Contributor Profile: Sara Adams

dollar-gill-389601.jpg

After studying film for a year in university, Sara Adams switched over to studying English Literature and Classic Civilizations. Adams, an Indian writer living in Toronto, decided that if she was going to spend her time analyzing something, it would have to be literature. It was during university that the 25-year-old started writing disturbance (with you).

Originally, Adams' story was a fanfiction. When she began to see the potential of her work, she changed the character’s names and personalities to better suit her new stand-alone fictional piece. disturbance (with you) has been in the works for years, but now it’s complete.

Jaya is an aspiring photographer who recently quit her mundane part-time job to pursue her craft. With her friends Soo-Min and Victoria already successful in their fields, Jaya races to catch up. Now faced with a possible full-time, photography-related opportunity, Jaya must try to untangle herself from a yarn ball full of self-doubt and endless comparisons that she’s been making for herself since she graduated university.

disturbance (with you) was Adams' way of cathartically addressing the anxieties that came with life after university. “There was this Millennial existential question: What do you do after university? All of those stresses were in me when I started this,” says Adams. “But because it’s been a couple years since I started it, it’s changed. So, not only is this anxiety about the future, I’m now in the future.” Now that Adams can better relate to her character, she feels that her writing has grown more intense over the years. “You can feel it—it’s a struggle. That job hunt is a struggle. Seeing other people around you being successful is a struggle,” says Adams. “As I kept coming back to it, it almost got more painful to write, because every time looked at it, it was as if I had a premonition of my future struggles. It was painful to read, because it was what I was living.”

The completion of the piece marks an achievement for Adams, who decided to stop giving up on projects when she found a place to live in Toronto. “That was very hard to do, because failure was a gigantic fear. But, there’s only one way you’re going to get anywhere, and it’s if you keep going,” says Adams. “As long as I keep moving, things will start working out. Whereas if you stop moving completely, nothing’s going to happen or change. I think a lot of things have gotten more positive in my life, which is great.” The next step, Adams says, is to complete a manuscript.

In relation, Adams' protagonist needs to gain the same momentum. “Movement is interesting. Everyone moves at a different pace,” says Adams. “In the story, it’s very much about the relationships that Jaya has with her two friends. And because she’s moving so slowly, it’s like they’ve branched away from her. She feels very much left in the dust, but it’s also because she refuses to move.”

Contributor Profile: Robbie Ahmed

ahmed-hasan-331353.jpg

Having lived in Russia, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, and Canada, Robbie Ahmed has lived in and experienced many cultures. A favorite childhood experience of his while growing up in Bangladesh is re-enacting Titanic scenes with family members whenever they would visit his grandparents in Barisal by boat. Currently working part-time as a youth group and workshop facilitator with Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention in Toronto, the 25-year-old is trying to find a balance between all of his passions. Starting his creative journey at open mics performing spoken word, Ahmed has since branched into music, poetry, and writing. In fact, his story Trans*mutation is a transformed version of one of his spoken word pieces.

Whenever Ahmed would perform his spoken word piece that was inspired by his experiences as a trans man, audience members would approach him and ask what happened next. Rooted in his memories of facing family in Bangladesh after sharing that he is trans, Ahmed found that the piece needed expanding. “It started with the thoughts and feelings of being in the moment of that scene, and coming to the conclusion that being trans is okay. It was basically a written stream of consciousness,” says Ahmed. “So, I thought maybe I need to write it as a story instead of just a moment.”

In addition to addressing post-performance queries, Ahmed wanted to write a story that empowered trans people. When he was younger, Ahmed was obsessed with the X-Men, and some of the themes within the series arise in his story. “It’s the whole idea that they’re different, but there’s advantages that come with that,” Ahmed says. “I played on the idea that there’s some kind of advantage to being trans.”

One of the advantages Ahmed speaks about in his story is how being trans can help a person be resilient to cultural norms and expectations. “Being trans and cultural at the same time is very complicated. In the story, I’m trying to say that a lot of the times being trans feels more like a curse in your own cultural identity; it doesn’t give you an advantage,” says Ahmed. “But then, it comes to a point where it allows you to survive your own cultural expectations at the same time, and get the best of all worlds. It’s kind of like shifting through those worlds, so you’re passing through these identities and cultures.”

Although Ahmed has lived in many cultures, he finds that he struggles with “capturing culture” in his English writing. “How do you paint these environments, which are like different worlds?” Ahmed asks. A lot of his writing is inspired by Jhumpa Lahiri, author of The Namesake, who writes about the immigrant experience. He admires how Lahiri captures cultural elements through objects and words. Ahmed says, “In Trans*mutation, I talk about the abaya and chai; I try to portray these elements and the restrictions around them. And by keeping the words in their own language with some of the objects, it keeps the cultural nuances.” Ahmed also admits that because there are many writers who share and write about the immigrant experience, it’s hard to study how each portrays it. But that only means that there is more learning to be done.

Whether it be cultural or gender-related, coming to terms with or realizing an identity is a feat. Regarding trans identities and Trans*mutation, Ahmed believes that gender is something that can be questioned, and that “underneath it all, you’ll still be the same.” Ahmed says, “You can always explore until something feels like it’s right for you.”

Learn more about Robbie Ahmed here.

Contributor Profile: Isabella Jaime

vincent-foret-509080.jpg

In 2015, Isabella Jaime began doodling on scrap pieces of paper with ballpoint pens. During this time, the 27-year-old social worker was also taking care of her ninang, who fell ill. The piece she created while doodling on her ninang’s couch with a Sharpie was Neptuna, one of her first drawings. Its underwater theme hides a figure, and its title is inspired by the Pixies song, “Mr. Grieves.”

