The Havok author community hosts some of the most vibrant, passionate people that I know. Back in 2018 when Andrew, Lisa and I decided to invest ourselves in re-imagining Havok as an ongoing contest, online zine, and flash fiction anthology publisher, it was quite a leap. We had no idea if it would fly or flop. And I’m pretty sure none of us had a clue what amazing people we’d draw out of the woodwork to write great stories and make Havok a beacon of fantastic flash fiction.
Today I’ve invited Julia Skinner to share a bit about her heart for writing, for the community, and what makes her tick as a person and a writer. Julia’s first Havok story was published back in May 2020, she’s published 17 altogether (so far!), and her stories have won their way into the Prismatic and Casting Call anthologies.
She shares some valuable takeaways here. I don’t want you to miss them if you’re pressed for time, so here’s a sneak peek of what you’ll find ahead:
- Live your best author life, even if it means embracing your hobbit tendencies.
- Dive in with your whole heart. Life is too short to wait until you “grow up” to follow your dreams.
- Find things you believe in, and hold on tight. But not so tight that you don’t share with others what empowers you.
- If you want to have an impact online and build a strong platform, put the social back into social media and invest in your audience in authentic ways.
- Havok memberships make great gifts for reader giveaways, for family, for friends… basically for any occasion. (And no, we didn’t pay her to say that!)
- Be brave and share your writing–even submitting it to Havok. Sharing leads to improvement which leads to publication. Enjoy the journey and don’t give up!
- Online writing communities will help you reach your writing goals, so get involved!
Q: Who is Julia Skinner? Tell us about yourself!
Hey hey! My name is Julia Skinner, and I’m a nineteen-year-old modern day hobbit. Which means, of course, that I have a tendency to hole myself up in my room, and ignore the existence of humanity for extended periods of time; I believe a good ole scoop of ice cream can make everything better; And I will, occasionally, randomly run off into the world to go on an ADVENTURE (sometimes that means riding roller coasters or sky-diving, sometimes that means daring to actually speak to the waiter at Chick-Fil-A).
(Both are equally terrifying).
I spend my days juggling college, hanging out with my mini Australian Shepherds, reading to my four little siblings, playing competitive video games, and working on a kazillion other projects. I’m the Community Leader for an online conference for chronically ill Christians called “Diamonds”. As well as the Instagram Manager for The Wilting Rose Project–a small ministry focused on encouraging women to find their worth in Jesus.
I’m a writer who loves fantasy stories with deep themes, sprinkled with tragedy, and filled with hope. In addition to my publications here on Havok’s site, my short stories can be found in Prismatic, Fool’s Honor, Aphotic Love, Casting Call, The Willow Tree Swing, Sharper Than Thorns, The Heights We’ll Fly To, and more! I’m slowly working on building the “universe” in which a ton of my planned novels will take place, but while that is on the back-burner, I’m currently working on writing a novella featuring a Medusa-retelling which dives into the themes of grief, and how the choices we make affect the type of people we become (to follow along on my writing journey, check out my Instagram @litaflameblog).
A few years ago, my love of storytelling, and passion for bringing the community together, inspired me to create a month-long flash fiction contest called “The Writer Games”, which takes place every January. Our goal is to put the fun back into writing, and to encourage writers of all levels to grow their writing skills through the use of flash fiction (because y’all, let’s just be honest here, flash fiction is AWESOME!). It has been so amazing to see the contest grow as it has! In 2022 we’ve begun to offer writing advice (focused on flash fiction, specifically), and host cool miniature events that occur all throughout the year.
Most importantly, though? I’m a sinner saved by Jesus Christ. He’s the reason I’m alive today. God created me, and breathed life into my lungs; Years ago, Jesus came to earth to suffer and die on the cross for me–to pay for my sins, so I didn’t have to, so I could have life.
Every day of my existence I have seen Him fight for me, hold me up above the waves, be a light in my darkness.
My journey belongs to Him, and if any good comes of it, it is only because of Him.
Q: You’re very active on social media. What are your most successful tactics and best tips for authors?
I love the online community. The fact that so many different people, from all across the world, can connect and support each other is just so epic! One of my goals when I’m setting up any kind of event (or really, when I’m posting anything) is to get people involved. To bring them into the inner circle, so to speak.
