this something you’ve been formally trained in?

Chloe Hall:
I always remember being creative, and the only lessons I remember from primary school are the ones where you had to make things! I never knew I wanted to do this until a few months after I finished uni. I chose creative subjects throughout school, because I enjoyed them not because I thought this is what I would end up doing. I did Graphics and Illustration at De Montfort University and haven’t stopped drawing since.



Magic & Musings:
If you could describe your illustrations in three words, what would they be?

Chloe Hall:
Botanical, delicate, and fresh.

Magic & Musings:
When did you first start sharing your illustrations online, and did you find yourself overcoming any hurdles regarding your confidence?

Chloe Hall:
Yes! When you first start out you worry about what you share because you wonder if anyone will like it and whether it will suit your brand and online look. But once you’ve found your ‘thing’ people appreciate it and you worry less and just go for it. The longer you do it, the more you get a feel for what your followers and customers like.


Magic & Musings:
On Magic & Musings I love talking about female-identifying and non-binary artists and their work. Which female artists, if any, would you say have been influences on your work? Do you have any favourites to look to when you need some inspiration or motivation?

Chloe Hall:
There’s so many! I love the work of Leah Goren, Porcelain Hope, Jackie Diedam, Camilla Perkins, Sew and Saunders, the list is endless. More locally to me, Rox of Studio NL has done an amazing job of bringing local creatives together at her Hustle meet ups, I have met so many talented ladies who are all running their own businesses.

Magic & Musings:
Of all of your designs, which are you the happiest with and why?

Chloe Hall:
Ooh this is tough, because I look back at my work and there’s always elements that I’m not 100 happy with! I really enjoyed creating the A5 minimal print series, as the illustrations are delicate and are all illustrations that are in patterns I’ve created.


Magic & Musings:
I’m interested in knowing how people work and get things done. Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done? A specific hot drink? A relaxing album?

Chloe Hall:
I work mostly at my little desk in my bedroom at the moment, I do have a shed that I used for a studio for a while, but I now tend to use this for storage and work in there occasionally. Normally I get my laptop up and running and put Spotify on. I have playlist’s on there that really help me get stuck into working, make myself a cuppa or a coffee, and start the day. I start my day by answering emails, then pack up orders, and then depending what work I have on, either work on commissions or create new work for my own products. I work part-time so I work in the evenings after work and then work all day on my two days off during the week. I also try my best to have most of the weekend off, I always end up doing bits and bobs in the evenings though, even if it’s just planning the week ahead.

Magic & Musings:
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively?

Chloe Hall:
If I get stuck, and feel like nothing’s going right I make sure I get outside and go for a walk. Nothing else works! Even if I stop and watch a film and just have a break I’m still thinking about why I can’t get any work done. I think when I’m outside and walking there’s so much to see I can’t think about anything else apart from walking and looking around.

Magic & Musings:
What are your favourite tools you use to create your illustrations? Are there any books on creativity and/or working for yourself you would recommend to others?

Chloe Hall:
I love using fine liners, and mixing using water colours and gouache paints to create illustrations. The best books I’ve read so far for running your own business are:




Coming up Roses by Cath Kidston with Sue Chidler.


Magic & Musings:
What would you say your relationship is like between your business and the internet/social media? Would you say this has helped you greatly in your success, or not?

Chloe Hall:
Yes, definitely. Social media is such a great tool to promote your business as it’s free and you can connect with people all over the world in an instant. I started off using Twitter more, but then moved to Instagram as my main promotion tool and believe this has had a massive impact on my business. Instagram's algorithms didn’t phase me when they first introduced them, however I am starting to see a difference. You don’t see the things you used to see, for example many creatives used to post a good morning post which I would love reading every morning, but now I don’t always see them, unless I actively search for them, which does seem a shame. I won’t stop using Instagram in the same way, but it has made me think maybe it’s time to get back out there and meet people face to face and use different strategies to promote my brand. Also recently, I discovered that some of my patterns had been taken without my permission and were being sold on products on various websites by other artists, this definitely made me question how much I use the internet to promote my work and has made me wary of posting certain things in the future. 

Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out working in this field?

Chloe Hall:
It’s not going to happen overnight, so don’t worry when it doesn’t and don’t get disheartened when things don’t work out the way you had planned.

Magic & Musings:
Fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you’ve enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song?

Chloe Hall:
Ooh...book would be Girl on the Train, I read it in less than a week. I haven’t watched a good film in ages, so I’ll have to go with a good documentary - anything that David Attenborough does! And song, I have been playing ‘Wicked Games - Tom Misch Remix - by Parra fo Cuva and Anna Naklab on repeat for ages now. 

Magic & Musings:
Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work?

Chloe Hall:
You can find out more about my work via my website and social media links below:


Twitter: @chloehalluk

interview

Interview: Araki Koman on Freelance Illustration and Design, Overcoming Perfectionism, and Some Creative Reads

12:00 pm


This is an interview I'm really, REALLY excited about. The wonderful Araki Koman is a French illustrator, living in London, creating gorgeous designs using character and simplicity. In this short interview we chat about perfectionism, her training to become a freelance illustrator and designer, and what books she would recommend someone trying to feel that creative spark. I think Araki is wonderful, and I know you will too.

