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meet the judges of the 2020 rachel funari prize for fiction: rae white

Poet and writer, Rae White (Image: Supplied)

Over the next few weeks, we’ll introduce you to the incredible people who make up the judging panel of the 2020 Rachel Funari Prize for Fiction. Today, meet poet, writer and zinester, Rae White.


The Rachel Funari Prize for Fiction calls for stories by women and non-binary writers. What’s your view on diverse representation in publishing? And how do you believe the #ownvoices movement has changed the industry?
I think diverse representation in publishing is extremely important because it opens the door to stories we don’t often hear; to stories that have so often been overwritten or silenced. And I’m seeing a lot more poetry and YA works from gender diverse folks who aren’t your typical ‘poster people’ for diversity – words and works from those assigned male at birth, from those with intersecting marginalisations, from folks of different class backgrounds, from folks who aren’t thin and white. For that reason, I think #ownvoices is moving the industry towards better inclusion: from people writing stories about us and for us, to us writing our own stories.

What comes to mind when you think of our 2020 theme, ‘future’?
When I think of future, I’m apprehensive but hopeful. Climate change is here but I think we have the opportunity to do good and be good, and to go from just surviving to thriving. The stories we write, whether they’re about climate change or not, can be a catalyst or a reflection for this good.

When it comes to writing, what’s your process? Are you a ‘plotter’ or a ‘pantser’?
Definitely a pantster! I often don’t know where a poem is going when I start writing it and I like to see where it takes me, in terms of mood and theme and message. And that’s also similar to my process for fictional stories – I have a general idea of where I might like to go with a piece but I enjoy letting the characters take control and tell me where they want and need.

Dorothy Parker once said: “I hate writing, I love having written.” Do you find the writing process energising or exhausting?
I find it very energising! If I’m feeling tired or sad or having a pain flare up, I will often make myself sit down and write a little poem or do a small drawing or zine. The giddy happy feelings I get from creation are fantastic! For me, it’s the editing that can sometimes be tiring.

Is there anything you’re currently working on that you’d like to tell us about?
I’m currently working on a young adult verse novel, which is about non-binary teens who seek to create a safe space and found family in a haunted house – because the ghosts are friendlier than the outside world.

Is there a writer (or writers!) you admire or books that have influenced your work?
Yes and no. I’m influenced by so many things, including books and plants and birds and the people I love, but my poetry collection Milk Teeth was definitely influenced by poets like Alex Gallagher, Sarah Eliza Johnson, Zenobia Frost and Shastra Deo. They took poetry to places I didn’t know existed and showed me how vast and unique poetry can be.

The last time we spoke, you mentioned your ‘towering and chaotic’ TBR pile. Did you ever manage to make a dent in it? What have you been reading lately? Any recommendations?
Haha absolutely not! If anything, I’d say my TBR pile has increased. Can books breed with each other? Have my books acquired new bookish housemates to add to the pile? Lately I’ve been reading works by fellow non-binary folks including Surge by Jay Bernard, Paul takes the form of a mortal girl by Andrea Lawlor and Euphoria Kids by Alison Evans. All highly recommended!

Tell us about #EnbyLife.
#EnbyLife is a journal that showcases the works of non-binary and gender diverse creatives. It started as a small zine but I decided to relaunch it as a website to keep down printing costs, pay my contributors, and increase accessibility. Myself and my co-editor Alison Evans take submissions on a rolling basis, so please send us your work!

What does a typical writing/editing day look like for you?
I prefer to work in the morning rather than the afternoon (I’m typing this at 8am!) and I usually only work for 3-4 hours. Then I have lunch and watch something, usually an episode of the X-Files, which is my current re-watch obsession. Then in the afternoon I plan the next day, read some books or poetry, and maybe have a nap. I find if I don’t give myself a break in the afternoon, I’ll obsessively keep writing and never do anything else. I love writing but it’s also important for me to prioritise resting.

What do you read to feel inspired?
I will often read a non-fiction essay or book, something that is removed from what I’m currently writing (mostly fiction) that will teach me something new about the world and maybe spark a new train of thought.

What does literary success look like to you?
I think it looks like connection – connecting with an audience, with readers, even with just one reader – rather than prizes and money.

Did you always want to be a writer? If you weren’t writing, how might you be spending your working days?
Oh definitely! I was making tiny zine-like books as a kid and I handwrote a ton of ‘books’ and diaries when I was a teen. Writing has always driven me and made me feel like I’m doing something good and purposeful with my life, whether or not my work gets published. For a hot second I thought I wanted to be a lawyer but I’m way too scrappy for that and I’d hate the long days!

What will you be looking for when judging the Rachel Funari Prize for Fiction?
Something new that takes me by surprise and shakes up my expectations of story writing, of character, of voice.


Entries for the 2020 Rachel Funari Prize for Fiction are now OPEN and close 5pm Friday 17th April, 2020. Submit stories up to 2000 words that engage with the theme ‘future’. For more information, click here.

The sponsors and supporters of the 2020 Rachel Funari Prize for Fiction (L-R: Lip, Scribe Publications, Pan Macmillan Australia, Writing NSW, Emerging Writers’ Festival, Writers Victoria, Kill Your Darlings, Fremantle Press, Affirm Press)

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