Welcome to the 2021 black&write! Editor Interns

In January, the black&write! Project welcomed two new First Nations Editor Interns, bringing the black&write! team at State Library of Queensland to five staff members. Each year black&write! awards two emerging writers from around Australia with Fellowships. These Fellows are then paired with the interns under the guidance of Editor, Grace Lucas-Pennington.

State Library is delighted to welcome Nadia Johansen and Bianca Valentino to the team. Nadia and Bianca will undertake hands-on editor training as well as contributing to State Library projects and activities. 

In this post, Nadia and Bianca share their excitement about joining the black&write! team, their career aspirations, and insights into their own experiences as writers and readers.

Both avid readers and writers, Nadia and Bianca are excited to start working with the 2021 Fellows

Nadia Johansen

I’m a proud Gungarri woman, originally from Mitchell in South-West Queensland, who grew up in Meanjin. I’ve always had a love for reading and writing. As a young child I would read everything I could possibly get my hands on. (I made it halfway through Chopper Read’s autobiography before my Dad could hide it from me.)  Growing up I dreamed about being able to write stories and fantasised about getting a job where I would be able to read all day. However, I was always told that a writing career wasn’t practical so when I left school I worked in administration and community services.  As the years went by the call to write got stronger and stronger. So, in 2019 I left my career and my home in Toowoomba to return to Brisbane (after 9 years away). I enrolled to study a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at QUT and I haven’t looked back.

I jumped at the chance to work at black&write! because I believe the project has been critical in shaping and raising the profile of contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander storytelling. I think storytelling is very important to the way we conceive of ourselves and our communities. After the shame and silence of my parents’ and grandparents’ generations there is a hunger for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stories told by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. I want to be a part of bringing those stories to the world.

The Editor Internship is a fantastic opportunity to continue my literary education in a hands-on, culturally enriching environment. I hope my time at black&write! will give me valuable experience of the publishing industry and start me on my journey of contributing to Indigenous literature. Also, I hope to gain the skills to edit work in a culturally appropriate manner and work effectively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander storytellers – hopefully making lifelong connections along the way. Now that I have my dream job where I spend most of my day reading and engaging with writing. My goal is to support others to build a career out of their love of storytelling.

Bianca's background is in music journalism, and Nadia has extensive experience doing youth work

Bianca Valentino

Story has always been with me. Story is an integral part of my life. I’ve been a passionate reader since childhood; literature connects me to the world and at the same time, creates my own sacred space to learn, reflect, grow and sometimes just escape. My ancestors are the original storytellers. As a Blak writer, artist and musician, I continue our tradition.

I grew up in Meanjin (Brisbane) and on the land of the Yugambeh people (Gold Coast). As a child, I spent time on the road looking out the windows of a campervan, extensively travelling Australia with my family. I enjoyed the assortment of people we’d meet along the way, learning their stories; my mother would talk to anyone, a quality I would inherit and later turn into vocation. These adventures sparked a lifelong curiosity of people, places and culture.

In my teens, I discovered zines (independent self-published, small-run, photocopied works) where creators express themselves freely, existing outside of traditional publishing convention, as they muse on culture, society, politics and everything in between. This appealed to me, so I decided to make my own. At the time, I started to frequent local punk shows, which were exciting and inspiring. It intuitively made sense to write about what I was observing and experiencing to share and connect with others. Before the internet, print zines were vital to the punk scene, a form of communication and full of information you couldn’t find anywhere else about bands and happenings. Alongside my own stories, I’d mostly fill my zine’s pages with those of the creatives I’d interview from the community. When I realised that you don’t need permission from anyone, that you can make your own publications and write your own narrative, it was empowering. From making zines, I got my first paid writing gig, contributing to my city’s entertainment street press.

Two decades later, I have been consistently published in national and international magazines in print and online, including Rolling Stone, Rookie and No Cure. I have always had a hands-on education – learning through doing – and in the process I’ve brought thousands of stories to the world. Currently, you’ll find I’m still very passionate about stories, as the first Indigenous woman editor of a music publication gimmiezine.com, working on my first book and as one of the newest members of the black&write! team at State Library of Queensland.

I initially found black&write! by connecting with books written by our Fellowship winning First Nations writers. I was finding that each time I’d read a great story, I’d look on the book cover – and black&write! would be mentioned. As good journalists do, I followed my instinct to find out more, found the editor intern opportunity, and applied.

To be part of black&write! is a dream come true. Working with Mob on fiction gifts a new way to further deepen my connection to story and our many and varied cultures. I’m excited to learn the ins and outs of the publishing industry while nurturing First Nations authors’ stories with understanding and respect. It’s important to me to play a role in bringing our diverse and rich experiences to the greater community. Story is always evolving, as are we. Story encourages learning, understanding and connection, which the world always needs more of, especially now.

Just five of the many winning titles from 10 years of the black&write! Project 

Thank you and welcome, Nadia and Bianca!

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