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Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Araki! Would you like to introduce yourself and what you do?

Araki Koman:
Thanks for having me! My name is Araki Koman, I am a freelance illustrator and designer from Paris, currently working from London.

Magic & Musings:
When did you first get into art? Was it something that was important to you in your childhood?

Araki Koman:
Yes, I was constantly drawing during my childhood and knew all about Paris art and design schools as a teenager. As an introvert, it was a way to express myself and daydream. I would always invent characters, usually women, who were wearing my dream outfits or look how I wanted to be.


Magic & Musings:
Have you received any formal art or illustration training?

Araki Koman:
Not right away. After high school I did a bachelor’s degree in business and a master’s degree in marketing, and worked a year and a half in digital marketing in Paris. It’s only after that that I decided to follow my childhood dreams and embrace my creative side. At 24, I moved to London to study graphic design for one year at Shillington College. Thanks to that certificate degree, I got my first job as a graphic designer right after and from there I explored textile and fashion design, and ended up focusing on illustration few years later through personal projects. 

Magic & Musings:
On Magic & Musings I love talking about female and non-binary artists and their work. Which artists, if any, would you say have been influences on your work? Do you have any favourites to look to when you need some inspiration or motivation?

Araki Koman:
There’s so many interesting female artists whose work I admire. Thanks to social media, especially Instagram, I get daily doses of inspiration from the women I follow. Those who inspire me the most and push me to express myself in different disciplines are Björk and Solange Knowles, but I am also a great fan of photography and absolutely love Sarah Moon, Carlota Guerrero, Viviane Sassen, and Nadine Ijewere’s work.


Magic & Musings:
What are your favourite tools to use to create your art?

Araki Koman:
I use the Muji pen 0.38 and the Faber Castell big brush felt tip pen. It has india ink inside, I love it!

Magic & Musings:
Are there any books on creativity and/or working for yourself you would recommend to others?

Araki Koman:

- Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

- The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

- Art Inc. by Lisa Congdon

Magic & Musings:
I watched an interview with you from Visual Interlude where you said you did not worry about being a perfectionist. What would you say to artists who struggle with perfectionism?

Araki Koman:
I am still struggling with it from time to time, but one thing I learned is that embracing the little imperfections in your work can give personality and depth to it. There’s something more human and organic about it that can create deeper connections with the public. I feel like letting go of trying to make something perfect can open doors to new avenues, which will be unique about you.


Magic & Musings:
What have been some of your favourite projects to work on? Of all of your illustrations, which are you happiest with and why?

Araki Koman:
I really enjoyed drawing the Global Couture series. In January 2017, I did one illustration a day, resulting in a collection of 31 drawings of women from 31 different countries and cultures. I really enjoyed researching and finally using my Pinterest board ‘Global Couture’ in which I have been collecting hundred of images of people wearing traditional outfits from around the world for years. I used those pictures as inspiration for the drawings. I loved it!

Magic & Musings:
I'm interested in knowing how people work and get things done. Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done?

Araki Koman:
It depends which task I am doing and in which season of my life I am in. When I am producing a lot of illustrations I like being in my home studio as it’s more intimate and I can easily be in the zone. However, when writing emails or dealing with invoices, working from coffee shops or libraries is totally fine. I love having a warm cup of chai latte and a Nujabes or Björk playlist in my earphones. 

Magic & Musings:
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively?

Araki Koman:
Going for a walk or doing anything that has nothing to do with art usually helps (washing the dishes or cooking for example) or even going to sleep. The key is not forcing inspiration to come. Starting projects close to deadlines is also a great catalyst to boost creativity but I wouldn’t recommend it all the time (laugh)… 


Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out working in this field?

Araki Koman:
There’s no one single way to be an artist. Create your own business model and career using the strengths and knowledge that you already have. 

Magic & Musings:
Fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you've enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song?

Araki Koman:

Albums: Satori by Lex (de Khalex) 

Magic & Musings:
Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work?

Araki Koman:
Thanks for reading! If you want to keep in touch and discover my work you can find me on:


Instagram: @araki.koman

interview

Interview: Aleksandra Stanglewicz on Beauty and Fashion Illustration, Creative Podcasts, and Being an Overnight Success

12:00 pm



You want another interview, you've got one.

Today I'm chatting to Polish illustrator Aleksandra Stanglewicz, who specialises in fashion, beauty, and botanical designs. Using watercolours and coloured pencils she creates soft and dreamy illustrations that wouldn't look out of place in a classic high-end designer's workbook. We spoke a bit about her introductions to this career, her favourite inspirations, and the likelihood of being an overnight success (not likely at all!). I hope you enjoy reading about the wonderful Aleksandra!
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Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Aleksandra! Would you like to introduce yourself and what you do? When did you first get into illustration? Is this something you’ve been formally trained in?

