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AccessAbility Arts interview (Dr Antje Bothin)

Hey there! Welcome to another AccessAbility Arts interview! I'm so excited to talk about the amazing work of talented individuals in the art and accessibility world. Today, we have the pleasure of chatting with Dr. Antje Bothin, a German-born poet who now lives in Scotland. She's been published in big international showcases, has done charity work, and has performed at cool poetry events like Stanza - Scotland's International Poetry Festival in St. Andrews. Antje's writing focuses on nature and wellness, and she even released her first novel, 'Annika and the Treasure of Iceland', in 2023. The book features a young adult character dealing with Selective Mutism. In her poetry, she shares her insights on Selective Mutism, helping raise awareness and understanding about this communication challenge. When she's not writing, Antje loves volunteering in the countryside and sipping on a cup of tea.


For more info about her work, you can check out Antje's Linktree: linktr.ee/languagedoc.


Here is the interview


DK: What inspired you to write poetry about nature and wellbeing?


Antje: It is relaxing to be outside and walk or cycle in the countryside. You can mindfully listen to bird song or marvel at the colours and scents of flowers. I am fascinated by the biodiversity and the possibilities nature offers. Animals and plants provide great ideas to write about.


DK: How did you become involved in charitable projects like 'Penned Poetry for Parkinson's Research' and 'Blotters' Jotters'?


Antje: I think I met the author Miller Caldwell on Facebook and we connected. He was asking for poetry for this anthology so I sent something in and the poems got published in this book.

I am a regular member of Fin Hall’s ‘Like a Blot from the Blue’ open mic poetry reading group and this book was published for its third anniversary featuring the poets involved.


DK: We all know how important it is to look after our mental health, so tell us, do you have any strategies you use to maintain positive mental health in your daily life?


Antje: I think it is important to stay calm and take breaks. I love listening to music and breathing exercises.


DK: Can you provide more details about your first novel, 'Annika and the Treasure of Iceland,' and its main themes?


Antje: The book is about a treasure hunt in Iceland. Annika, a young adult with lived experience of Selective Mutism (SM) is the main character. She takes part in the race and meets others who join her in an adventure that leads them all around the island. They are looking for clues that are hidden near certain Islandic sights and Annika is faced with obstacles and needs to face her fear of speaking in certain situations in public. The story shows what challenges she faces and also how she can overcome them. And polar bears also play a part!


DK: How do you raise awareness about Selective Mutism through your writing, particularly with your novel and poem on the subject?


Antje: My books are on Amazon and I made them available to people in the SM community. I read my poems for See Me’s Time to Talk Day event that took place to reduce stigma and discrimination and on other public occasions. I also run a support group for adults with lived experience of SM, where we explore our experiences. Mindful creative writing activities are useful for giving participants a feeling of achievement and connection. And I deliver workshops for employers and educators on how to support someone with SM and related social communication fears and anxieties at the workplace, in education and in the community. SM generally needs more awareness and understanding and my talk helps to enable people with SM to show their full potential. A win-win for both the company or organisation and the SM individual. Get in touch if you are interested in learning more.


DK: In what ways have you been recognised or received accolades for your poetry, both in Scotland and internationally?


Antje: My poems have appeared in Dutch poet Hannie Rouweler’s anthology of international female poets, ’The Sea Belongs to 1000

Voices’. My contribution, ’Voices’, received a special mention in a review by Jernail Singh Anand from India.


DK: Poetry and art can be a great tool for society and looking back at history. What do you think is the power of poetry - or any art - and what role do you believe artists have in modern society?


Antje: It is possible to express yourself through art and writing. I think, in the past, artists used their work to depict what was going on during their times, perhaps even to criticise the conditions they were living under. Creating a work of art can help people to switch off and forget their worries for a while and it enables them to show their thoughts and feelings without the need to verbalise. Modern art can be innovative, abstract, and different. Everyone can create something in community groups and people are happier as a result. This is the power of poetry or art.


DK: Could you elaborate on your experience at Poetry Slam during Stanza - Scotland's International Poetry Festival?


Antje: It was a great experience. I have never been to the famous Byre Theatre before. It was interesting to see how the venue is prepared before the show starts and it was nice to meet the other contestants. Watching their fabulous performances from the front row was amazing. It is always special to be on stage and perform with the microphone close by and the audience’s applause is just such a lovely treat. I am grateful for having had the opportunity to be there.


DK: How do you balance your time between writing, attending open mic sessions, and doing voluntary work in the countryside?


Antje: I usually find time to do these things so I think it all comes down to honing your time management skills.


DK: What magazines have featured your poems and stories, and how has this exposure impacted your writing career?


Antje: My poems and stories were published in magazines such as PENning, The Globe Review, Mayari Literature, and Flash Fiction North. I also wrote poetry about local community groups that got published in e-zines. This work has made me better known as a poet.


DK: Can you describe the style or themes that are prominent in your poetry, based on your background and interests?


Antje: I prefer writing about positive mental health and wellbeing and nature. With my academic background, I may write in a more formal and factual style. I like narratives and sometimes rhymes. Repetition is a good tool to emphasise certain issues.


DK: What role does being a member of the Federation of Writers (Scotland) play in your writing journey and networking opportunities?


Antje: They send out a fantastic monthly newsletter containing a list of opportunities to send in your work to magazines and competitions. They also provide information about local spoken word events and open mics as well as a chance to network via social media. I had the honour to be part of their patchwork poem for National Poetry Day 2023.


DK: What has been the most rewarding part of your journey?


Antje: Making many happy memories and positive experiences.


DK: And lastly. We all need to relax, chill, and switch off sometimes. So how do you relax?


Antje: I listen to music with a good cup of tea.


If you have liked this interview and would like to see more interviews, please feel free to contact and share your thoughts. Also, if you know anyone who fits the category, and you think they'd be interested, let me know 🏳️‍🌈

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