kattrina m: Filipinx American Writer To Look Out For
kattrina m and I met at Southern Oregon University when I had just graduated and she was in her second year after transferring to the university. We both instantly clicked on music and pop culture, but we mainly talked about our dreams of being a writer.
Fast forward to now: kattrina m, in her pink sweater and sitting comfortably in a light green room, smiles as she gets excited talking about her poems.
Living in a small town like Redding, California, Kattrina Miranda, or kattrina m as she prefers to be called in all lowercase, isn’t afraid to speak her truth. kattrina m is a queer Filipinx writer and poet who incorporates her slice of life while addressing social issues that are important to her. Her work has appeared in various online literary magazines including The Rational Creatures’ recent issue, Coming Of Age Vol. 7. Last year, she published her first chapbook titled ...me, a collection of poems that touch on her identity and feelings after her mother’s passing. When she is not writing, kattrina uses her platform to advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights, especially for queer Black & brown trans youth. She previously worked as a student staff member at Southern Oregon University’s Queer Resource Center, where she organized its first zine that aimed to showcase queer creators of color. As her friend, I can’t help but feel proud of kattrina’s journey into writing.
Chopsticks Alley Pinoy caught up with kattrina m via Zoom to hear her journey into writing through fanfiction, her thoughts on Filipinx representation in literature, social justice advocacy and how she really feels about her former role model, JK Rowling.
kattrina’s draw to being a writer has gone back and forth from childhood until now. Her first introduction to writing did not spring an immediate desire for the career path. She reflected, “I would write basically one sentence stories when I was in kindergarten, maybe even first grade. And my mom kept them in her little stash somewhere.”
She frequently took hiatuses from writing until fanfiction caused her to write routinely. She started twenty different stories, including a fanfiction interpretation of The Hunger Games. She had a story surrounding the book series with two OCs (original characters) that ran for 30+ chapters and featured LGBTQIA+ content. kattrina looks back on her Hunger Games fanfiction as “most of the stuff I wanted to add to the original story.”
For kattrina, fanfiction helped her focus on how to create a story. Although she understands the frustration it can cause for the original writers, kattrina insists that writing fanfiction allowed her to get a better grasp on conceptualizing plot and symbolism and planning out how to structure her stories. It takes time and practice to work on one’s craft, and writing fanfiction allows writers to practice crafting their stories before transitioning to original stories. kattrina only writing stories for fun until she read positive feedback from both her original and fanfiction stories. She shared, “Reading reviews, seeing how my words make people happy, how they entertain people that...that really got me going and thinking more seriously about writing.”
Thus, she began taking her writing seriously by creating her own novel, which she has now been working on for more than five years. However, she’s taking a break from her novel due to her mental health and balancing a day job. kattrina candidly shared, “The inspiration for my novel came at a time when I was in a really, really dark place. So it was hard to get the planning out, like the characters, because all of them have little bits of me and my experience with mental health.”
Luckily, in the meantime, kattrina was able to continue creating art by writing poetry. Writing poems has helped kattrina mentally, as it is easier for her to churn out content or pieces based on random thoughts instead of “one, gigantic arc.”
When writing her poems, for kattrina “there isn’t really a set process.” She explained, “I can have a poem just ruminating in my head for a few days then I can finally get it on paper. I write in my journal, edit it on Google Doc, and that’s about it. If I like it enough, I’ll probably post it on my Instagram. Then if not, I might save it for another chapbook or something. It really depends on what I want to do or what projects I have on my plate.”
Becoming a writer wasn’t easy, especially being a Filipinx writer. Although she is proud of her heritage, kattrina m grew up Americanized since her father worked in the Bay area. She felt distant from her culture and hadn’t written much about her identity until recently.
Although being Filipinx has helped her stand out in the community, kattrina had a difficult time finding representation or connecting with the Filipinx literary community. Aside from writers such as Carlos Bulosan, Barbara Reye Janes, and Dante Basco, she admitted that she didn’t know any professional Filipinx writers in poetry or fiction, especially professional writers in her age group. Luckily, she connected with former Chopsticks Alley Pinoy co-editor Keana A. Labra and bonded over being Filipinx writers.
kattrina stressed how important representation is in literature to build community and solidarity. “There really is a lack of spotlight on POC voices overall, but with the Filipinx community there’s hardly anything really.” She hopes to bring representation in literature by bringing her “own experiences and trying to navigate that identity.”
Through the most difficult part of her life thus far, kattrina has used her experience to grow through her chapbook, ...me. ...me is a collection of previously written poems based on her experience as a queer woman of color in college. Prior to finishing her chapbook, her mother unexpectedly passed away a month before kattrina’s graduation. The news devastated kattrina as her mother supported her decision to become a writer when the rest of her family were skeptical. She paused before opening up about her mother, “She’s always been sort of part of my writing because she has been one of the strongest role models in my life.”