Aleksandra Stanglewicz:
Hi! My name is Aleksandra Stanglewicz and I am an illustrator from Poland, living in London for almost 3 years. I mostly focus on fashion and botanical illustrations, and I use a mix of watercolours and coloured pencils to create them. I first got into illustration when I was around 16 years old and I started attending drawing classes. I have always been interested in fashion so I thought it would be an interesting way to combine those two subjects. Also I discovered fashion illustrations of David Downton who has been my inspiration ever since.


Magic & Musings:
When did you first start sharing your designs online and did you find yourself overcoming any hurdles regarding your confidence?

Aleksandra Stanglewicz:
When I was in high school I created a blog where I shared my work. However when I was studying I really struggled with finding my style and I stopped sharing anything on there. I was convinced that I should be sure of what I am doing and be 100% happy with the outcome of my illustration to share it on the internet. But then I realised that finding your style is a process, that there won’t be a magical moment when I will be ready! It is actually great to be able to see how my style and technique has improved since then.

Magic & Musings:
On Magic & Musings I love talking about female and non-binary artists and their work. Which artists, if any, would you say have been influences on your work? Do you have any favourites to look to when you need some inspiration or motivation?

Aleksandra Stanglewicz:
Definitely my first inspiration was Anna Halarewicz and her beautiful watercolour fashion illustrations. At the moment I follow so many amazing female illustrators, but my favourites are Frannerd (her YouTube channel is full of amazing advice), Bodil Jane, Laura Callaghan, and Cecilia Carlstedt

Magic & Musings:
Oh, I love Fran's illustrations, and everything on her channel!
Of all of your illustrations, which are you the happiest with and why?




Aleksandra Stanglewicz:
I really like a series of 3 portraits created at the beginning of the year, inspired by Dior Haute Couture Spring 2017 fashion show. I believe I managed to keep a nice balance between showing details and not overdoing the illustrations at the same time. 

Magic & Musings:
I’m interested in knowing how people work and get things done. Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done? A specific hot drink? A relaxing album?

Aleksandra Stanglewicz:
I don’t have any specific routine, however when I work on my illustrations, I always work at home. The first thing I do is tidying up the desk and planning the tasks. I like to listen to inspiring podcasts while I’m drawing, it helps me to stay motivated and not be too distracted.

Magic & Musings:
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively?

Aleksandra Stanglewicz:
I try to loosen up by sketching anything without worrying about the outcome. Also I love listening to creative podcasts. My favourites are Creative Pep Talk and Arrest All Mimics.

Magic & Musings:
What are your favourite tools you use to create your illustrations? Are there any books on creativity and/or working for yourself you would recommend to others?

Aleksandra Stanglewicz:
I usually work with watercolours and coloured pencils, but recently I have started experimenting with brush pens and it is great! I would definitely recommend reading How to be an Illustrator by Darrel Rees and Becoming a Successful Illustrator by Jo Davis for all the illustrators who are just starting out. Those books cover all the basic information you need to understand the illustration business.


Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out working in this field?

Aleksandra Stanglewicz:
“There is no such a thing as an overnight success, it is a process.”

Magic & Musings:
Fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you’ve enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song?

Aleksandra Stanglewicz:
I am a proper book warm, I love to read and long commutes in London are a perfect opportunity to do that. I recently read two books by Jojo Moyes: The Girl You Left Behind and Me Before You. Both gripping page-turners!

Game of Thrones has come back with a new season, so like probably everyone else I am impatiently waiting for Mondays. 

Magic & Musings:
Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work?

Aleksandra Stanglewicz:
Thank you for interviewing me! You can find my work on my website www.aleksandrastanglewicz.com and on Instagram. I share all the behind the scenes and progress photos. Also I have an Etsy shop with my prints! Feel free to check it out!

interview

Interview: Alice Marwick on Book Design, Peaceful Work Spaces, and the Isolation of Freelancing

12:00 pm


The image above is of the cover of Girl Trouble, and this is the cover that sold the book to me, before I even knew what it was about. It turns out the book itself is absolutely grand, but that's not what we're here to talk about today. Alice Marwick, the creative talent behind this cover, is a freelance designer and illustrator of gorgeous books, and we chatted about her designs, her artistic history, and having your own peaceful space to work.

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Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Alice! First of all, for any readers who don’t know your background, can tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do?

Alice Marwick:
Pleasure! I am a designer and illustrator of book covers. I have been happily working freelance since 2009 for a growing number of publishers, starting with a few smaller independent ones such as the excellent Zed Books and more recently also working with larger houses such as Simon & Schuster and Hodder & Stoughton. Almost all my work is for non-fiction, covering a big variety of subjects from gender studies to medieval Islamic history. Clients primarily tend to approach me when they have an illustrative approach in mind, which is nice for me because I love drawing, printmaking, paper cutting, making etc and a love of all of that hand-crafted stuff is what got me into design in the first place.

Magic & Musings:
If you could describe your design style in three words, what would they be?

Alice Marwick:
I try not to have a style, but rather to do whatever’s appropriate to the brief. Although I probably do have one without realising it!

