Friday Feature: Interview with Kayla Jeswald

Each week, the editors of Jenny Magazine sit down with either fellow literary magazine editors or past Jenny contributors for short interviews. This week’s interview is with Kayla Jeswald, a past contributor of Jenny Magazine.

Describe your first publication. Where was it, when, and what was the piece about? How old were you at the time and how did it feel?

I first published work in The Jenny in the fall of 2015. I had a poem about what the mind allows you to say versus what you write, and I had a nonfiction story about dealing with depression. I was 26 at the time. It made me feel really good to read in front of people; I’ve never really done that before.

What inspired your pieces in the Jenny?

They were things I had already written, but I was looking for an open submission and I like the Jenny so I submitted.

What got you into writing?

I started writing in the 8th grade. I started writing poetry and that’s where I found my passion. I’ve been writing nonfiction and fiction the last few years. I just love getting my words down. I feel like I can express myself better that way.

What do you like writing the most?

I like being able to reach people with my experiences and words. I really like nonfiction and fiction. Nonfiction is probably my favorite, because it is natural to talk about yourself and tell your stories.

What are your influences? Who are your favorite writers?

I really love Sylvia Plath, Alice Sebold, Mitch Albom, Chris Barzak, some of Stephen King’s work, and Harper Lee.

What’s your proudest moment as an author?

Probably getting my thesis done these last few months. It is something I am incredibly proud of and I feel like I really found my voice.

How has your writing developed over time?

I was always someone who just wanted to get stuff down instead of expanding it and making it a good story. These last few years I have expanded my stories and shaped them and they are so much better now.

Are you currently working on anything?

Basically editing my thesis, but I am working on a few nonfiction stories about current things in my life to turn into class and to try and get published.

What’s your writing process?

I don’t have much of one. I usually get an idea and jot down little notes about what I’d like to include in it. I usually don’t write anything until I let myself sit down and work on it.

What are you currently reading?

I am reading a book called Brain on Fire about mental illness. I am also reading Stephen King’s Bazaar of Bad Dreams.

 Have you ever co-written something with another author? If so, what was that experience like?

No I have not, but I think it would be fun.

Have you ever worked with a medium other than writing? Or collaborated with someone in another medium with your writing?

No I have not, but one of my friends is an artist and I think once she graduates I’d like to work on greeting cards with her.

Kayla’s work — “The Day I Disappeared” and “Struggle Between Words” — can be found in Issue 9 of Jenny Magazine.


Are you a past Jenny contributor or an editor at a literary magazine and interested in an interview? Send us an email.

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Friday Feature: Interview with Heather

Each week, the editors of Jenny Magazine sit down with either fellow literary magazine editors or past Jenny contributors for short interviews. This week’s interview is with Kelsey Mars, editor of Heather.

What style of work do you prefer, if any?

I prefer things that are a little strange or weird. I like the “shop of curiosities” vibe. A good example of this is Sociopaths In Love by Andersen Prunty or The Grownup by Gillian Flynn. I like a style that is so intimately unique, that is effortless in its expression. I don’t want to see the seams but rather, style should be like the magician’s sleight of hand.

What other literary magazines do you admire?

I’m deeply indebted to Paper Darts for the endless inspiration they’ve given me for years. That publication is like a lighthouse to me. I would not be putting out Heather if it weren’t for Paper Darts.

What can a writer do to increase chances of being accepted?

I don’t think writers who submit have to do anything when submitting to Heather, except to provide pieces that are genuine and distinct.

What do you feel makes your journal distinctive?

I want Heather to be known for publishing things that might fall to the wayside with other publications for not being exactly right. I want to read all the other pieces that were turned down because the editor didn’t “get it.” I want you to read Heather and be thinking about a phrase all day, unable to get it out of your mind. Basically, I want it to be a ghost of everything that you tried to avoid because the unknown is spooky.

What types of submissions are on your wish list?

Anything experimental that plays with form or isn’t necessarily a “traditional” narrative. That is, I want to publish more pieces like “Multiple Choice” by Maggie Cooper, which was published in our first issue. Paragraphs are very nice, but I want to see what we can do if we forget about paragraphs. I want to see all the fun things you wrote in the middle of the night when you couldn’t sleep.

