Anna Lea Jancewicz
We’re excited to share this candid Q&A with Anna Lea Jancewicz, a poet and fiction writer whose work was featured in Issue 4 and Issue 5. Thanks for answering our many questions, Anna!
Q. Your prose seems intertwined with poetic conventions and not-so-ordinary imagery. What inspires this style (which we love, btw.)?
I’ve only started writing fiction in the last year or so. I’ve written poetry for over twenty years, although mostly just for myself. I published a few pieces back in the early 90’s, but I didn’t really commit to making a go of it then. When I started submitting work again, I wanted to push myself to do something new. Finding my voice in prose has been very much grounded in expanding my poetic voice. My work always comes from a poetic seed, from specific images or fragments of language that become something more. Stories grow from those morsels that once would have been little poems on their own. I also always write with the goal of using surprising language, because that’s the thing I love best in what I read. Nothing charms me more.
Q: One of my favorite things about Garden Party of a Thousand Yesses is its take on metaphor. They seem at once palpable and fantastical. Can you tell us a bit about your approach to metaphor in writing?
Again, it’s about the poetry of it. Metaphor makes things luscious and surprising. It deepens, and opens. It makes for all the beautiful complexities in a story. When I read, I like to find little treasures hidden in the crannies. That’s how I like to write, too. I want you to be a crow and collect the shiny objects.
Q. Your prose is filled with many distinct details—in Garden Party of a Thousand Yesses you include things like a memory of a neighbor “who was studying Library Science and believed in ghosts.” How often do you pull from your own experiences (and/or the people you know) when writing fiction and how much of it is purely imagination? If so, how do you decide what details to keep “true” and which ones to fictionalize?
Specificity is always awesome. Somehow, it always makes a story more universal instead of less so. I guess because it just makes it more real. And in any case, definitely more delightful. I like to be delighted. Lots of bits and pieces in my work come from experience (I’m forty, lots of stuff has happened), but a lot are just things I think of randomly, little things that I’m smitten by. When I use “real” details, I try to embed them snugly in the “unreal.” I do find myself using quotes from my husband when I’m building dialogue for married couples in my funnier stories. My husband is just outrageously funny. I have a story titled “Vaginal Disturbances” forthcoming at Phantom Drift, wherein all the conversation between the wife and husband takes place during sex. It’s mostly all “real” dialogue. It’s hilarious. I don’t really hem and haw over the decision, or even think about it very much at all. I just go with my gut.
Q. You’re an editor over at Night Train. Can you tell us about your work there?
I joined the staff at Night Train this past year, as one of the new Associate Editors. Essentially, I’m a first reader. It’s been a valuable experience and I can’t thank Rusty Barnes enough for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this terrific journal. I hadn’t worked on a magazine before, and having the chance to view the submissions process from the other side has given me some insight. What I appreciate from a writer, what I look for in a submission– that has influenced my own writing and submissions.
Q: You also have a pretty active Twitter page (@AnnaLeaJancewic). What’s the major difference between a tweet and a line of writing? How do you think the two forms of text vitalize each other?
I don’t do much original tweeting. I use the account for promoting my own work, and the work of other writers and publications that I love. I do a lot of retweets and sharing links. But that’s been the great utility and joy of it—the community. Networking with other writers and editors, supporting each other and small presses in general, finding new venues for submissions and for keeping up with great work from amazing writers—the community of it is vitalizing. I admire people who tweet awesome pithy things, words that are beautiful or profound or witty or all of the above, and maybe I’ll get better at that. I don’t see much difference between a tweet and a line of poetry. They are both messages-in-bottles. Tweets generally have more references to people’s cats and lunches and what they’re watching on television. But again, specificity makes it all the more real. Ha.
Anna Lea Jancewicz lives in Norfolk, Virginia, where she homeschools her children and haunts the public libraries. She is an Associate Editor at Night Train, and her writing has appeared or is forthcoming at Atticus Review, Hobart, Phantom Drift, Wyvern Lit, and many other venues. She is working on her first novel. Yes, you CAN say Jancewicz: Yahnt-SEV-ich. More at: http://annajancewicz.wordpress.com/