Magic & Musings:
When did you first get into design? Did you study it formally or come across it as a hobby? If you did study it formally, would you say this was a good or bad experience regarding allowing your creativity to flourish?

Alice Marwick:
I studied at the University of the Arts London, Camberwell College and did a degree in graphic design (I started an illustration BA then switched after a term when I found myself envious of my graphic design student flatmate’s briefs). My time at Camberwell was great because it broadened my thinking, helped me to interrogate my design habits and assumptions, and to think more conceptually. It was certainly challenging though and made me feel quite unsure of myself. It was only a little while after college that I actually felt I had found my feet and felt confident creatively.


Magic & Musings:
On Magic & Musings I love talking about female-identifying and non-binary artists and their work. Which female artists, if any, would you say have been influences on your work? Do you have any favourites to look at when you need a spark of inspiration?

Alice Marwick:
There’s quite an impressively large sisterhood of cover-designing women on Twitter! I love seeing what they’re all up to. Coralie Bickford-Smith, Kimberly Glyder, Anne Jordan, Yehrin Tong, and Anna Morrison are just a few I could mention off the top of my head.

I’m a big fan of graphic novels and comics and stare in wide-eyed fan-girl wonder at the work of Emil Ferris, Jillian Tamaki, Fiona Staples, and Marianne Satrapi.

And on a personal level, my friend, the brilliant illustrator Rachel Stubbs, has inspired me with her amazing sketching habit to get out and do more drawing. 

Magic & Musings:
Of all of your designs, which are you the happiest with and why?

Alice Marwick:
Of my recent projects, I’ve been really pleased with how my cover for Lady Fanshawe’s Receipt Book turned out. It was an unusually straightforward process: I had a happy day or two making an intricate papercut illustrating scenes from her life, put it together as a design and it was chosen from among the other options I sent with no alterations needed! I’m really happy with the end result. Also, I am continually excited by how the Object Lessons series I’ve done for Bloomsbury is shaping up.


Magic & Musings:
This is a question I like to ask purely because of the variety of answers I get! I’m really interested in how people work and get things done. Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done, like a milky cup of tea or a particular album of music you listen to? 

Alice Marwick:
To have a peaceful space of your own, preferably jungle-ified by houseplants. And beyond that, Woman’s Hour followed by Lauren Laverne on 6Music, some good podcasts in the afternoon, and not too many emails coming in. 

Magic & Musings:
Oh my goodness, that sounds idyllic!
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively?

Alice Marwick:
I’m sure I’d get stuck if I was mostly doing self-initiated projects but having a variety of different briefs coming in, each generally demanding a different approach and a tailor-made solution, forces you to keep things fresh. Going to an art gallery or a bookshop and finding inspiration to try something new there can help too.

Magic & Musings:
What are your favourite tools you use to create your designs? Are there any books on creativity and/or working for yourself you would recommend to others? 

Alice Marwick:
I seem to get through a lot of black gouache! Excellent for creating things that can be scanned in, coloured, and layered up in Photoshop. I’d recommend Come Alive: the Spirited Work of Sister Corita. She ran a screenprinting workshop in her community in San Francisco in the 1960s. Her passion and creativity are an inspiring example. 

Magic & Musings:
Have you ever explored working in another medium?

Alice Marwick:
Not really… I did think for a little while after college that I might get into mural painting, having had a lovely time painting an alpine scene on the wall of a Bavarian Beerhouse one summer (I did all sorts of odd odd-jobs to keep myself going when I first started out). Quite glad I didn’t pursue that one though!


Magic & Musings:
What would you say your relationship is like between your business and the internet/social media? Would you say this has helped you greatly in your success, or not?

Alice Marwick:
As a freelancer you can feel quite isolated and so joining Twitter has been a revelation! To see what other designers are doing, to be able to share your work, and to be part of an online community is brilliant and can be really motivating. I don’t think it’s got me any new work though, although it can’t hurt to have your name out there. As for Instagram… I’ve only just joined and I’m not sure I like it as much as Twitter - too many lunch photos!

Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out working in this field?

Alice Marwick:
That when you are asked for a selection of roughs, don’t actually send them roughs! ‘Roughs’ means mostly fully worked-up good designs. My art director was bewildered by the clumsy mess I sent her for my first job. Thankfully, she gave me another chance…

Magic & Musings:
Onto a fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you've enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song? 

Alice Marwick:
Oh yes. My Favourite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris is being hailed as a new graphic novel masterpiece and I’d say believe the hype! It is incredible. An emotionally rich and exciting storyline and just mind-blowing biro cross-hatched illustrations. Emil Ferris is a true artist and a hero (she wrote the book whilst half-paralysed by West Nile virus). There’s an ace short comic about her writing the book here.

A recent film I’d recommend is The Eagle Huntress. A hugely uplifting and intriguing documentary about a Kazakh nomad girl and her efforts to become an Eagle Hunter in Mongolia (it has traditionally been a skill past down from father to son). She is a hugely capable and courageous 13 year old, determined to break into a man’s world. Thankfully she has a lovely dad who’s happy to train her up.