Over the years I’ve noticed that so many events and giveaways are just… shallow. Surface level. If you want people to connect with you, if you want them to care about what you’re doing, you have to make them feel like they are a part of it. Sometimes this is as simple as a poll on Instagram Stories, sometimes it’s creating an entire month-long contest instead of just hosting a giveaway (*cough* The Writer Games *cough*).
When planning online content I always ask myself: how can I take this a step further?
One of my favorite ways to get people involved and bring the community together is through contests (because y’all, contests are just so crazy EXCITING). But when that isn’t possible, giveaways are a great substitute!
I use Rafflecopter to run my giveaways because 1. It’s so easy to set up and use, and 2. I’m able to customize how people get points.
I typically find normal giveaways, where you just follow someone or hand off your email to get points, boring. So I make sure to put thought into what I have people do to get points, and I usually follow a specific theme. For example: one of the giveaways I hosted for the Diamonds community was self-care themed. Participants could earn points each day by doing certain self-care related tasks, such as: “share a meme in the community chat”, “call a friend”, “sit outside for ten minutes”, etc.
You also want to keep in mind who your audience is. The communities I’m a part of are filled with readers, so I actually gift a lot of Havok Memberships to people. I mean, what could be better than access to a library of amazing stories, which you can pull up any time from your phone! Havok Memberships also make awesome “just because”, and “I’m thinking of you” gifts.
One of the best things ever is to receive a message from someone screaming about how happy-excited they are to have found that Havok gift membership email in their inbox.
So basically: Don’t settle on giving 100% when you can give 110%.
Q: How did you connect with the Havok community?
Once upon a time, I was terrified to let anyone even know that I wrote stories, let alone read them. What if they thought it was silly? What if they asked me questions and then I sounded dumb? What if they read something I wrote and they hated it!?
I also had no clue what flash fiction was.
I didn’t even know it existed.
But then I started a blog, which led to me to create an Instagram account, which eventually led me to discovering a writer named Cassandra Hamm. Cassandra’s #PromptedContests introduced me to flash fiction, and not long after that, I saw her talking about Havok. So one day in 2020 I decided to just GO FOR IT and submit, and… well, here I am.
Havok, and the community they have created is so amazing! Everyone is constantly cheering each other on. Being a part of Havok is like being in a small, close-knit family who loves stories. Plus, it’s an environment where you have the opportunity to actually grow as a writer (I know I have!).
Q: What’s your best advice for writers?
I know what it’s like–we’re writers, after all: We put a piece of our heart in each of our stories, and it’s so terrifying to think that someone might not like them. It’s so much simpler to hold them in clenched fists, and hide them from the world. And yet, on the opposite side of the coin, we want people to read them. We see so many other amazing authors writing life-changing stories, and publishing them left and right. That, we think, is what success looks like. And often we feel like we have to look like them in order to “make it” as a writer.
Over almost two years of writing, and submitting, and being rejected, I’ve realized two things:
1. Don’t be ashamed of your “bad writing”, because being bad is essential to becoming good.
I almost let my fear of people reading my bad writing stop me from submitting to Havok. Because, let’s be honest… Some of those first stories I submitted weren’t “the best”. But y’know what? If I hadn’t taken that step, if I hadn’t allowed my writing to be bad, I wouldn’t have been able to get the experience I needed to improve.
2. Don’t rush it. Enjoy the journey.
Nowadays everyone seems to be racing to write a full-out novel, just to check it off the list, and chunk it into the published pool. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype of publishing fast, or, really, just pushing yourself to write a ton so you can feel like you’re keeping up with everyone else. But writing is a journey, not a race. It’s a gradual process, grow as you go, one step in front of the other, kind of journey. So enjoy it. Life-changing writing, and realistic characters don’t come to be with a snap of the fingers. It takes time. And that is 100% okay.
Where can people connect with Julia Skinner?
If you’d like to receive a monthly newsletter from moi filled with cool life stories, and all the publishing/writing/project announcements, follow my email list (I’m going to be opening freelance editing services pretty soon, and that’s where you’ll hear about it!). And if you’re on Instagram, you can give me a follow @litaflameblog to get daily writing updates, and encouragement for creatives.
And last, but not least, if you love flash fiction as much as I do, consider joining The Writer Games team! We recently opened team applications, and are looking for Instagram Assistants, Discord Managers, Email Writers, and more.
Never give up on your writing, because there’s someone out there who needs to read your story.
A hearty thanks for sharing so much with the Havok community and agreeing to this blog feature. We’re huge fans, and we wish you great success as you continue your journey, Julia!