Their home world is gone, their planet cut from existence. They traveled eons searching for a new home. But their new home, Earth, was already taken. From quiet stories of longing and love to tales of tragic nuclear war and brutal inter-species conflict, these narratives portray sometimes startling snapshots of a new universe with the intensity and delicacy that only flash fiction can convey. Each author's unique stories enrich the shared, singular vision of a science fiction saga that is just beginning….
From the highly-anticipated and newly-released collection, These Broken Worlds, born of the stirring imaginations of four talented authors, including my esteemed guest today, Jessica West. The early response has been so enthusiastic that the authors have decided to make it available to everyone. These Broken Worlds is currently on sale via Amazon, but you can sign up for a free copy here. It is my great honor to share this interview with you. It is a glimpse into the mind and heart of an amazing writer, and better friend.
*Thanks for chatting with me Jessica, and welcome! Many writers struggle a bit knowing if/how to try to navigate social media, connect with other writers, and build relationships. I have seen and experienced first-hand how people are drawn to you and how encouraging and supportive you are to them—be they fellow writers, readers, fans, whomever. My sense is a big part of this is simply part of who Jessica West is, but how important would you say building a literary community has been for you, and what guidance would you offer those who are struggling in this area?
Jess: I kinda just fell into the literary social media scene. That might sound really lame and not helpful at all, but I already had Facebook and Twitter when I took a beginning writer's course a couple years ago, although I rarely used the Twitter account until I started writing. When I did, though, I was so excited about this new journey I was taking that I talked about it. A lot. And I found other people who were talking about writing, too. I made friends.
That literary community has been absolutely vital to my growth as a person, a writer, and-most recently-an editor. As supportive and encouraging as I may have been, I've gotten that and then some from others in the community. Compassion is contagious amongst writers, and sometimes we bond over the craziest things. Just be yourself and find folks who make you smile. Follow them and interact with them. If they aren't responsive, don't take it personally. Not everyone plays by the same set of rules. Just move on until you find "your people". Or tweople, as the case may be.
*You are part of some pretty rockin’ projects and sites: Prose Before Ho Hos, Whiskey and Wheelguns, Kosa Press, a monthly blog for the terrific Kate Tilton. You are also one of the chief facilitators for the Write/Draft/Critique Virtual Writer’s Workshop, in which I have participated and found terrific, and you are an editor for Booktrope. Folks can check them out through the links here but what has compelled you to engage this diverse range of endeavors, and do you have a system for keeping up with it all?
Jess: I have a new system every day to keep up with it all. My calendars change from one week to the next. I'm a Pisces, everything about me is flexible including how I track projects. I like lists, that's the one thing I do consistenly-ish. It sounds really simple, but when I'm feeling overwhelmed, I take out my journal and make a list of current projects. Then I rewrite that list arranging each task by categories that emerge naturally. Then I go down the list and mark top priority items that need my immediate attention. I make one more list (did I mention I like lists?) separated by priority (immediate tasks, short term tasks, and long term tasks) and then by category. It's basically the same list, but by the third draft it's organized and cemented in my memory. Making these lists by hand goes a long way toward helping me remember my priorities.
Now, what compelled me to stir all these pots? People. In every instance, the answer is people. When you say Prose Before Ho Hos, I think of Ryan Williamson, Alex Nader, J. Edward Paul, and Christopher Smith. Prose would not exist without them. Same goes for Whiskey and Wheelguns. When you say Kosa Press, I think of M.J. Kelley, Woelf Dietrich, Dana Liepold, and Pavarti K. Tyler. Same with WriteDraftCritique. These people are my family, in a way. Kate Tilton, Rachel Thompson, and Will Van Stone are like another part of my family. That's how I think of them. Booktrope was built on and runs on teamwork. As an editor, I've joined the "book family" of several authors. What drew me to Booktrope? A few of my writing buddies were already there (including you). I can't do it all (hard as I may try), but I like to be where my friends are. When our interests align, magic happens. That magic is what I crave, what I seek in every endeavor. And that magic doesn't happen without people.
*You write terrific fiction and also provide astute writing, editing, social media and publishing guidance. I have been fortunate enough to meet you at this stage of our respective paths—what I know of you and yours is inspiring. I know you are still early in what will be an epic and adventurous journey: what would you like your legacy to be when all’s said and done?
Jess: Thanks, D! My legacy? Wow, that's a big question. I don't necessarily want something attributed to me. I don't want or need recognition. I'm rewarded daily by the people I've surrounded myself with. What I do want is to spread the compassion so many people have shown me. Taking a page from Terry Goodkind's book, I want to be a pebble in a pond. I want my every kind act to inspire kindness in others. That's totally within reason, right?
*Finding you out there in the literary universe has been one of the biggest blessings of my life, personally and professionally. As we’ve discussed here you are involved with several terrific projects and sites so for all those people who want to find you too (believe me, folks, YOU DO), what is the best way?
Jess: The feeling is mutual, my friend. The best way to find me is to google West1Jess. I'm everywhere! ;)
*I ask this as much for myself—as a devoted fan—as for our readers: what can we expect next from Jessica West?
Jess: I couldn't ask for a more loyal or devoted friend (or fan). <3
I have a few projects coming out soon. Pavarti K. Tyler and I will be releasing Season One of the Sin Eater serial this fall, to be published by Hot Ink Press. Kosa Press is putting together what we call a kosalogy, our first as a publisher. Basically it's a shared world anthology, but it doesn't end there. I'm also working on a Fantasy collaboration, but I can't talk about that just yet. I have several other projects I'm outlining, but these three are my main focus at present. These and my editing projects keep me pretty busy. If I can work my way around to meeting some influential folks in the industry, I'd like to give other authors a leg up if I can. Let's not say "literary agent" just yet, but it's something I think I would enjoy. If that does happen, it's still a long way off.
Jessica West is an editor with the heart of a writer. She keeps it in a jar on a shelf above her desk. Jess is currently pursuing a state of self-induced psychosis.