After her mother’s passing, kattrina knew that she should not only add poems about her late mother but also recognize her in acknowledgements and dedications. The chapbook opens with two poems about her mother. One of the poems recounts how her mother picked out a name for her before beautifully transitioning to kattrina’s experience of being herself. She reflected, “Even though she wasn’t really exposed to my writing until later in my life--I wanna say pretty much the last year of her life because I was always shy about my writing up until I started posting it on Instagram--she still supported me even though she had no idea what was going on in my writing half of the time.”
Since the release of her chapbook, kattrina has continued writing poetry and submitting to various literary magazines. Since then, her work has appeared in online magazines such as Ghost Heart Literary Journal, polemical zine, Pinstriped Zine, and The Rational Creature. kattrina opened up on the process of sending her work and receiving acceptance and rejection letters, “There’s always this huge rush of anxiety when you hit submit. Most of these magazines you find on Instagram or any kind of forms of social media. And you have to read their submission guidelines, you have to make sure you’re using the right files, and you send them to the right email. And then it’s just the waiting. The waiting is probably the most strenuous.”
She then gave the uplifting and helpful advice, “And when you get that acceptance email then it’s great! It means ‘Hey! Your work is gonna get out there!’ And that anxiety just goes away. But even when you get that rejection email, you’re just like ‘well, okay I tried. Maybe next time.’ That anxiety still goes away.”
This also marked another important part in her work: blending her passion for literature with social activism. From her experience, people from marginalized communities will use any media outlet to escape from current issues whether it be a TV show, a movie, or a book. Not only does she use social media to advocate for communities like trans youth, kattrina also brings her personal experiences as a queer Filipina in a rural area. She explained why, based on her experience, it is important to use her platform. “I want to be that person who helps and provides that comfort but also gives that sense of validation. It’s like, ‘hey these issues are real but you know what? You are not alone in facing these.”
She continued, “I think the reason why I’m so outspoken about them is because if something like that were to happen to me, that’s the amount of support I want. If I can give that to someone else, then that makes me feel a hundred times better.”
She does her best to incorporate activism into her work but also does her best not to sound “too preaching” causing readers to distance themselves from her work. When writing her poems, she finds the balance between “keeping people entertained but also informing them this is what it’s like being a queer Filipino person in a rural part of California. This is what it’s like for a POC of some sort of queer identity in this conservative area.”
When we spoke about who her role model was, kattrina winced and admitted that nowadays she despises JK Rowling even though she inspired her to tell her stories. She jokingly referred to Rowling as “she-who-must-not-be-named”--a similar nickname used for one of Rowling’s characters, Voldermort. Rowling is an author best known for the highly successful book series Harry Potter. Earlier this year, Rowling caused controversy when she posted a thread of tweets against the trans community on Twitter. This, unfortunately, wasn’t the first time Rowling expressed her anti-trans message on a platform like Twitter. When she heard the news, kattrina acknowledged, “If this happened while I was a teenager where I didn’t realize that I was queer because I came out when I was twenty (I was kind of a late bloomer) I’d probably would’ve not known what to think of it because I wasn’t all that knowledgable about queer issues.”
Critically thinking about Rowling’s novels, she admitted that there were a lot of problems in the series including subtle racism towards characters like Cho Chang--kattrina couldn’t hide her disappointment.“Nowadays, it’s super frustrating especially knowing trans people in real life and having someone who is basically a role model to others say that. Being openly transphobic and spreading those ideas to the younger generations is very infuriating.”
In order to hold authors like Rowling accountable while still moving forward with this issue in the community, kattrina advises, “You can still enjoy something as deeply problematic as Harry Potter while still thinking critically about it. If you’re just blindly reading it, putting it on a pedestal and saying it’s the most perfect series on earth, that’s where it is going to create issues.”
As our interview drew to a close, I asked kattrina if she had any advice to anyone who is interested in writing. She smiled, “Please do it! And you know what? Don’t be afraid to absolutely suck at it at first. We’ve all started at that point. It takes practice and really just reading other people’s work. See where you’re drawing any inspiration from. If you find yourself drawn to a certain genre, go for that. If you say you like this one author’s writing style, maybe try a little bit of that then mix it up with your own. Who knows? You might find your style along the way. It’s really all about experimentation and practice.”
She also touched on an advice in the light of Rowling’s controversy, “And please look into your own biases. A lot of them can be unconscious biases. Some of them might actually be biases and you shouldn’t be putting that into your work to begin with.”
kattrina will continue submitting to literary magazines and regularly posting her writings on Instagram while balancing her new day job. She is, however, thinking about going back and finishing her now eight year old novel. Her eyes lit up as she said, “Hopefully, with this new job, I’ll be able to finally work on it more.”
As she continues to share her poems and writings, this is only the beginning for kattrina m.