Tag Archive | Ani King

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 Syntax & Salt

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, editor in chief of Syntax & Salt: Stories, A Journal of Magical Realism.

What style of work do you prefer, if any?

While I think we have pretty eclectic tastes at Syntax & Salt, we definitely lean towards literary works with a strong, defined voice. Ken Liu, Catherynne Valente, Kelly Link, Karen Russell, Nnedi Okorafor, Isabel Allende, to name a very few, are among some of our overall favorites who have incredible flexibility with their tone and style.

What other literary magazines do you admire?

This is bound to be an incredibly long list, but in particular I love publications that always manage to attract and publish the unique or surprising. I try to read a variety: well-established publications like Strange Horizons, Clarkesworld, Apex, Fairy Tale Review, and Tor.com; equally wonderful magazines that are still on the road becoming more well known, such as Strangelet, Axolotl, Sick Lit, Spilled Milk, or Inklette. There’s so much out there to admire, with the ability to easily set up online now.

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

Following submission guidelines is always a plus, but also taking the extra time to make sure a story is really ready to be submitted. Get critical feedback — often there are small plot holes that another reader might catch. Make sure characters have agency and purpose and don’t exist merely as a story device. Bend the rules, throw away old tired tropes.

What do you feel makes your journal distinctive?

We strive for an array of voices and styles, rather than intentionally looking for an issue theme. I believe in the two issues we’ve put out there is at least one story for most readers to love, if not more. I hope too that the art is visually arresting.

What types of submissions are on your wish list?

I would love to see much, much more work from underrepresented communities, particularly women of color, LGBTQA writers, and stories from differently-abled persons. I believe that the literary community as a whole has an obligation to provide a place for these voices to be heard, and to eschew accepting stories that instead fetishize or appropriate from these groups.

What made you want to be an editor?

It wasn’t something I expected to happen, but in the case of Syntax & Salt, it happened I think because the magazine was my baby, and when the incredible group of writers that I run it with sat down to talk through it, likely the deciding factor was my deep control freak nature.

In all seriousness though, I really enjoy the detail work involved: layout and site design, working with the authors to make sure we’ve got everything right, choosing or creating the art, and enthusiastically promoting the work we feature. I feel incredibly fortunate to have the world’s greatest managing editor (Hi, Chelsea!), and the best readers who love magical realism.

What kind of things do you write?

For the most part I write short speculative fiction. I enjoy experimental forms and flash fiction quite a bit, though I’ve been turning my hand to poetry and plotting some longer works. I always have at least ten plates in the air, and I’m hoping to complete a collection of short stories this year that will stay together.

Where did you get the name of your magazine?

I’m a very prose-driven reader, and I think that syntax, like salt, can be the difference between a bland read, or a perfectly seasoned one.

What inspired your aesthetic?

The whole S&S staff and I have been in a writing group together for almost two years, and we found ourselves driven to read and write a lot of magical realism. At some point we realized that the next natural step was to provide a home for others to do the same.

What do you hope to accomplish with your magazine?

I aim to publish excellent stories and provide a home for the new, the weird, the old reimagined, and for first time authors, to give them a great experience in submitting and working through the editorial process.

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