Zoya Patel, Writer & Editor
Zoya Patel's work as the Founder and Editor of Feminartsy is a huge inspiration to us - not only a site for an amazing range of female voices but working to foster a community of writers. You just know we're on board with that!
What do you do?
I am a writer of fiction and non-fiction, a producer of feminist events and the founder/editor of the online feminist journal, Feminartsy. I also work in communications, and have recently finished up my role as Senior Manager of Communication and Fundraising for the feminist not-for-profit, YWCA Canberra. So basically, I do a lot of different things as a feminist about town.
Do you have a maxim that you live and work by?
I don’t have a maxim I could easily distill into words, but I do try and approach all of my work, relationships and hobbies through the lens of equality and social justice. It’s very important to me to feel that I am contributing to something with purpose, and my passion for gender equality influences a lot of my projects.
Can you share a creative experience that you have found defining?
It will be hard to pick just one! I think the first time I went to This Is Not Art Festival in Newcastle (2009), and spent a week immersed in creativity, watching performances, and writing panels, and readings from Australians was pretty life changing and defining for me. It was the first time I truly felt connected to creativity as a legitimate and valid pursuit, and that I felt connected to the national creative community in Australia.
It’s definitely what gave me the courage to launch Feminartsy in 2014!
What are you listening to, reading, watching of late, that is inspiring or entertaining you?
I have been reading Brodie Landcaster’s debut book No Way! Okay, Fine. and loving it! Brodie does such an awesome job of interrogating feminism and social equality through the lens of popular culture.
I also recently watched all of the new Netflix series Anne with an E, based on Anne of Green Gables, which was one of my favourite books growing up. That has been very gratifying!
What is one facet of your field that you want to see change?
I would love to see pay rates for writers drastically increase, and to see more viable opportunities for funding. I find it strange, now that I’m in my late 20s, to notice how much arts funding is focused on youth, and I would be so pleased to see targeted funding for older writers/artists, or funding that supported childcare costs to allow parents to continue their creative practice after having children.
What do you want to be asked about that no one ever asks you?
I feel like there is the beginnings of an interesting conversation around cultural diversity and access to creativity, but I would love to be asked about this more. My journey as a writer has been hugely influenced by my cultural background, both positively and negatively, and it would be cool to see that interrogated more in terms of access.
What projects do you have in the pipeline?
I was recently signed by Curtis Brown Australia for a novel I wrote in 2016, and have since been working on an essay collection focusing on experiences of race, gender and identity as a first generation migrant in Australia. I’m also working on possibly launching a podcast through Feminartsy later this year.
What is your dream project?
I feel like I get to work on a lot of my dream projects through Feminartsy, so it’s hard to imagine something I haven’t made some steps towards at this point. But I would love to eventually launch a feminist communications agency, that could work with for purpose organisations through a feminist approach to communication, marketing and PR. I think that would be cool!
Do you have a supportive female network in your field? Was it always this way?
I have a range of supportive female networks as a writer, editor and producer. There is an amazing group of creative, productive women in Canberra, and we do spend time together, collaborate on projects and support each other quite organically.
I have also gained a lot through participating in online feminist writing spaces, which have become a much relied on source of advice. I do think the internet has made it easier for this kind of network to exist and be inclusive.
I think I only really started understanding the value of exclusively female/feminist spaces in the past decade, and I love that it’s becoming easier to find such networks through technology.
What are the three milestones that have led you to where you stand?
One: migrating to Australia with my family from Fiji as a three-year-old. Being here and being Australian has undoubtedly shaped who I am, what opportunities I have access to, and what space I occupy in the world.
Two: Becoming the editor of Lip Magazine in 2010. Lip is a feminist publication, and was the first place I was ever published. Being the editor exposed me to other feminist writing groups, lots of cool women and writers, and awakened me to my love of editing.
Three: Moving out of my parents house in 2011. I was raised in a fairly protective family, as a Muslim, and moving out was a tipping point for me in terms of finding my own values, experiencing the art and music I wanted to be exposed to, and being able to carve my own path.
What’s something surprising about you, that we might not know?
Lots of people are surprised to find out that I am a horse rider, and that I practice dressage riding and currently am coached at a novice advanced level. I ride three times a week, and love spending time with my equine friends!
What places are important to you?
I really love Canberra, where I have mostly grown up. I think we get a bad rap in this town, because unless you live here you’re unlikely to know about or experience our amazing arts scene.
I also feel a strong connection to India, and to the village in Gujarat that my father’s mother’s family is from (Hinglot). When I visited there as a child and as a teenager, I felt a deep sense of homecoming that was somewhat unexpected at the time, and that has stayed with me since. I would love to go back there soon.
What is the best advice you’ve been given, or wish you had been told sooner?
I’m not sure if this classifies as advice, but the most recent epiphany I had was last year, when one of my closest friends (who had just moved to a new city after spending months travelling alone in Europe) said to me ‘I am just inclined to be happy wherever I am.’ As a moody, often pessimistic person, I found it revolutionary to think of happiness as a choice, and thinking in that way has really changed how I approach challenges and life more generally.
How can we find our more about your work?
Who would you most like to answer these questions next?
Ooh, so many people! I would love a spotlight shined on some of the amazing Canberran women arts producers – Yasmin Masri, Adelaide Reif and Vanessa Wright are part of a collective called Lady Producer Gang, and they are all incredible women!