What made you want to be an editor?

I deeply want to give voice to people who feel like they have none. I want a space for the things we’re too embarrassed to share or submit for publication. I want writers to embrace their authentic voice, instead of trying to replicate what they think a writer should sound like.

What kind of things do you write?

I write magical realism, science fiction, anything that doesn’t quite take place in the reality that is known to us. Rather, what I write takes place just slightly to the left of reality.

Where did you get the name of your magazine?

Heather is a traditionally feminine name. I wanted something that sounded like the girl you grew up with, who became something much more than anyone expected. Also, the movie Heathers is extremely important cinema.

What inspired your aesthetic?

Arvida Bystrom, first and foremost. CR Fashion Book, Paper Magazine, Lady Gaga, the Lemonade album and Warsan Shire, Rookie Magazine, The Ardorous. That photo series “There Will Be Blood.” YM Magazine. Bystrom did a great photo series with young women’s hands, long acrylic nails and holding iPhones which had three missed calls from “world” or a text from “internet” reading “Love that we’ve been hanging out so much lately.” I just looked it up and it’s called “Depression Calls.” Arvida Bystrom is amazing.

What do you hope to accomplish with your magazine?

I want to grow a community around the content we publish. Hopefully we gain a large enough readership to run contests that benefit the ACLU, Planned Parenthood and the Ali Forney Center. I also hope to publish an physical anthology soon for our first two issues.


Are you a past Jenny contributor or an editor at a literary magazine and interested in an interview? Send us an email.

Friday Feature: Interview with Susan Pepper Robbins

Each week, the editors of Jenny Magazine sit down with either fellow literary magazine editors or past Jenny contributors for short interviews. This week’s interview is with Susan Pepper Robbins, a past contributor of Jenny Magazine.

Describe your first publication. Where was it, when, and what was the piece about? How old were you at the time and how did it feel?

My first publication was in a small, very small, xeroxed publication.

What inspired your piece in the Jenny?

What inspired my “Just Like Debbie Reynolds” story was being the observer, the listener to the breakup stories of close friends.

What got you into writing?

What got me into writing was reading and wanting to tell stories.

What do you like writing the most? Is there a certain style you prefer?

I love domestic realism — “She washed the dishes and planned her escape.”

What are your influences? Who are your favorite writers?

I am influenced by the writing of Jane Austen to Tessa Hadley, Rachel Cusk, Elena Ferrante and other “auto-fiction” writers.

What’s your proudest moment as an author?

I am proud that my novel won the Virginia Prize for Fiction and then was published by Random House as One Way Home.

How has your writing developed over time?

I try to learn more and more from other writers, more than ever, more than when I began writing.

Are you currently working on anything?

Now I am writing a novel in flash fictions.

What’s your writing process?

My process is to try to write a sentence every day, because I am a full time teacher and do not have much time.

What are you currently reading?

I am reading Patrick Modiano, Elena Ferrante, Graham Swift, Margaret Drabble, William Trevor.

Have you ever co-written something with another author? If so, what was that experience like?

Yes, I wrote with two friends a murder mystery for YA. It has never been published…yet.


Are you a past Jenny contributor or an editor at a literary magazine and interested in an interview? Send us an email.

Friday Feature: Interview with Minola Review

Each week, the editors of Jenny Magazine sit down with either fellow literary magazine editors or past Jenny contributors for short interviews. This week’s interview is with Robin Richardson, editor of Minola Review.

What style of work do you prefer, if any?

We exclusively accept work from women, femme-identifying, and non-binary writers. We seek strong writing by otherwise marginalized writers, writing that tackles difficult issues with both eloquence, and guts. If you are writing from a desire for truth rather than from a place of ego, Minola Review may be the ideal home for your work.

What other literary magazines do you admire?

Public Pool, No Tokens, Cosmonauts Avenue, Room Magazine, Luna Luna Magazine, and CAROUSEL — a hybrid art and lit mag in which a supplement from Minola Review will be appearing in Spring 2017.

