Voices from With/out Pretend: All Together Now
Hi, it’s me, Erin! We’re grateful that you like reading my monthly letter, Secrets, where I spill my guts about things I think and feel. But we also wanted to promote the voices, stories, and experiences that deserve more platforms to be heard. This bonus letter will come to you monthly, penned by various members of our community. Our first installment of Voices is brought to you by our amazing intern and emerging writer Jessica Kasiama.
All Together Now by Jessica Kasiama
Art is a connective tissue, filling the space that exists between ourselves and the internal worlds of those around us. Art has the power to soften, it has the power to break, and it has the power to mend. I doubted this at 16 when I felt outcasted by my identity and wondered, If I wanted to create, would anyone listen? I was sure that my voice had no place and my writing didn’t matter, until I was rescued by the world of Rookie Magazine

Rookie introduced me to the work of many young creatives who continue to inspire me to this day, including writer Rachel Davies. In 2013, Davies started their own online zine called Pop Culture Puke to give young women an opportunity to write about the things they love. It was healing to experience representation as a young and aspiring creative. Since then, their career has snowballed. Davies has curated and published works by contemporary writers, held art shows in dorm rooms, and has interviewed a plethora of iconic creatives. I was honoured to sit with Davies on a Sunday morning, bonding over long-term love (off the record) and the power of carving out space for artists in the physical and digital world. 

You can imagine my devastation when I returned home and found that portions of our 45-minute discussion were swallowed up by my recording device. Suddenly, the feeling of uncertainty returned. This time I was 20, deeply afraid that I didn’t deserve the opportunity I had been presented. When I called Davies to explain the mishap, their infectious laugh and comforting words of advice reminded me of two simple truths: I am not alone in this industry and mistakes happen to everyone. 

This business of writing, editing, and making personal work can be immensely isolating. You throw your feelings against a wall to see what sticks (or rather, to see what sells) and sometimes can’t help but feel exposed and bruised by the possibility of being misunderstood, or worse, rejected by the creative community you hope to belong to. We need to remember that we’re not alone. We need to take a deep breath and remember that we’re all human and our voices matter. 

With this in mind, welcome to the first installment of Voices, an intimate peek into the world of independent art through the lens of With/out Pretend. In their own words, here is Rachel Davies discussing their experiences as young writer and curator today: 
Deep Chats with Rachel Davies
Who are you as a creative? 
I'm a writer who has a variety of experiences within the publishing industry, interning with publishers, interviewing authors, and speaking at festivals, along with playwriting, staff news writing, and editing and publishing zines with my own on-again-off-again press, The Piece of Work.
You’ve been an active member of the publishing industry for quite some time. How have those experiences informed your work as a writer and curator? 
I think my more formal experiences in publishing – staff writing positions or internships at publishers – have taught me more realistic ways of viewing my work. More than anything, the idea of making a book seems so overwhelming and getting to observe and be a part of the intricacies of both producing a book and marketing it make it seem far more approachable, and allow me to understand the more practical reasons behind why or why not experimental, exciting, fresh work is or isn't being released. 
Is there a relationship between print and social change? 
I think that reading, listening to music, and watching movies is essential in understanding the viewpoint of others, and being as compassionate as possible. I think that writers, publicity budgets and the publishers that support us are extremely helpful in actively creating more compassion and support to the world around them. 
Why do you think it’s important to support independent publishing?
I think that independent publishers are almost always the ones who herald young, experimental voices. Without consumers’ support, these voices couldn't possibly continue to write and function as creators.

If you’d like to know what’s on Rachel Davies’ shelf, head over to Goodreads where they graciously curated a list of their current favourites!

Jessica Kasiama is an emerging writer, currently working as an intern at With/out Pretend. Through her work, she hopes to hold space for raw storytelling in order to inspire social change.

follow her on instagram 
April Affirmation
On April 4, 1948, the beloved poet and activist Maya Angelou was born. To honour her life and legacy, I have been absorbing her work throughout the month.

My heart has been especially circling around an excerpt from Letters to My Daughter (2009), a book of essays for the daughter she never had.
Illustration by @ninachanel

“The human heart is so delicate and sensitive that it always needs some tangible encouragement to prevent it from faltering in its labor. The human heart is so robust, so tough, that once encouraged it beats its rhythm with a loud unswerving insistency.”
-Maya Angelou
On Rachel Davies' Shelf
Citizen: An American Lyric
by Claudia Rankine
by Geneviève Castrée
The Lie and How We Told It
by Tommi Parish
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