Anna Vangala Jones’s writing almost always revolves around memory, nostalgia, and relationships (of all kinds). In a year where the world has been confronted, challenged, and at times even comforted by these matters, Jones’ fiction and her insights offer a thoughtful lens through which we can examine the nature of relationships in times of crisis.
In the following interview, Jones reflects on the pandemic and its influence on her writing and reading practice, considers South Asian representation as it pertains to the literary world, and delves into the ways female rage manifests itself within her work.
Sprinkled throughout our conversation are her top flash fiction and short story recommendations from 2020 as well as her advice for writers submitting to this year’s Sudden Fiction contest.
The following interview took place virtually and has been edited for clarity.
Anna Vangala Jones is a writer and editor. Her debut short story collection, Turmeric & Sugar, is forthcoming from Thirty West Publishing in 2021. Her fiction has appeared in Wigleaf, Catapult, Berkeley Fiction Review, and HAD, among others. Find her online at annavangalajones.com and on Twitter @anniejo_17.
Berkeley Fiction Review: A lot of authors have had work come out this past year, unfortunately within a pandemic. Have you had any writing come out this year and what was that experience like for you?
Anna Vangala Jones: I didn’t have a book come out last year, but I had friends who went through that. So I watched them struggle with the impact it had on their ability to promote it, to travel and do readings, and just to have people interested in new books coming out when the world was seemingly falling apart around them. I can’t even imagine how difficult that must have been. I do have a debut story collection coming out later this year and we are still very much in the midst of the pandemic with no clear end in sight, so I’m sure I’ll be able to relate to that particular stress very soon, unfortunately.
In terms of writing that came out last year, I would say that in the years prior, a lot of my focus was on completing and submitting short stories to journals. But in the last year, I decided to stop focusing on sending out individual stories as much and to instead really buckle down and devote all my energy to the story collection.
But there’s an online journal Hobart, and they recently created a companion journal which they call HAD (Hobart After Dark), and it just follows a much more informal submission pattern. The editor was on Twitter and said, “Hey, I’m spontaneously opening up for submissions, so send me pieces that are really short and maybe funny or weird.” I had worked with the editor, Aaron Burch, before, on my humorous essay about teaching that he published in Hobart, so I thought this sounded like a fun idea. I found a story I had started writing a year earlier, and I just sat there and typed and typed until I had a complete story. I read it over, sent it in, and it got accepted less than an hour later! They published “Doors” in September and then just nominated it for a Pushcart Prize in December. That is the entirety of my publishing experience from 2020, so I would say I didn’t have it too bad compared to other people. I of course was also receiving rejections throughout the year and I’m sure for some people that may have hurt more during such a difficult time, but it had the opposite effect for me, where everything on the news was so terrible so constantly that the rejections just didn’t bother me as much.
Going back to my collection, one thing that I do appreciate with having the book come out while everyone is using Zoom is you can reach a wider audience than you could when people needed to all be in the same place at the same time. It’s nice to think that my friends from back home on the east coast and my loved ones in other countries might be able to be there for events with me.
I don’t want to go into this too much but I have chronic health conditions, and I spend a lot of time indoors anyway, out of necessity and with weakened immune system issues. So, as much as I’m suffering through the pandemic like anyone else, not being able to just be free to go wherever whenever I want is not a completely foreign concept to me. Virtual meetings and events definitely increase accessibility for people that maybe weren’t being thought of as much as they should have been already. Now I would hope that even when we do have things return to how they were before, with in-person events, that there will be more of an effort to put the event on zoom for people that can’t leave their homes or can’t travel as easily.
BFR: You mentioned how this year you shifted from submitting individual pieces to journals to working mainly on your story collection. How has your writing process evolved over the past year? Did you find yourself looking at your process and reevaluating it in terms of the pandemic and also in terms of putting together a collection?
ANNA VANGALA JONES: It’s a good question, and I wish I could have a better answer for you, but like many writers will tell you, unfortunately very little structured or disciplined writing happened for me this year. I participated in a workshop on fairy tales back in February, pre-pandemic, where I wrote the beginnings of a story for the first session and everyone, especially my instructor, was insisting that I had come up with the seeds of a novel. It was a very exciting development, but it was brand new.
So I had this potential novel sitting there that I struggled to do much with all year, and then the second writing project I had was a completed short story I was revising on and off this year. That story was just accepted by The Margins, which is the journal for the Asian American Writers Workshop. It’s kind of nice for me because I was born in India, but I’ve lived here in the States my whole life and I haven’t been in a lot of journals that are primarily geared towards South Asian writers. The Asian American Writers Workshop is great. They’re a wonderful resource and I’m really honored to have a story coming out soon in The Margins. (Editor’s note: Since the interview, “Tomorrow” has now been published online and can be read here.) Then inspiration suddenly seized me again in the fall and in addition to that other story I told you about that I finished in the spur of the moment and submitted to that fun spontaneous call for Hobart, I also wrote a completely new flash story which was accepted by Wigleaf (Editor’s note: “Sara’s Someone” is now available to read here). Other than that, there has not been a ton of fresh writing for me this year. There were long stretches of none.