What can a writer do to increase chances of being accepted?

Follow the submission guidelines closely. Please do not follow up asking about the status of your submission. I respond to each and every one within the allotted three month time frame we specify on the submission page. Send strong, thoughtful work in its final draft, and please read the journal!

What do you feel makes your journal distinctive?

There are many feminist journals out there, and many offer high quality writing. Minola Review has a very specific editorial vision, which results in heavy-hitting, topical, and engagement works. We also release monthly, bite-sized issues of six pieces, making it easy to go through an issue in its entirety. The site is simple, slick, and visually clean. Everything we do in in service of the relationship between the reader and our writers.

What types of submissions are on your wish list?

Poetry and fiction. Occasionally we accept a piece of non-fiction.

What made you want to be an editor?

I felt a need in the literary landscape, a safe and strong space for women in which we could share our stories with a feeling of support. It seemed the natural next step to create that space. It’s an absolute gift to be able to read and publish so many great pieces of writing.

What kind of things do you write?

I’ve published a few collections of poetry, and have a memoir currently out on submission in North America. Next up will be a novel. Also write the odd essay or piece of criticism.

Where did you get the name of your magazine?

Katherine Minola of Taming of the Shrew.

What inspired your aesthetic?

A desire for beauty and simplicity, a journal that appeals to the eye as much as to the literary sensibility, and that is not bogged down by bells and whistles.

What do you hope to accomplish with your magazine?

To dismantle patriarchy.


Are you a past Jenny contributor or an editor at a literary magazine and interested in an interview? Send us an email.

Friday Feature: Interview with Ani King

Each week, the editors of Jenny Magazine sit down with either fellow literary magazine editors or past Jenny contributors for short interviews. This week’s interview is with Ani King, a past contributor of Jenny Magazine.

Describe your first publication. Where was it, when, and what was the piece about? How old were you at the time and how did it feel?

My first publication was a poem that I can’t remember anymore, that I submitted to one of those mail-in poetry scam books. The ones where you would submit and then they’d hit you up for thirty-five dollars, or something along those lines. I believe I was twelve or thirteen.

My first publication after that was a fifty-word story for 50-Word Stories called “Furies.” It was about young furies casting a spell on a neighborhood bully to get revenge. This was just a couple of years ago, and it felt great to get that acceptance. Especially since I hadn’t really written in over a decade.

What inspired your piece in the Jenny?

I was raised in an Evangelical Christian environment, so I have this store of Old Testament stories that still rattle around at times, even though I’ve long since stopped participating in religion on the whole. The stories about Sarah and other women, which are often particularly brief and told from a male perspective, have fascinated me since childhood. I wanted to know the mundane details — what did they eat, how did they feel about all these tremendous events that were largely out of their control?

And Sarah in particular, as I get older, has weighed on my mind. She was old, even if you consider the likelihood that she was not close to a hundred years in age, and suddenly she’s having a child. After so much drama and prayer, and I loved that her reaction was to laugh. So it felt natural to explore the way that scenario might play out over different times and cultures. However, the exact inspiration was cutting open a pomegranate to show my daughter what it looked like inside, and watch the juice run across the cutting board, having it stain my fingers. I started writing the piece before I washed my hands.

What got you into writing?

My family has always placed high value on reading, which I think lead to writing. Honestly, I don’t know that there was an inciting event. For as far back as I can remember I’ve written in some capacity, whether it be terrible New Kids on the Block fan fiction in the early nineties, or letters, poems, journals, short stories. I didn’t consider making it more than a private hobby though until 2014, in which I furiously wrote this terrible novel in about six weeks. At the time I thought it was terrific, which was enough to get me writing again and then say, okay, but really, how do I do this well? I ended up joining Scribophile and finding this amazing group of people who are all terrific writers.

What do you like writing the most? Is there a certain style you prefer?

Second person point of view is probably my favorite tense, and I gravitate towards either very lush or very sparse prose, depending on the mood of the story.

What are your influences? Who are your favorite writers?

