It is truly inspiring to see a student who has a defined goal and is making incredible steps towards achieving it. For UNE Bachelor of Arts (English) student, Kylie Hough, this goal is writing novels for a living. After chatting about her passion and achievements, including recently being longlisted for a creative nonfiction contest with Canadian literary magazine ROOM, she clearly has the spark and will to achieve this.

Kylie has been studying with UNE since 2014, and after recently completing her exams she has finished Bachelor’s degree, but her professional and academic experiences stretch much further back.

“I came to English as a Jill of all trades,” said Kylie when describing her academic journey. “I dabbled in Law and Psychology before settling on Arts, but prior to study at UNE I completed a Bachelor of Nursing (1996) at CQU in Rockhampton, an i-to-i TEFL Distance Learning Certificate (2002) online from Bübendorf in Switzerland, an Advanced Diploma of Health Science (Naturopathy) (2005) at ACNM in Brisbane, and a Certificate IV TESOL (2008) from TAFE Queensland on the Gold Coast. I have nursed, nannied and taught English as a second and foreign language both in Australia and overseas.”

With a truly robust academic resume and a passionate outlook on learning, Kylie has come to the conclusion that she will chase her passion for writing – and she has already found success in this area.

The first fictional story Kylie submitted to a journal or magazine was a finalist in the Gertrude Stein Award in Fiction 2018 (North America) and went on to be published in the literary journal, The Write Launch. Since then she has regularly submitted to journals and magazines worldwide. “Fiction, essays, poetry and creative nonfiction I’ve written have been longlisted, shortlisted and or published in Australia and overseas by Feminartsy, Verity LA, Pen 2 Paper, Other Terrain, Westerly, Posit, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, ROOM Magazine, Burrow, Antithesis, and The Canberra Times.”

“I have been a Vice Chancellor’s (VC) Scholar since I began my studies at UNE and recently received a certificate for the previous academic year (2020). In 2015, in my second year of Arts I received the Lucy Elizabeth Craigie Award, the Richard B Smith Memorial Prize and the Australian Federation of Graduate Women Inc. (AFGW) NSW (Armidale) UNE Arts Award.”

One of Kylie’s many achievements also brought her a rather unique experience – the chance to learn writing skills from a mentor. As part of the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) Mentorship Award that she won in March 2021, Kylie was able to work with writer, editor and mentor Dr Jane Messer.

Moreover, the novel that won Kylie this mentorship originally began as a creative nonfiction piece that she wrote and submitted as an assessment for the Literature and the Environment unit at UNE. Dr Jennifer Hamilton, lecturer in this unit, suggested Kylie develop the piece and submit it for publication. Since then the piece itself has been both short and longlisted in Australia and overseas. It just goes to show the impact that a little encouragement and inspiration can have what began as a 1,500 word assessment turned into a 60,000 word novel thanks to Dr Hamilton’s encouragement of Kylie’s writing.

When looking back on her most recent longlisting, Kylie noted that she is always humbled and surprised to learn her creative work has been selected for consideration – meaning each short or longlisting often means a lot to her. But Kylie also describes that she would not have had the confidence to begin submitting her creative work without her current studies:

“My English degree has been excellent for me because it has equipped me with tools to improve and hone my critical and creative skills which have fed into and improved my writing. It’s my English degree that’s grown my confidence to start submitting my creative work to various journals and magazines.”

A true and dedicated creative at heart, not only has Kylie been a dedicated student for many years but she has also been working on three novels during this time. Currently halfway through her third novel, she plans to finish the second half of the book after her exams and finalise the editing on her first two novels.

“When the time comes I’ll pitch the novel I’m working on to publishers and agents and hopefully be offered a three-book publishing contract with Harper Collins or Penguin Random House. Yeeha! (That’ll be a great day!)”

Her passion and focus have not only given Kylie the insight of what she wishes to accomplish in her professional life, but it has provided her with wisdom for her fellow students and creatives. When asked about what advice she would give to other university students she said:

“My favourite lecturers, Dr Natalia Tobin and Dr Jennifer Hamilton, have both told me to follow my curiosity. I do, I did and it got me everywhere. Also, having just completed twenty hours of mentoring with Dr Jane Messer, at the ASA, I’d really encourage everyone who’s mad about writing or even just curious to see how they’ll perform, to enter their work into competitions and submit their work to journals and magazines. At worst, you’ll learn something about the process and get in some more writing practice. At best, you’ll surprise yourself and win.”