Suvi Mahonen is a freelance writer based in Surfers Paradise on Australia’s Gold Coast. Her non-fiction has appeared in various newspapers and magazines in both Australia and Canada including The Weekend Australian, The Sydney Morning Herald and Practical Parenting. Her fiction has been widely published in literary journals and anthologies including in The Best Australian Stories 2010 and Griffith Review. A portion of a longer work-in-progress was nominated for a 2012 Pushcart Prize.
What is your most recent published work:
A piece of life writing titled ‘How nine days alone with my newborn daughter nearly killed me’, which was published on the Australian news and entertainment website Mamamia.
What was your motivation to write this?
I wanted to explore what it means to be a mother through my own experience of having to take care of my two-week-old baby girl on my own while my husband lay in intensive care, literally fighting for his life. But it was also a way of coming to terms with the tragic death of my paternal grandmother, who took the life of her youngest son when she took her own life as well.
What sort of message or feeling are you hoping to leave your audience with?
I want mothers to understand their worth. Becoming a mother is one of the hardest things a woman will ever do in her life and often it’s a time plagued with self-doubt and guilt. Women need to believe in themselves as mothers. Most of all, I want mothers who might be struggling to know they’re not alone.
What sorts of challenges or insights did you have in creating this?
Merging my grandmother’s story with my own was one of the most challenging aspects of this piece. There were so many issues I could have focussed on, but it was only when I recognised that the underlying link was the difficulties some women face when they’re alone and unsupported, that I was able to write the article.
What sort of stories do you normally write? (Is this story a break from your norm?)
I write both non-fiction and fiction, so life writing isn’t a break from my norm. As a journalist, you have to develop a wide repertoire of writing styles in order to do justice to the diverse array of stories you’re asked to cover in your work. I think with any piece of writing – be it an article or a short story or a memoir – there’s the expectation to find something new in yourself. It’s always a journey and you have to be patient and let the work evolve through the creative process.
Are you focused on one particular genre or story length style (i.e Flash Fiction, Short Story, Novella, Novel)? What is yours? Why/Why not?
I like writing articles but my first love is fiction – in any story length or style. I think there’s a certain timeless quality to literary fiction. No other genre can penetrate as deeply into the core of what it means to be human and show us that we’re all struggling, in one way or another, along this crazy ride we call life.
What projects or new story lines do you have coming up in the near future?
There’s a longer piece of fiction I’m working on at the moment that explores memory and how memories surrounding a traumatic event can sometimes be malleable and not always accurate. The story involves a female protagonist whose memories about an unsolved brutal assault begin to resurface as her pregnancy progresses.
Do you enter many writing competitions? Why/Why not?
I do enter writing competitions because I think they’re a really good reality check. Recently I was asked to be a judge for a writing competition run by writing site ‘Defenestrationism’ and I was amazed and humbled by the quality of the entries. It’s fine if you just want to write for your own enjoyment, but if you’re trying to get published I think you need to be aware of just how high the standard of writing is out there.
Are you a member of a writing/art group – either online or a physical one?
I’m part of an online writing group on the art hub ‘Redbubble’.
Do you think these groups help or hinder a writer’s journey? Why?
Some people say that writing groups can overly influence novice writers by imposing certain preferences and opinions on them, but I think being part of a group is a good thing for a writer. A group can teach you discipline by setting writing exercises that you’re expected to complete by a certain deadline, can give you valuable feedback on your work and expose you to writing styles you might never have read otherwise.
What encouragement or advice do you have for emerging writers/artists?
Be realistic about the process. Good quality writing doesn’t come from brief scribbles when you feel like it. Hard work, determination and commitment are required if you really want to see your craft improve.
What advice or tips do you have for writers who feel they are stuck or have “writers block”?
Live life! Get out and take the kids for a boat ride or go shopping. My experience has taught me that new ideas will often come to you when you let go of the search.
Where can others find this piece of work to read?
How can others follow your journey?
I have a writing page here: