In 2019, the Centre for Stories selected a number of emerging writers to be involved in a 12-month mentoring program. The Inclusion Matters Mentoring Program, funded by the Copyright Agency and the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries, allows writers to improve their craft, to work in a supportive community, and to be paired with a well-established mentor. Both programs are designed for people living in Western Australia who identify as culturally and linguistically diverse.
Kosta Lucas is a writer, researcher and educator in countering violent extremism. During his mentorship, Kosta has been working with David Whish-Wilson to improve his vocational orientation towards storytelling and learning ways to get words on the page without over thinking things. Get to know more about Kosta below.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Kosta Lucas, and I am a 33-year-old Australian man of Greek origin. I am the youngest of three children from a father and mother who arrived in Australia in the late 40s (after WWII) and then again in the 70s (at the tail end of the Greek military junta in Greece), respectively.
I currently work as an independent researcher and educator in the area of preventing and countering violent extremism. I’ve been in this space in some capacity for almost 10 years, though I’ve only been independent for close to three years. A lot of my work involves creating the space for people to tell their stories. Whether it’s people who have survived terrorism or other types of violent extremism, have been in and left extremist groups, or young people who have some pretty burning questions about what is going on in the world, and what it means for them. The other part of this work has been working with social media companies and policymakers on how best to deal with extremism, be it through counter narrative strategies with socially minded creatives or policy responses to controversial, and potentially harmful, content.
I have also just graduated from a Masters in Peace and Conflict Studies and I have tutored in “Terrorism & Intelligence” at several universities, mainly the University of Notre Dame.
What have you been working on during the Mentoring Program?
I am known as someone with a lot of “irons in the fire,” and part of the Mentoring Program has been about figuring out which project to start with. I came in wanting to write a book about extremism in Australia, but I am now also considering a podcast of a more personal nature as a lead up to a book manuscript.
What has it been like working with your mentor, David Whish-Wilson?
Working with my mentor has been nothing short of amazing. Granted, the timing on my end was less than ideal, as I was in the process of completing my dissertation for my Masters. Even so, David and I stayed in regular contact about ideas, writing drills and the discipline of writing generally, and he helped me keep my ideas churning. If anything, David has given me the confidence to create something—period. As a first-time author the very notion of creating written works for other people to see is a really daunting prospect when it’s no longer abstract.
Has your writing style, practice, or vocation changed since the beginning of your Mentorship?
The main thing that has changed for me is my overall vocational orientation towards storytelling. I encounter so many amazing people in the course of my work whose stories are not receiving the attention or treatment they deserve. Given that I straddle academic and grassroots worlds, my writing tends to be too detailed for popular media, but too casual for academic journals. Working with David has helped me see this inability to fit in as a strength to stand out and produce works that I am proud of and can stand by.
On a purely nitty-gritty level, David is also helping me overcome one of my biggest writing hang ups: writing words and letting them sit there, before editing it again. He’s given me some really sage advice on the attitude I should have when approaching writing tasks.
When you’re not writing, what are you doing?
When I’m not writing I’m usually socialising with family and friends. I should say that “hanging out with family” mainly consists of me looking after my sister’s dog, Moses, an almost two-year-old Swiss Shepherd, who has won my heart.
In my solo downtime, the only things that turn my brain off are watching professional wrestling (don’t judge me) and playing video games. I’m also a big music nerd, and hunt for new sounds like it’s a sport.
What have you been doing to get involved with the writing community?
The main way I have been getting involved in the writing community is actually reaching out to, and talking with, other writers. As it turns out you are likely to be one degree of separation from someone who is a serious writer. I love hearing other writers talk about the issues and art forms that motivate them to devote their whole life to this pretty risky endeavour. It’s admirable and inspiring.
What are your goals for 2020?
My goal for 2020 is to actually give life to one of the many projects I have wanted to start for so long. It’s a “no excuses” year for me. I want to create media projects that are about creating time and space for deep, ongoing conversations. I have no interest in hot takes and click bait about social topics that require way more attention than the current media cycle affords.