April is both National Poetry Month as well as national Autism Awareness Month, meaning that Karletta Abianac, who hails from Queensland, Australia—whose work focusing on what it is like to live life along the autism spectrum—is the perfect poet to kick off our Poetry Month Reading Series. Abianac’s first dive into writing was during her school years, when she was assigned to write a fake letter to an editor. She wasted no time in using her writing as a tool against social inequality, using her piece to showcase the injustices of racism by comparing it to discriminating based on hair color. She fell in love with writing, and young enterpriser that she was, went on to create her own home-made literary journal. “It would have been 1999-2003. I did 4 issues of a magazine. Photocopied and stapled together.” That magazine was her first taste of what it was like to see her name in print, and she knew she wanted more of it.
She has not yet dropped the mantel for social justice. Through her short stories, poems, and book, she writes in a way that helps a neurotypical person connect with her, and understand what it is like to go through life as an autistic individual. However, feedback from within the autistic community is what is most important to Abianac. With the release of her book Successful to Burnt she received feedback from several people about how it helped them to feel like their life experiences were not only validated, but understood. However, the project was not only helpful to readers. There were three people, besides Abianac, who contributed to the work. In the collaboration efforts, “I realized it isn’t just a me thing, other people have felt unreliable, that they couldn’t finish tasks.”
Abianac had to learn through trial and error what the best practice was for her to accomplish writing tasks. The false sense of needing to be perfect on the first attempt, was suffocating her creatively. “Just being overwhelmed and having to stop work when I wasn’t finished, I felt I couldn’t trust myself to finish things. Which comes with depression.” In order to overcome this, she signed up for a public speaking class. It was a two-course sequence that allowed her to practice not only how to express herself, but how to identify what it was she was trying to convey to an audience.
Gradually, things improved, “I had to learn how to do drafts, and take out concepts. You can take a line and do a whole new poem from that. And then rewrite the original.” As she began to learn more about the writing process, her confidence grew and she could start considering an eBook. The final push toward publication for her, was Australian author John Birmingham, “I had read his book on how to be a writer, and he talked about self-publishing on line. It’s a kick you off your ass and go out and write, it was the kick in the guts I needed to publish myself.”
She did finally accomplish that goal, and the thrill of publishing did not elude her, “October last year, when I saw my name on kindle in the book as an author, I knew I wanted more of that.” To date, Abianac has published short story collections, a novel, and poetry.
Encouraging other aspiring writers with autism is a huge part of her advocacy attempts on Twitter and within the community, “If you’re having trouble with something, map out he context.” Taking this map, Abianac suggests then going back and making a bullet point list. This helps to figure out what themes are trying to come through in the work. “Be willing to fail, and be willing to try something else and be willing to try writing in another way.” As always, writers, never forget: “Write drafts.”
You can find more about Karletta Abianac on her author site and blog. All of her works are available on amazon, her newest work of poetry titled Inaccessible can be found on Kindle US and Kindle Australia. You can follow her on Twitter.
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