There are so many authors to love, that I’m just going to name the first five to spring to mind: Catherynne Valente, Ken Liu, Karen Russell, Kelly Link, and N.K. Jemison. I’m always amazed at the way they can wordsmith these ideas that are so unique, so well, and I think they make me want to reach further when I write, every time I read them.

What’s your proudest moment as an author?

More than anything, I struggle to believe that I’ve actually created a thing that’s pretty great, so when a fellow writer and staffer at Syntax & Salt told me that one of my stories inspired them to try their hand at flash, that was such a great feeling.

How has your writing developed over time?

More than anything, I think I’ve become more confident in playing to my strengths, which are usually voice, mood, and tenor, and in doing so, my weaknesses have required developing — which alas are story arc, and sometimes story itself. I love writing moments, characters, painting pictures, but often I’ll develop a character and think, well shit, what are you going to do now, little beast?

Are you currently working on anything?

I am always working on too many unfinished things! But right now, I’m heading into a second draft of a story called “The Daughter Garden.” It’s pretty creepy, and I love what a turn it took from the original scribbles.

What’s your writing process?

Usually it’s something like take a walk, hear a song, get an idea, rush to get it on paper, think it is amazing, come back to it, hate it, revise, revise, revise, and then get feedback.

What are you currently reading?

I just finished Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit and have started Difficult Women by Roxane Gay.

Have you ever worked with a medium other than writing? Or collaborated with someone in another medium with your writing?

I always intended to be a visual artist when I was younger, but didn’t sustain the effort that would have made that viable. I still like to paint, sketch, and so on, but writing is where I feel most likely to create something that takes on a shape I’m happy with. I would love to do a graphic novel some day — I have so many ideas, but not quite the skill level to pull it off myself.

Ani King’s story “Our Mouths are Stained with Bitterness: Raising Isaac” can be found in Issue 11 of Jenny Magazine.


Are you a past Jenny contributor or an editor at a literary magazine and interested in an interview? Send us an email.

Friday Feature: Interview with Olivia Buzzacco

Each week, the editors of Jenny Magazine sit down with either fellow literary magazine editors or past Jenny contributors for short interviews. This week’s interview is with Olivia Buzzacco, a past contributor of Jenny Magazine.

Describe your first publication. Where was it, when, and what was the piece about? How old were you at the time and how did it feel?

My first publication consisted of three pieces being taken for an issue of Prairie Margins, Bowling Green State University’s undergraduate literary magazine. Since I attended BGSU for my undergrad, I was encouraged to submit some of my work there during my junior year. They accepted two poems, “Karl” and “Colander” and a nonfiction piece titled “137.”

“Karl” is a five-line poem based off of a good friend of mine, who is as brilliant a writer as he is in the animation industry. “Colander” was produced from an in-class writing exercise one of my poetry instructors gave us, where we had to write about different shoes in different rooms. That poem also won “The Grandma Goda Award” for that issue. I was honored. “137” discusses a day in July at Cedar Point Amusement Park — I worked as a ride host for two years there, and while the park was tearing down Disaster Transport, the other rides experienced power bumps, where we would lose power suddenly, shutting the rides off, essentially.

So for my first time being published, I about lost my mind that three of my pieces were taken all at once. It was a big spirit booster for myself and my writing, since I still felt pretty new to the Creative Writing Program at BGSU, having switched my major only a couple semesters ago. This first publication really helped me to push myself further and submit to more places. Since then, I’ve had five more pieces accepted to different magazines. It’s a nice place to be in.

What inspired your piece in the Jenny?

Ah, “The International,” like “Colander,” was the result of a writing exercise in a fiction workshop. We had to write a postcard from one character to another character. I remember this exercise being given to us at the start of the spring semester, because I was on a big Elvis Presley kick at the time, as his birthday is January 8th. So I was in Elvis-mode, and began to write to a character that was based off of him. I loved my result from the exercise so much that I decided to write a story from it. I wrote “The International” in the span of a week, because we had to have our fiction pieces turned in the following week, and I remember wanting to turn that story in so bad, so I pushed myself to get it done. So Elvis was a big factor in this story for sure.