When I need to concentrate but still fancy having music on I enjoy listening to a bit of Steve Reich. It’s such good music for focussing. All those repeating, shifting, layered phrases make you feel clever and efficient!

Magic & Musings:
Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work? 

Alice Marwick:
I have lots of work up on my website: www.alice-marwick.co.uk and post mostly about book covers on Twitter @AliceMarwick. My instagram is @alicemarwick too.

interview

Interview: Zora Ilunga-Reed on Political Podcasting, Journalism, and a Love of Public Libraries

9:00 am


Zora Ilunga-Reed is a political podcaster, journalist, and works in various kinds of media, all at the fresh age of seventeen! She's a perfect example of finding a gap in the market or something you feel the world desperately needs, and going out to create it. Her podcast, We the Ppl, is a response to the idea that people her age, who cannot vote, have little to no interest in politics, and therefore shouldn't be involved in the discussions this entails. We talk in depth about this passion project of hers, along with her writing, and how she stays organised. Zora is a fantastic young woman, and I can't wait to see all of the wonderful things she's inevitably going to achieve in the future.

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Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Zora! First of all, for any readers who don’t know your background, can tell me a little bit about yourself and where you are today?

Zora Ilunga-Reed:
I’m an almost-seventeen-year-old rising high school senior in New York City. I guess if I had to name my career, I’d say student. I think in almost everything I do, whether that’s working on my political podcast for people who can’t vote, We the Ppl, writing for small online magazines, or working in local NYC politics, although it’s cheesy, I am foremost a learner. My work with the podcast and on other media organizations though, in a word, is “journalism.”

Magic & Musings:
If you could describe your writing in three words, what would they be?

Zora Ilunga-Reed:
Concise, factual, easy-to-understand. 

Magic & Musings:
When did you first get into writing generally? Was there something that drove you to write?

Zora Ilunga-Reed:
I can’t remember the first time I wrote and enjoyed it. I was probably six or seven. I have these horribly grammar-free, wordy poems and short stories in a bunch of notebooks from when I was little. I was always writing when I was in kindergarten and elementary school, but mostly fiction and poetry. Back then, to me, it was just another way of expressing all the weird ideas that would pop into my head. I was also definitely driven to write by a lot of the books I read. I used to get sucked into these fantastical stories and just want to be able to create my own.

Magic & Musings:
Tell me a little about your podcast! When did you start creating this and what do you talk about? Are there any podcasts that inspired you to move in this direction?

Zora Ilunga-Reed:
I created We the Ppl in the summer of 2016 out of two main things: angst and boredom. The former because of this utter lack of engagement of adults with teenage political perspectives (i.e. “Why does it matter what you think if you can’t vote?”). The latter because it was summer vacation. So far, in the year we’ve been around, we’ve covered a range of topics from Obama’s immigration policies to Trump’s budget proposal. Our goal with the podcast is to cover recent news and political phenomena in a way that’s interesting and engaging from the perspective of teens for people who can’t vote. 

I always get the question of where this idea came from and what podcasts inspired it. Honestly, I’m not even sure. I’ve been listening to podcasts since I was in middle school. This American Life and The Moth were the background “music” to my childhood. Recently, though, I’ve been inspired by political podcasts like Pod Save America, the NPR Politics Podcast, and Slate Political Gabfest. I have to attribute any storytelling or editing techniques I’ve picked up, though, to Ira Glass.


Magic & Musings:
And tell me about Clover! What does your role there requires of you?

Zora Ilunga-Reed:
I became a member of the Clover community last fall. As an ambassador, I’m in charge of getting more people to join the community (not a hard job at all, by the way) and sharing information about Clover online. On the Teen Advisory Board, I give some advice and provide a teenage perspective to Liza and Casey. As a big fan of everything Clover does, it’s been really wonderful to have the opportunity to work on the inside and go backstage on some of the content.

Magic & Musings:
You say you’re currently interning for a city council member. What’s that like and what does this entail day-to-day?

Zora Ilunga-Reed:
I am an intern for City Council Member Mark Levine. Day-to-day, my schedule differs greatly. I work about six hours a day, but those are often spread out all over the district and the city. Whether it’s doing research at the Legislative Office or helping out with constituent services at the District Office, I really get to be a member of the Mark Levine team. I’ve only been working there for three weeks, but thus far it’s been a really great experience and has provided a good look into the inner-workings of local government.

Magic & Musings:
Of all of your work, what are you the proudest of and why?

Zora Ilunga-Reed:
That is, by far, the most difficult interview question I’ve ever been asked. It’s also a very good one. I’d have to say that the “Why Black Lives Matter” episode of We the Ppl that I put up last August is the piece I’m most proud of. It features two interviews of teens who were at a Black Lives Matter protest in NYC that summer and one who wasn’t, as well as art and music by teenage black artists based in New York. Putting it all together was one of the most stressful, yet rewarding, moments in the life of the podcast and perhaps my life in general. I really wanted to create this collage of black, teenage life in New York and paint a picture of the BLM movement through the audio from the protest and the visual and audio art. I think I got as close as possible to my vision for that episode and it remains my favourite episode from that first season of the podcast.

