Getting into writing – an interview with Janice Leagra


Janice Leagra is an American writer and mixed media artist who holds a BA in English from Rutgers University in New Jersey. She was shortlisted for the 2017 Bridport Prize. Her work has been featured in publications such as Spelk Fiction, EllipsisZine, and others. You can find her on Twitter: @janiceleagra.

What got you interested in writing?

I’ve been interested in writing in some form or another since I was a child. Reading and writing were and still are welcome forms of escape for me. I still have several of my elementary school stories and essays. I also have kept a box filled with horrible poems that I wrote as a teenager. I guess it’s because I think preserving history, the good and the bad, is really important. They’re all part of my history, however much they make me cringe now.

Tell us a little about your chosen genre.

I don’t have a chosen genre. I am interested in and enjoy reading and writing about a variety of things. That’s reflective of who I am as a person. I don’t think I’d be content only writing in one genre or form. I’m still learning and experimenting and I derive a lot of joy from that. For me, the journey and process are just as important and gratifying as the end result.

What are your happiest memories in your writing career?

My writing career hasn’t even really begun yet — at least I hope this is just the beginning — and I’m 47 years old. If I had to pick one moment thus far, it would be when Spelk Fiction featured my flash fiction story, “Milestones,” in February. It was my publication debut and it was so well-received. The fact that it resonated with so many people was more than I could ever hope for as a writer, especially when it was my debut story.

How do you handle success and failure?

Since I’m so new to all of this, I’ve experienced a lot more failure than success with my writing. I’m probably going to sound like a liar here, but rejections don’t really get me down. I accept that they are all part of one’s life as a writer. Maybe my age and life experience has something to do with that. If I were the only person whose work got rejected, that would be one thing, but it happens to everyone, even writers whom I admire tremendously. I would say I sometimes feel frustrated, because I’m not sure what isn’t working with a piece. The first thing I do if a piece gets rejected is resubmit it somewhere else. If it keeps getting rejected, I might revise it a bit or have another writer look at it and tell me where they think it’s not working.

How do I handle success?

I brag about it and taunt others. Kidding! I’ve only had a few successes so far and I’ve been humbled and surprised by each of them. If someone tells me they like something I’ve written,  it’s still a challenge for me to just say, “Thank you,” instead of asking, “Why?”

What makes you write when you’re exhausted and your fingers ache?

Honestly? I don’t. I know it will be an exercise in futility, so I just don’t do that to myself. I’m amazed by writers who can be given a prompt or a submission deadline and just bang out a 700-word rough draft in a half-hour. That’s not who I am as a writer. I can’t force ideas. I have to allow them to present themselves when they’re ready and I stew over them for a while before diving in. I take notes every day on phrases or words that catch my attention. I jot down my dreams when I remember them. To me, that’s all still writing, because writing isn’t a standalone act. It’s a process. All of those components are part of the process — at least for me they are.

What is your advice to young and new writers?

Read. Then read some more. Read a wide variety of writers, genres, and forms. 2. Listen. Listen to how people speak in your everyday life and interactions and when a phrase or expression strikes you, write it down, however mundane it might seem. One of those phrases or expressions may be put to good use in your writing at some point. 3. Keep a notebook with you at all times or utilize a voice recorder app in your phone. Let go of any silliness you might feel about that sort of thing. Embrace it. 4. Do your best to surround yourself with supportive and like-minded people. That one can be difficult for some of us. At the very least, get involved in the writing community on Twitter. It is vibrant, strong, and nurturing. 5. If your budget and schedule allow, participate in workshops, whether online or in person. The energy and encouragement you will get from your fellow writers will be invaluable. 6. No matter what, DO NOT EVER GIVE UP!

Are you a traditionalist or a digital? (paper or eBook)

In my heart of hearts, I’m a traditionalist, but I do own and read a number of eBooks and I hate myself for it.

Do you blog?

I don’t blog very often, but then I’m not sure anyone would read it if I did. Blogging is one of those things where I’m uncertain the payoff is worth the effort.

Do you self-publish?

I don’t have any collections of writing or novels TO publish, so no.

If you have a publication or promotion – tell us.

I had two very different stories published this month (April) — “Obscured” with Dodging the Rain and “Kitsch Confidential” with Ghost Parachute. I have a mosaic flash coming in June to Riggwelter Press, which I’m excited about.


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