balance

Preserving Armenia Within America

What does it mean to be a byproduct of your culture? Or better yet, what does it mean to be a blend of more than one? It’s a big question, one that many families and individuals ask themselves as our world becomes more open and diverse. But, how better to approach this topic than through art?

It’s exactly how Rafaella Safarian has taken on the exploration of her cultures. On top of running her own literary magazine, Hyebred Magazine, she’s also a writer who looks at the world she grew up in and the world around her to drive her fiction forward.

“I grew up in an Armenian household and I grew up going to the Armenian church, so it was really based on all of my observations about myself, my family, my culture and kind of creating these stories to make it relatable,” said Rafaella. “Cause in a sense they’re like immigrant stories, some of them, and you appreciate how far your culture has brought you.”

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(Check out/listen to the full podcast here! Or just keep reading as well, reading is cool.)


She recently graduated from her undergrad in Creative Writing, but during her time in school, she was able to find what she wanted to write towards. Many young writers struggle in finding their ‘voice’ or know what they are writing about. Rafaella not only knows what she is writing about, but she explores it further as she grows as an artist.

In fact, Rafaella wrote four short stories for her thesis, titled “The Half-Open Pomegranate” which is heavily based on the Armenian culture.

“The image of the half-open pomegranate is a symbol of what Armenia has become,” said Rafaella. “The pomegranate, which is the motherland, was ripped open during the Genocide of 1915. Her seeds have scattered all over the globe, sprouting new communities which are still thriving to this day. Each of the stories embodies the strength of the Armenian people, who are more than just victims of Genocide. They are fruitful, resilient, and indestructible.”

Her stories don’t stop there, though. She might have finished her thesis defense (phew) but, to her, that doesn’t mean her stories are done.

“How can I learn from this piece?” she asks herself. “How can I incorporate what I have learned during my four years doing a bachelor’s in creative writing? How can I use all that knowledge to make this the best story I can? I’m just kind of building the short story collection, actually. I’m revising here and there because, as a perfectionist, and I think any artist or writer will say that their work is not finished yet.”


As hard of a worker as she is, Rafaella is very humble about the work she does. She knows what it means to be a young artist and wears the badge proudly.

“I’m an Emerging writer, and I’m totally fine with that,” she said. “I think there’s a fear of being an emerging writer because a lot of the time, you’re still trying to find your voice and I think a lot of publishers think you’re trying to find your voice too. So, if you send them your best, then they’ll know, who this person is and I think that’s really important to establish yourself as a writer, in terms of your voice.”

Just like any other writer, established  or otherwise, Rafaella has received her fair share of rejection letters. But as the editor-in-chief of Hyebred Magazine, a magazine dedicated to artists of Armenian descent, she doesn’t like to hand them out.

“For me, it’s like harder for me to write a rejection than to receive one,” she said. “I wanted it to be a space where emerging and established writers will definately be published. I think it is important for a CV booster, to have a publication under your belt in order to write a cover letter.”




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Her magazine has just published its fourth issue and is continuing to grow and thrive since she started it back in her undergrad.

“I was really shocked about how positive the response was and people who had originally submitted in the first issue, submitted in the third one as well and it was just kind of really wonderful because it kind of means that they trust the journal,” she said. “They trust its mission and that just makes me really happy.”

She is now continuing her studies, but not with writing. No, no. Rafaella is currently in law school learning about justice, but she wants to apply what she learns to her writing.

“Hopefully I will try to balance it. Hopefully it’s not 90% of studying, 10% writing,” she said. “Stepping away from writing is gonna be a challenge because I know that when I am not allowed to write, for example because I have to study, it’s gonna make me want to write more. I also think that’s gonna be a good thing cause I want this break to learn more about justice, and apply that to my writing.”

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You can follow Hyebred Magazine and all of the amazing stuff Rafaella does on Twitter and Instagram.

You can also access Issue 4 and all the previous issues of Hyebred here!

Still want to know more about Rafaella and her amazing work, both in writing and in the community? Click here to listen to the full episode!

As always, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR READING AND FOR SUPPORTING US! MUCH LOVE!!!

When Your Art is Your Work

As artists, or even just creative people, we all dream of the day where we can make a living off of our passions. But what happens when your creative energy and passion are the only thing you do to make a living? Does your ability to produce your art take a hit? Well, we sat down with someone who knows a lot about just that.

 

Natalie Allen is a full-time freelance travel and editorial photographer and writer. She has been full-time for a while now but has continued to love what she does and produce incredible work time and time again.

 

Photo by: Natalie Allen

Photo by: Natalie Allen

(Click here to listen to the full episode! To learn even MORE about our guest, just keep reading!)

 

“Over time when you’re more experienced, your work starts to dramatically develop,” said Natalie. “You start to find your voice. And again, when you start sharing your personal-loved photos on the internet, people also take notice.”

 

Her personal love for photography and documentation stems all the way back to high school, and back then phone cameras weren’t what they are now. If you wanted good photos, you had to get a good camera.

 

“I just saved up for you know, a canon t3i, and it just forever changed my life,” said Natalie. “I really wanted a little extra something to just have those good memories, because I loved journaling - I loved photo albums and scrapbooks and all that other crap. I’m a sucker for that shit, so like I really just wanted to ultimately document my friends and my time in high quality.”

 

She posted her photos of her friends on social media, and people started to see how talented she was. When it came time for her senior year, she was on the council for her school’s theatre department as the historian, i.e. the photographer.

 

“People just started to take notice, and then I thought, well shoot, this is a pretty good business to run,” she said. “It just turned into something so much bigger, and I am just totally running with the wind with it now.”

 

Photo by: Natalie Allen

Photo by: Natalie Allen

She works in more than just photography now. In fact, Natalie is a licensed yoga instructor, a contributor for Fieldmag, an ambassador for United by Blue, a field scout for Hipcamp, and a freelance writer for many different blogs for companies. When she’s working on so many projects at once, one might ask how she balances her work and personal life.

 

“What really helps me is the film vs digital work,” she said. “So like film is my personal sort of hobby with photography that I’m kind of toying with and playing with and having some good old times with. And then the digital aspect of photography is still definitely there, and I can use that as sort of my career point. I don’t know. Finding that balance is definitely hard.”

 

A couple of years ago, Natalie was feeling bogged down and uninspired by her work. So she asked herself what she wanted to try. What was drawing her away? That’s when she found her love for film photography.

 

“It’s just something that speaks to me more,” she said. “It’s more raw, more honest. And there’s just something about getting film back.”

 

I think that losing your voice in your art is something that we all can relate to at one point or another (or maybe multiple points) but, like Natalie, it’s all about balance and finding what you love and chasing it.

 

“You know I would say last year was a really good year for me,” she said. “I had a lot of travel opportunities, whether they were entirely personal or for jobs, and I just feel like I really found my voice finally after years of doing this.”

 

Photo by: Natalie Allen

Photo by: Natalie Allen

When your art becomes your job, there are steps you can take to keep yourself sane. Just remember, people take notice when you love what you do. Or, remind yourself of what you are doing, just like Natalie does.

 

“Even on my travels when I shoot I try to just take as many photos as I possibly can while simultaneously living in the moment and just taking in all of the environments and sights and smells and sounds and the other senses that do come with photography that help create that image,” Natalie said.

 

You can follow Natalie and all of the amazing stuff she is doing on Twitter and Instagram. Or check out her website! (and if you need any photos done, you know, hit her up!)

 

Still want to hear more about Natalie and freelancing? Click here to listen to the full episode!

 

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