Magic & Musings:
On Magic & Musings I love talking about female-identifying or non-binary artists and their work. Which creatives, if any, would you say have been influences on your work? Do you have any favourites to look at when you need a spark of inspiration?

Zora Ilunga-Reed:
I have a ton of influences and role models. With so many high-powered, change-making people it’s impossible not to. First, I’d say Zadie Smith is a big influence of mine. Whether in my writing or the storytelling that I try to do on the podcast, her ability to string together narrative and language in a delicate yet telling and, above all, true way is something I’ll always admire. I’m also a big fan of Elizabeth Hinton, a professor of history and African American studies at Harvard University. I read her book From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass-Incarceration in America earlier this year and loved it. Like Smith, Hinton’s ability to marry a history lesson and a looser narrative of black history in America is admirable and something I strive to achieve in a lot of my writing. Outside of writers, I’m a big fan of Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor and most powerful woman in Europe. She’s one of the most down-to-earth, modest politicians I know of and has led Germany incredibly well for the past twelve years. 

I’ll keep the list short, although there are so many more (Kierkegaard, Rachel Carson, Jeffrey Eugenides, to name a few).

Magic & Musings:
This is a question I like to ask purely because of the variety of answers I get! I’m really interested in how people work and get things done. Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done, like a milky cup of tea or a particular album of music you listen to? 

Zora Ilunga-Reed:
I’m a big fan of public libraries. In New York, the library system is really amazing with stunning architecture, a range of workspaces, and pretty diverse locations. Whenever I need to get a lot of work done quickly, I’ll head over to the Schwarzman Building, that classic NYC library with the big stone lions out front, and head to the quiet research room. Music also helps me work, although I have to limit it to the lyric-free when I really need to focus. I have a couple writing and studying playlists on my Spotify (zora.ir if you wanna check them out!). My tastes range from classical (Bach, mostly) to rap (I have one playlist that’s just a ton of rap classics). Really I just like to listen to anything that’ll keep me focused.

Magic & Musings:
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively? Are there any books on writing and creativity you would recommend to others?

Zora Ilunga-Reed:
First of all, I think being in a rut is actually a really valuable and inevitable experience. Sometimes creativity needs a little nudge and I like to use ruts or writer’s block moments to look for inspiration, visit some museums, or read some new books and articles. Specifically, David Foster Wallace has gotten me out of many a creativity slump. He has a number of short essays that I love rereading and, of course, his famous speech: This Is Water. 

Magic & Musings:
What are some things you like to do in your spare time when you’re not working?

Zora Ilunga-Reed:
I joined my high school’s track team in sophomore year on a whim and, since then, I’ve fallen in love with running and strength training. After a long day of screen time and a general lack of physical activity, it’s really nice to go for a quick run or do a couple reps of with weights. I definitely wouldn’t describe myself as a fitness nut or anything, but I’ve found that working out frequently is a great break from work and provides a good opportunity for head-clearing. 

Magic & Musings:
How would you describe your relationship with social media?

Zora Ilunga-Reed:
It’s complicated. I use social media a lot to promote We the Ppl and for personal stuff, as well, but recently I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed by it. There are so many resources on these platforms and the possibilities are endless, which can make all the accounts difficult to manage and control. I’m definitely hoping to take a couple weeks offline and just stick with email in August before school starts up again.

Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out writing and creating podcasts?

Zora Ilunga-Reed:
Another really good question. In complete honesty, I wish someone had reminded me that fame and success don’t come quickly and patience is key. I think, particularly among my generation, there’s this prevalence of an instantaneous, immediate fame mentality, in part due to all these viral videos we see on social media. I was definitely influenced by the belief that fame comes quickly and with minimal work, so in the beginning I would get frustrated when episodes would get fewer listens or shares. Now, after over a year of working on the podcast, it’s been easier for me to accept that these things take time and not every episode is going to be incredibly successful.

Magic & Musings:
Onto a fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you've enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song? 

Zora Ilunga-Reed:
Yes! I just finished NW by Zadie Smith which I really enjoyed. If you’re new to her writing, though, I’d recommend reading White Teeth or her newest novel, Swing Time, before NW to get a sense of the type of narrative she likes and her style. I’m currently steadily going through an 800+ page biography of Kierkegaard. I’m not far enough along to give a definitive “yes” or “no” to it, but so far, so good. I also adore Jeffrey Eugenides, particularly his The Marriage Plot, and can’t wait for his new book this September. 

Music-wise, I’ve been listening to a lot of the Beatles lately. My personal favorite album is 1, but I also like Rubber Soul. I haven’t seen too many movies recently, unfortunately. Although it’s kinda cheating since it’s a TV show, I am a huge fan of Silicon Valley.

Magic & Musings:
Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work? What’s on the horizon for you in the next few months?