Jaime, who is Filipino-American and currently learning Tagalog, has always drawn in black and white. “I think my drawings in black and white tend to have a sort of dark, surreal feeling,” Jaime says. “The colour versions seem more ‘fun,’ as I like to use bright colors.” The self-taught artist says that it’s a learning process when it comes to making colour versions of her drawings.


When visiting her friend in Moab, Utah, Jaime began to draw Marsh. “I was inspired by the surreal landscape and how prehistoric it was, almost,” says Jaime, who loves dystopian novels. Taking after her observations, the prehistoric themed drawing features a drowning skeleton that has flowers growing out of it, as well as a dinosaur.

The artist, who used to live in New York City working as a child welfare social worker in the Bronx, doesn’t plan her drawings. Rather, Jaime adds things based on where she feels they should be on the page, and tries to fill the space as much as possible. “Sometimes I get burned out from all the small details, but I try to push through!” Jaime, who currently resides in Detroit with her fiancé Owen and is in a polyamorous relationship, says.


“I’m going to need him to bulk up. He’s so thin and frail.”

Recounting the words of her partner’s doctor after a major surgery, Jaime says that Jeff was in the hospital for almost a week before he came home. “This really stuck with me. For months before the surgery he had been so sick and in agonizing pain, and he hadn’t been able to eat much,” Jaime says. “I stayed with him a lot of the time at the hospital. One night, I even slept on a chair next to his bed.” When he finally came home, Jaime started drawing Frail. “I wanted to convey some of his pain, uncertainty, and bravery. He’s the strongest person I know,” Jaime says.

While drawing Frail, Jaime experienced burnout. Due to fatigue, she has an alternate version of the piece with a white background. Jaime eventually completed the piece, adding more details and the black background. Despite occasionally feeling burned out by drawing, the benefits of the activity outweigh the detriments.

Jaime uses drawing as a way of coping with anxiety. “For me, drawing is meditative and semi-unconscious. I see it as a way to help calm my anxiety, and to see how my mental state can be reflected in a visual,” Jaime says, noting that it’s interesting to see how her brain is represented on paper, and that she’s fascinated by altered perceptions of reality. However, sometimes Jaime’s anxiety won’t let her stop working on a drawing; she feels like she can’t take a break and that she has to add more details. Also, as a result of her anxiety, the artist worries and second-guesses herself frequently; she often worries about “capturing the moment,” and takes pictures and writes in journals to remember things. Jaime says, “I think drawing is also a way of capturing certain moments in my thoughts and feelings.”

See Isabella Jaime’s work, check out the magazine over at issuu.com, and to see more of what she's done, visit her Instagram here.

Contributor Profile: William Tham

leonie-wise-312328.jpg

While growing up in Malaysia, William Tham used to travel to Kuala Selangor via coastal roads that were long-forgotten due to the highways that popped up around the peninsula. The roads leading to the town, famous for having one of the largest firefly colonies of the world, is where majority of The Scent of Dry Dust takes place. “I have a love of quiet, bypassed places, and a story about missed connections felt so natural in that particular setting,” Tham, now living in Vancouver, says.

On the side of a coastal road near Kuala Selangor, the unnamed protagonist, who works in an inorganics lab, waits for a tow truck with his old friend, Ling, a doctor that needs adventure. While they wait, the friends discuss their lives and ambitions. As the story shifts between past and present, the protagonist’s past is revealed, and Ling’s role in his life is called into question.

Tham, the non-fiction editor of Vancouver-based, Asian Canadian focused Ricepaper Magazine, wrote the story about two old friends based on “experiences of unrequited love and the uncertainty over missed connections” as an undergraduate. Tham says, “A lot of my fiction is semi-autobiographical. I find it easier and more accurate to modify real experiences and conversations than to invent them from scratch.” The story also helped him address his fears surrounding the “quarter-life trap,” where life after university isn’t any clearer, there’s a possibility that one could still find themselves in a position that makes them unhappy, and the struggle of achieving independence begins despite all of these existential issues. Tham notes, “[These are] Millennial problems, of course, but I felt better after fictionalizing these fears.”

No stranger to the editorial process, Tham published his first novel Kings of Petaling Street with Fixi London last year, and is a recurring short story contributor to Fixi. Two of his reading experiences in high school heavily influenced the way he writes today. The Empire of the Sun by J.G. Ballard “burned with a clinical eeriness and a sense of fatalism,” while Tash Aw’s The Harmony Silk Factory impressed Tham through the “power of multiple perspectives” and the author’s ability to “tease stories from familiar settings.” Tham also hides secrets in his stories for fun, writing Cheong from How not to Forget into The Scent of Dry Dust in the form of supervisor Cheong; interestingly, How not to Forget has a character who is struggling from the events of Kings of Petaling Street. Although an experienced writer and editor, one of the challenges the 25-year-old faces when working as a non-fiction editor is his background. “Since I am of Malaysian and southern Chinese descent, I have my limitations when it comes to judging submissions outside my area of expertise,” says Tham. He adds that by observing the world through reading or exposing himself to new experiences, Tham will be better able to judge submissions.

In The Scent of Dry Dust, Tham plays within his areas of expertise, showing that although action and inaction are important when it comes to pursuing love and a career, they aren’t the only things to consider. “Often times luck still plays a key role in determining how career and relationships work out. There is the matter of being in the right place at the right time, so despite how well laid out your plans are, sometimes opportunities vanish and other times they appear out of nowhere. Nothing is written, basically.”

Learn more about William Tham here, and check out his work with Ricepaper Magazine, who will be publishing Vincent Ternida’s The Seven Muses of Harry Salcedo this September, here.