What got you into writing?

My older sister Ursula, actually. I have three siblings, and Ursula is the oldest. Whatever Ursula did, we followed suit. Seriously. She did band, we did band. She did drama club and speech, we did drama club and speech. Back when I was in middle school, she started writing her own stories, and she would share them with my siblings and I, and I remember loving them and wanting to try it out on my own.

And so I started writing terrible stories and me and my friends falling in love with our middle school crushes and everyone would die in the end. Horrible stuff, really. By the time I was a freshman in high school, I stopped writing stories and turned to poetry, since we were doing a poetry unit in class. I loved it, and from that moment on I considered myself a poet. When I started as a creative writing major at BGSU, I convinced myself that I would be a poet and that I couldn’t write short stores to save my life. It just seemed too difficult to me. There was no way I could fit a whole story into 10-15 pages. It’s funny now because I’m in the MFA program at BGSU where I’m focusing on fiction writing. I love it.

What do you like writing the most? Is there a certain style you prefer?

Well, I prefer to write fiction over poetry. But more specifically, I tend to write a lot of satire now. I like to create a normal, everyday world and stick something absurd in it and watch chaos ensue. You don’t see this in “The International” at all; I’ve only started this type of writing about a year ago. But so far, it’s been a lot of fun. I’ve noticed that I write a lot about parents and religion, but I’ve got some other ideas, like a marching band treated like the football team during a game day, and a first time teacher being treated like she’s at a press conference during parent-teacher conferences.

I think I was geared towards this writing style because I’ve learned to laugh more over the past couple years. As a kid, I hated being laughed at — and I don’t mean in a “haha we’re making fun of you” way, but you know, learning to laugh at myself when I fall down or have some bad luck. A lot of this changed during my junior year of high school. I discovered the old comedy duo Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, and got super hooked. Jerry Lewis, as funny as this sounds, really opened me up to the world of humor and being able to bring in laughter and laugh at yourself. I wanted to be able to make people laugh, so that’s something I try for in my stories.

What are your influences? Who are your favorite writers?

So many hecking influences! Writer-wise, it’s mostly George Saunders. His stories are brilliant and hilarious. I think I’ve read the majority of his work. He’s a big influence on my writing. Following close behind is B.J. Novak — his story collection One More Thing also influenced a lot of my writing, in that idea of satire. Those two might be some of my favorite writers, alongside Stephen King and Salinger. I’m all over the board.

I’ve also been influenced a lot by some of my friends. Back in undergrad, I was influenced a lot by some of my peers in workshops — Zach, Brian, Alyssa-Jane, Hannah, and Natalie for sure. Every piece they brought to workshop had me in competitive mode, they were so great! Their stories always left me challenging myself to try harder and write something amazing for the next round of workshop. I honestly couldn’t have produced some of the stuff I have now without them, whether they know that or not.

What’s your proudest moment as an author?

During one of my workshops during my first year of grad school, I brought in a short piece called “Johanna Flies with the Umbrella Man,” about a young girl who struggles with her parents, religion, and her friends lives. One of the second-year grad students told me that my story was the funniest piece they had seen all semester in our 10-person workshop. I was super honored. Those second-year grad students were all brilliant writers, every one of them. I always looked up to them during that school year and for one of them to say that about my own work was amazing. I’ve worked with this story for a while now, and it was recently picked up by The Broken Plate, which is my second proudest moment as an author.  I’m really proud of that piece.

How has your writing developed over time?

It’s changed quite a bit. I didn’t really have a sense of direction in most of the stories I wrote during undergrad. I was going for a drama-aspect, but it wasn’t working for me. You could ask any of my creative writing friends from undergrad and they’d all say the same thing: “oh she’s the girl who wrote the story about the mom who cuts off her husband’s head and sticks it in Jeffrey Dahmer’s fridge!” That is a legit story I wrote. It wasn’t until the end of my first semester of grad school that my stories started taking a drastic turn to humor. I think I began to realize that my work wasn’t very focused and I had to start thinking about what my thesis theme was going to be, and I wasn’t finding that in the stories I had been writing. I produced two short pieces of satire, and they really took off and were well received by the other grad students and our instructor.