Zora Ilunga-Reed:
My personal Instagram is @zilungareed and you can always email me at zora@wethepplpodcast.com. Oh, and you can find the podcast itself @wethepplpodcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, at wethepplpodcast.com, or on iTunes and SoundCloud at We the Ppl: Politics for Those Who Can’t Vote.

Interview: Michelle Nickolaisen on Determination, Blogging Emulation, and How They Stay (Super!) Organised

12:00 pm


Michelle Nickolaisen is a creator of all. They blog, make audio dramas, write books, run ecourses, market,  create YouTube videos...the list really does go on. They take self-employment to a whole new level! Today in this interview, they dig really deep into how they work and stay organised, and even though we have a lot of techniques in common, they've mentioned a lot more things that I'm definitely going to consider taking up for myself. I'm positive you're going to be as motivated by their dedication and determination as I am.

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Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Michelle! First of all, for any readers who don’t know your background, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and where you are today?

Michelle Nickolaisen:
Sure! I’ll try to keep it short! I’ve been self-employed since 2009 (to varying degrees of success - it was more of a decision of necessity than a 'follow your dreams' kinda deal, especially for the first two or three years) and have done a variety of things, mainly project management and writing. 

My business right now is fairly complex (which is a byproduct of wanting to never be bored), but most of my income comes from freelance writing and content marketing. I also make some income from my blog and related projects (which revolves around freelancing/productivity/creativity) - ad revenue through YouTube videos, people purchasing the downloadable products/classes, other ecourse income, etc. Then there’s the Freelancer Planner (a paper planner for freelancers that I originally crowdfunded, which I plan to slowly expand into a full line of products). And then there’s the creative projects - I’m working on an audio drama (two, technically), I published my debut novel last year, and I’m working on book two, and I have a few other things in the works as well. 

Magic & Musings:
Wow! That's fantastic!
If you could describe your writing in three words, what would they be?

Michelle Nickolaisen:
Action-oriented, fun, personality-filled (I hope so anyways?!) 

Magic & Musings:
When did you first get into writing generally? Was there something that drove you to write? Did you study it formally or come across it as a hobby?

Michelle Nickolaisen:
I don’t have a college education (well, I have a semester of it, I guess!) but I’ve been writing since I could hold a pencil, basically. I’m not sure I have anything from Kindergarten, but I know there are stories I wrote when I was in first grade drifting around my parent’s house somewhere. 

Since then, I’ve been writing fairly regularly (often daily) - being a writer was an off-and-on dream (in between marine biology, artist, ghost hunter, and archaeologist, hahaha) while I was growing up. I’ve always wanted to tell stories and to persuade people to my point of view (I grew up in a very conservative area and was generally regarded as a total weirdo). Writing seemed like a natural outlet for both of those things. I was also really lucky in that one of my teachers when I was in sixth grade recognized that I had a flair for it and encouraged me to set up a blog and write every day, which was a practice I kept up with until I was eighteen or nineteen. It lapsed for probably 6-12 months, but not long after that is when I started freelance writing. 

Magic & Musings:
On Magic & Musings I love talking about female-identifying or non-binary artists and their work. Which writers and bloggers, if any, would you say have been influences on your work? Do you have any favourites to look at when you need a spark of inspiration?

Michelle Nickolaisen:
When I first started writing, I read a lot of Gala Darling and Danielle LaPorte, both of whom I don’t read much of any more (there are definitely some cringey posts somewhere on the internet of me trying very hard to emulate both of their writing styles, though!). At this point, I tend towards information overwhelm, so a lot of the inspiration I get is actually from people in my friends or acquaintances circles vs someone I don’t know. Two of my besties Shenee and Alexis are always creating really cool stuff, and another one of my besties does less 'internet'-y stuff, but is putting herself through nursing school while working at a domestic violence shelter doing mental health education, so I’m lucky to be surrounded by people who are all inspiring in their own ways. 

Past that, it’s hard to name anyone off the top of my head - as far as influences on my work, I think Diane Duane and Madeleine L’Engle both were to some extent (I devoured every book from both of them up until I was 18 or so and still wouldn’t mind reading all the rest of the Young Wizards series!). And Another Round is one of the podcasts that I listen to when I’m trying to take my mind off things - not that it’s always lighthearted but I’m definitely guaranteed at least a few laughs per episode. 

Magic & Musings:
Oh wow, I used to be a huge fan of Gala and Danielle too! They were such a solid foundation of my love of blogs, back in the day, especially Gala. Her style was, and still is, so unique. Another Round is also a solid favourite in my list of podcasts I listen to.
This is a question I like to ask purely because of the variety of answers I get! I’m really interested in how people work and get things done. Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done, like a milky cup of tea or a particular album of music you listen to? 

