by Christopher Burton
“Papercut was the first place I submitted my writing to. The fact that there are helpful workshops that goes along with this group is a great tool to use when trying to revise what you have and get published. Ultimately, it’s a great starting place.”
USF St. Petersburg’s Papercut Literary Journal receives student submissions frequently for publication. This is a great opportunity for authors to begin to learn the process of submitting and obtaining publishing credit for their work while learning their craft at the same time. The most submissions that we receive the most is the genre of poetry. Submissions of poetry show how powerful and creative English majors can be.
Recently, one student, Olivia Robinson, submitted three poems which she has been working on. One of the poems has been in development over time, and the other two were written over the summer. Olivia, a senior in USFSP’s English Writing Studies program, submitted her poetry to Papercut in order to take advantage of the opportunity offered by the school’s publication. Papercut does more than simply publish submissions, and Olivia understands this. They help in the editing and revising process. A very important and vital feature of this publication is that they offer collective feedback from a strong round-table panel of test readers made up of the English Honor Society, Alpha Xi Phi, and Papercut’s staff. Olivia took some time to answer a few questions we had about herself, her poetry, and her future plans.
Question: What was your inspiration for these poems?
Olivia: The three poems I sent in to Papercut were, I felt, my three strongest poems. I’m still revising them, my heaviest, “Life of a Savage,” poem at least. For this poem, I am releasing my addictive tendencies into words while still attempting to resonate with the reader to some extent. The inspiration came from experiences that would later transform into a reflective piece. With this poem especially, words would come to mind that would perfectly describe each moment of the reflection and I then attempted to group them into a stanza to bring the reader into the experience with me. It was written over a period of time, as each thought came to mind.
As for my poem, “Imagination,” this also came from an experience I had on the beach some years back. It was nighttime, and I was looking up into the everlasting sky. I had an epiphany of my imagination being limitless and could let my imagination go as deep as it wanted, as I no longer felt enclosed by the confines of my mind.
My third poem submitted to Papercut, “Acceptance,” was written out by the water at school. I felt alone, surrounded by things that were apart from me. However, as I was writing, I began to feel immersed in my surroundings, feeling one with all that was. As soon as a cool breeze swept against my skin, I was reminded of the uncertainty in whether or not this was a part of me, and I had to accept the unknown.
Question: Why poetry? What made you connect with this medium?
Olivia: When I was younger, I loved writing children’s stories. This fiction world seemed fun to escape into. I find poetry to be helpful tool to both myself and others. So, as I got older, I became more reflective on the experiences I had gone through, and felt my new escape would be to transform those experiences into words that don’t necessarily have to be taken through a story to get the gist of, but more so as a way to evoke meaning and resonate with my audience, as well as myself.
Question: Who are your favorite authors?
Olivia: My favorite author is Haruki Marukami, who isn’t a poet but a surrealist writer, his worlds are beautiful places to delve into and I’d definitely recommend him to anyone who is interested in surrealism. (He has some love stories as well that are equally as fun to read). He writes somewhat like a poet though and is very smooth with his storytelling and imagery. As for poetry… I don’t really have one. I mostly look up to songwriters whose lyrics bring upon the same experience as it would in a poem. Tim Buckley, for example, wrote a beautiful and inspirational song called Song to the Siren, and that to me, described love better than many poetic attempts. That is just my opinion though.
Question: How often do you write?
Olivia: I try to write as much as I can. At the moment I’m working on a project which interviews artists from all over St. Petersburg. This has been taking up a lot of my time; however, before this project started I would try to write a little bit per night. Not a poem a night, but I’m working on a short story for fun that, maybe one day, could be published.
Question: Do you have a certain amount of time or word count threshold?
Olivia: The time I put into my writing isn’t set for me. I write as the ideas come, when I get writer’s block at some point which happens usually when I run out of ideas to elaborate on, I’ll put my laptop down for the night and give myself time.
Question: What gets you energized? Do you channel that energy into your writing? If so, how and how often does that happen?
Olivia: I’ve been trying to say yes to more experiences. When I go out, I almost always have something to write about later on. Whether it be using the atmosphere I’m immersed in, or describing characters for a story, going out anywhere almost always transforms into story ideas that get worked on later. Also, my greatest memories and ideas come to mind when I’m almost asleep. That space in between being awake and dreaming is always very inspirational, and if I don’t write down all the details immediately, I’ll forget about it. So, I keep a notebook by my bedside.
Question: What are your future plans for writing? Do you have plans to write and publish professionally?
Olivia: I plan on working for a magazine in the future, while also trying to start up my own on St. Petersburg art and culture. While I’m working on this, I will keep up my poetry and short stories to hopefully one day become published. This would be my biggest dream and I will do all I can to make it happen.
Question: How does Sigma Tau Delta / Papercut help you realize and attain your personal and/or professional goals?
Olivia: Papercut was the first place I submitted my writing to. The fact that there are helpful workshops that goes along with this group is a great tool to use when trying to revise what you have and get published. Ultimately, it’s a great starting place.
Question: Other than course textbooks, what are you currently reading, if anything?
Olivia: I’m currently reading The Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Marukami. In the summer, I had a lot more free time to read, but now I have to take it a lot slower with school in the way.
Question: What is your ideal chill space?
Olivia: My ideal chill space would be a room with purple and pink floodlights, lo-fi or soft electronic music, something balanced between relaxed and energized. I need a gallon thermos of hot tea and, of course, other writers! Oh, and it has to be raining outside. My work is best when paired with a thunderstorm.
Question: What are some words of wisdom that resonate with you?
Olivia: “The pure present is an ungraspable advance of the past devouring the future. In truth, all sensation is already memory.” Self-explanatory, I remind myself of this quote whenever I’m caught up in the seriousness of life.
Olivia’s work is one of several pieces currently under review by Papercut for the next volume for publication. However, in order to make the publication more vibrant, they need students to submit their work. Oliva continues to write daily, as she can, and submits material as often as possible. But the opportunity for others to submit their work seems to go untaken. One must ask if s there is any better way to practice writing, go through a real submission process, get feedback, and receive tips to strengthen the writing, which Papercut offers to USFSP students and graduates? Students, like Olivia, who take this opportunity, will be able to achieve lifelong goals. The only requirement is for graduates, undergraduates, or alumni from USFSP to make the effort and submit their work. The return for the effort only helps writers to grow and succeed as authors.