Are you currently working on anything?

Many things! So many things. I’m in the process of completing my thesis, which is a collection of short stories, so I have two stories in the process of being completed right now. I’ve got “What Happened to Zachary Taylor” almost completed, and another one called “Cornelia Takes the Cake” in the process of drafting. “What Happened to Zachary Taylor” is based off of a friend of mine who left the social media world suddenly, and this sparked many ideas for a story about three friends who try to literally find their friend Zachary Taylor after he deletes all of his social media accounts. It makes fun of kids and social media, really. It’s proving to be a lot of fun to write. I’m not sure what’s going to happen with “Cornelia Takes the Cake” just yet, but I’m hoping to have that one done by mid-February when our first thesis drafts are due.

What’s your writing process?

It varies, really, especially when it comes to ideas. Sometimes I’ll pull ideas from past experiences in my life, other times I’ll have an opening line in my head and I’ll write the rest of the story based off of that. But once I get an idea, I start writing, and planning the story out. I basically write an outline for my story of everything that is going to happen. I get stuck with the climax and endings a lot, so that’s where I usually begin to write down questions and present myself with different scenarios and directions the story could take. I find I write more when presented with a deadline, because then I feel like I’m working towards something, so that’s something I need to work on when I graduate this May.

What are you currently reading?

I just finished reading a collection of short stories by Wendell Mayo, who also works at BGSU in the creative writing department. I’ve had so many workshops with Wendell, and he’s helped my writing out a lot. His collection B. Horror was wonderful to read and gave me a lot to think about in my own work.

Have you ever worked with a medium other than writing? Or collaborated with someone in another medium with your writing?

Not yet, but this is something I would really like to do in my future. I have a couple ideas for some children’s books, and I’d love to work with an illustrator. I have some people in mind; it’s just a matter of graduating and starting my real world life.


Are you a past Jenny contributor or an editor at a literary magazine and interested in an interview? Send us an email.

Friday Feature: Interview with Katie Stears

Each week, the editors of Jenny Magazine sit down with either fellow literary magazine editors or past Jenny contributors for short interviews. This week’s interview is with Katie Stears, a past contributor of Jenny Magazine.

Describe your first publication. Where was it, when, and what was the piece about? How old were you at the time and how did it feel?

My first publication ever was with Penguin Review! My first paid publication was a crossword puzzle for the LA Times.

What inspired your piece in the Jenny?

My poem “Morning Commute” was actually inspired by my morning commute to school every day. I pass by a bunch of run-down houses and an old steel mill. In a sad way, my neighborhood reminds me of a disaster area. Everything is somehow both messy and empty.

What got you into writing?

I always get interrupted or talked over when I try to say something. You can’t interrupt words on a page.

What do you like writing the most? Is there a certain style you prefer?

Academic or professional writing can sometimes be a fun challenge, but I sort of prefer personal writing. I think some of my best work is probably in my diary.

What are your influences? Who are your favorite writers?

Harper Lee is my favorite writer, but I’m not sure what influences me. I try to steal a little bit from everybody.

What’s your proudest moment as an author?

Seeing my name in print…on a check.

How has your writing developed over time?

My writing has gotten a lot cleaner over time.

Are you currently working on anything?

Not really!

What’s your writing process?

I tend to write in big bursts filled with long periods of idle time researching or thinking about what I’m writing.

What are you currently reading?

I was reading The Earth’s Children series by Jean Auel, but I’m taking a break to re-read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margarat Atwood.

Have you ever co-written something with another author? If so, what was that experience like?

I make crossword puzzles with my mom sometimes! She’s a professional writer and crossword puzzle constructor. Other than that, no, I’ve never really collaborated before.

Have you ever worked with a medium other than writing? Or collaborated with someone in another medium with your writing?

I am capable of some visual art, but it’s not something I do much these days.


Are you a past Jenny contributor or an editor at a literary magazine and interested in an interview? Send us an email.