Michelle Nickolaisen:
I could talk for ages about this (and have written a lot about it, too) but here’s the cliff notes: 

I have a massive Spotify playlist that I listen to (with another one for editing that’s growing slower, and is all wordless music) while working — the genres are all over the map but the one thing in common is that they’re mostly pretty fast-paced, which helps me stay energetic and focused while working

I use Asana to help me stay organized on the small-to-medium scale (I made this video on how I use it in 2014 and the way I use it has changed a little bit, but not a whole lot - I’ll be recording a new video on it soon) so I check that every day, multiple times a day, to make sure I’m on track 

If I’m having an especially hard time focusing I’ll use the Pomodoro technique and/or Cold Turkey to help me stay focused/get rid of distractions

Every day before I wrap work, I go over the next day’s agenda and create time estimates for each task to make sure that I’m not setting the bar way too high for the next day - I used to do this with an app (there are a few options here - Plan.io, Skedpal) but now I just do it with a post-it note (if all of the tasks won’t fit on the post-it note, that’s warning sign number one!) 

Magic & Musings:
We seem to have a lot in common. I stand by Asana as my external brain and don't know what I would do without it.
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively? Are there any books on writing and creativity you would recommend to others?

Michelle Nickolaisen:
I felt like this very recently and one thing that really helped was using 750 words. The idea is a riff on morning pages from The Artist’s Way; you write three longhand pages (in this case, 750 words) first thing in the morning to sort of 'clean the pipes; when it comes to your brain. At one point, I did it religiously, and now I don’t do it every day but I do it most mornings, after it helped me out with a really bad block a few months ago. 

I’ve also found that often, if I’m in a creative rut, there are underlying issues mental-health wise — I need to take some time off work, find a better stress outlet, etc. Another thing I’ve noticed is that if I’m not consuming good enough content on a regular basis, my output tends to dry up. Even my nonfiction writing/client writing gets worse if I’m not taking in good stuff on a regular basis (whether that consumption is TV/movies, podcasts, books, articles, etc.)

Other than that, my fave resources on writing and creativity are: 

Writing Excuses (super short & actionable episodes)

The Accidental Creative (a really good primer on creating systems around your creative work & making sure it’s sustainable) 

The Creative Habit (also really practical - I tend towards practical over precious when it comes to creative craft tips) 

99u (tons of tips on creativity & productivity) 

Magic & Musings:
How would you describe your relationship with social media?

Michelle Nickolaisen:
Love/hate. I have made so many close friends through social media — actually, many of my very close friends I met online first (whether through Twitter, Facebook, or, with one, the old Punk Rock Domestic forum like ten years ago) — and I know a lot of amazing people that I never would have met without social media. But at the same time, I get so frustrated with the darker aspects of it, whether that’s unfiltered vitriol on Twitter, unwanted advice (or just awful bigotry) on Facebook, etc. I’ve done a few social media hiatuses (hiatii?) at various points and found that disengaging with it to some extent can often be really good for my stress levels (and productivity!), but then I get sucked back in because I miss engaging with the good parts of it! 

Magic & Musings:
What does ‘success’ feel/look like to you?

Michelle Nickolaisen:
I think for me, success is very linked to the idea of freedom. Some of that is strictly financial-related (having the freedom to, you know, pursue a medical diagnostic process, for example - something I’m doing right now that I haven’t been able to do before) and some of that is more general lifestyle things. I moved to Richmond from Austin last year, and I really miss my friends/chosen family back in Austin, so I’m going to move back later this year - having that kind of flexibility feels like success to me. 

Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out writing?

Michelle Nickolaisen:
Not necessarily when I first started writing, but when I first started freelancing, I wish someone had told me it was okay to experiment and fail really fast. I was so convinced that people were watching my every move for evidence of being a fuck up that I didn’t change things that clearly weren’t working, which created a lot more stress in the long run. 

Magic & Musings:
Onto a fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you've enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song? 

Book: I listen to a lot of my fiction because I can multitask while doing so and that helps calm the anxiety brain; the last full-length book I listened to was the Welcome to Night Vale novel, but I also listen to a ton of podcasts (full list here

Film: I tend much towards TV than film (which is something I always mean to sort of remedy, but then just...forget to see movies when they hit Netflix/downloads...); on that front, I really liked American Gods - I have some quibbles with it (just like I did with the source material) but it’s interesting and incredibly nice to look at

Song: 'On A Roll' by Icona Pop - I got this in my Spotify discover playlist recently and it’s very danceable and also ridiculous, which is basically my favorite combination 

Magic & Musings:
Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work? What’s on the horizon for you in the next few months?

Michelle Nickolaisen:
I think the biggest thing I want to say, which I know people talk about a lot already, is to just make sure to take care of yourself and focus on a sustainable workload (as much as you can). It’s super easy to get burned out or overwork yourself (especially if you have mental illnesses) and it’s always worse in the long run than just trying to create a sustainable workload in the first place. 

The best way to keep up with me and my various projects is probably via Twitter, Tumblr, or the Facebook page (but probably the first two more so — the FB page is more focused on the freelancing/business oriented projects/topics). On the horizon, I’ve got two audio drama podcasts that I’m working on (one coming much sooner than the other, but I’m excited about both!), the second novel, plus a host of nonfiction stuff (I’m just not sure what I’ll be able to finish first, so a little hesitant to speak more on that) and my regular blog/Medium posts. Plus the move back to Austin...like I said, I hate being bored!