Catherine Bouris is a freelance writer and the creator of the Young Australian Writers Facebook group. She has written for the Saturday Paper, Sydney Morning Herald, Overland Literary Journal, The Vocal, AWOL, Everyday Feminism, Honi Soit, Daily Life, PopSugar, Archer Magazine, the Star Observer and news.com.au.
You’re a freelance writer, journalist, editor and photographer. Which creative hat do you enjoy wearing the most?
I suppose writer, when I’m writing about something I’m passionate about like unpaid internships or feminism. But I’m currently trying to find my niche and really work out what I’m best at, so I’m taking a break from all of those right now!
You are the founder of Young Australian Writers, a Facebook support group for writers looking to pitch to publications and seek employment in the industry. What inspired you to start the group?
I started YAW after reading up on the first-person industrial complex and writing about it for The Vocal (RIP). I wanted to create a space for those new to freelance writing/the media industry to ask for advice and make sure they aren’t being taken advantage of.
What is one of the most common issues or complaints raised by YAW posters and what advice do you have for them?
Delayed payment. People are often scared to bite the hand that feeds so rather than post directly, they’ll message me privately asking what they can do. I recommend a stern-sounding email that suggests you’ll escalate your concerns if payment isn’t made promptly.
Speaking of payment, the issue of being paid is one many emerging writers feel passionate about. What has been your approach in the past when sharing your own articles?
I’ve always been paid, except for when writing for Honi Soit, USyd’s student paper, which I was fine with. As for the rest, I’ve focused on pitching articles to places that I think would be a good fit, and to editors I think I would work well with. Sometimes I’ve prioritised pitching based on how much a place pays, but not often.
In your experience, what are the most typical struggles young Australian writers face when trying to get their work out there?
Aside from being asked to write for free or very little, young writers also have to deal with fierce competition; there are so many people freelancing and not as many outlets looking to publish their work.
Do you think it’s important for emerging writers to have a strong online presence/personal brand?
I think it does help; I find it odd when a writer doesn’t have Twitter, for example. Social media is a great way to network and meet other writers (I made almost all of my friends in the industry through Twitter followed by irl pub chats) as well as a great tool for promoting your work. I wouldn’t worry too much about creating a personal brand though – if it’s not authentic, people will be able to tell.
How often do you pitch to the media and how do you decide what you’d like to write about? How do you find the time to do it while also studying and managing a busy FB group?
I don’t pitch very often, to be honest – I don’t freelance in order to make a living, so I only write when I’m feeling passionate about something and my heart is really in it.
You’re currently studying a masters of publishing. How have you found the course and would you recommend it to others?
I love it! It’s the third masters degree I’ve tried, after two journalism ones at two different universities, and it’s a much better fit for me. I have the option of writing features if I want to, but I’ve been focused on learning about the book and magazine publishing industries so far. Very different from my last two degrees, and a much better fit. I would definitely recommend it if you’re interested in publishing!
What do you do to explore your creativity?
Honestly, I don’t know, and I really want to get back to feeling creatively fulfilled and enjoying what I’m doing. Photography was such a huge passion of mine but photographing events sucked that out of me, and I think I want to get back into experimenting with different formats and taking photos for fun rather than for money.
What do you like to read?
I loooove longform non-fiction/journalism/essays, I use Longreads and Longform to find the best ones each night before bed.