In the summer, the author Jami Attenberg, sends out a very thoughtful newsletter called “1000 Words of Summer” and it encourages all participants to write 1,000 words every day for two weeks, if I remember correctly. I, like many people, was not able to meet the actual goal, but doing it at all yielded about 6,000 words for that novel I had started in the fairy tale workshop.
All in all, I would say, I’m okay with my creative output this year, considering it could have been nothing… which I would have been fine with, too, to be honest, because my husband and I were navigating the pandemic with two young children. Suddenly, you can’t leave the house and you can’t go to the park and you can’t go to the playground, and because I’m at a higher risk, we couldn’t do any socially distanced outings that some other families might be able to. I mean we really have to be careful. We’ve got the online school adjustment as well and then, as I said, I’ve got my own health issues, which affects my ability to work. So writing had to kind of slide down the list of priorities.
Given those circumstances, I’m okay with having produced anything at all. But working on the story collection was less about [writing] anything new and really more about becoming more focused and more intentional with it. Rather than it just being that I write short stories and so, here’s a collection of a lot of short stories, I want them to make sense together. I want the stories in conversation with one another. And I really want this to be a first book that I can be proud of. So when I say I focused more energy on the collection, there were four or five new stories that I was able to add to it and existing ones I edited, but more painful and more time consuming was actually the process of removing stories that I still love and that are still important to me, but no longer had a place in the collection.
BFR: On the topic of your story collection, Turmeric & Sugar (Thirty West Publishing, 2021), is there anything you can reveal about what it’s about, thematically or stylistically?
ANNA VANGALA JONES: Yeah, I’m not too worried about spoilers. The title of the book, Turmeric & Sugar, is the title of one of the stories in it and so that micro story was very much at the front of my mind when I was writing the synopsis for the collection.
I wouldn’t say any of my stories are fables, but I do love the predictability and structure of those archetypes. I’m Indian and my husband is South Korean, so we come from cultures where oral storytelling, traditions, and beliefs get passed down through the years. So that was an influence on some of the stories. I’m not really someone who writes full on genre fiction like sci-fi or fantasy. However, it’s also rare that my stories are completely straightforward. I’m very interested in using the stories to depict reality, but with the bits of surreal magic and speculative imagination that I think are sort of there in our lives anyway.
For themes, I really was interested in friendships, primarily between women, explored across the boundaries of race, age, and class. I’ve got a story with a nanny and her employer, both of Tamil descent but living in the States. One about the very unlikely bond formed between an elderly widowed landlady and her young tenant whose husband has gone missing. Then other stories look at what it is to simply exist in and move through the world as a girl or woman. There’s an Indian girl who learns what it means to actually inhabit her sister’s shoes for a night. And then yet another gets a second chance as a human after her previous life as an elephant.
In the stories, there are a lot of people longing to understand each other, understand themselves, and often trying to understand themselves through trying to understand their relationship to others. They’re visited by the ghosts that haunt them, some literal, some figurative. And they’re navigating these difficult but fiercely loving relationships with their friends, their families, their partners. All of these lives, they consist of joy and suffering, bitter and sweet, turmeric and sugar. And I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Hindu wedding custom where the parents streak turmeric and sugar through the middle parting of the hair of the people getting married, but the idea is to prepare them for both the bitter and the sweet that life will have to offer, and that idea helped to inspire the collection’s title story. That’s what the stories are looking at, all of the questions and problems and beauty that arise from complex, meaningful relationships but through the lens of women and women of color, particularly—in my case and in the book—South Asian women.
BFR: Wow. Thank you for sharing. I really enjoyed reading your stories online, so I’m very excited for your book. Also, I’m especially looking forward to it because I personally haven’t encountered many short story collections written by South Asian women. And so this is really cool.
ANNA VANGALA JONES: You know, I feel like something I came up against a lot when I first started out trying to get published was you hear a lot of “This is too Indian for American audiences” or “this is not Indian enough”. I remember there was one editor who responded to a story of mine she was rejecting—which did eventually then go on to be published in the wonderful X-R-A-Y years later—by kind of saying, “Okay, there is an interracial relationship as the central tension or conflict here. So what? One is Indian and one is white, but we’ve seen it done before. Jhumpa Lahiri did it so well.” It was like Jhumpa Lahiri did it already, so what’s going to set it apart? And that response was so amazing to me, amazing in the worst way, [laughs], just because, you know, I’ve read books and watched movies about thousands of white people and their various relationships. So I just thought it was hilarious that someone was telling me, well Jhumpa Lahiri wrote about an interracial relationship, so we’re all set, come up with something different.
I remember Anjali Sachdeva was really exciting for me to read so I would recommend her stories because she breaks down genre barriers so beautifully, with some that are more realistic and then you have stories with horror and fantasy and sci-fi premises. And that was very freeing and just wonderful to me because I also don’t have a book full of only one kind of genre of stories. That’s what makes writing short stories so exciting to me. I feel like you can have stories grounded in reality, and then others that push that envelope with a bit more freedom and curiosity and imaginative play, and you can have Indian main characters while you do it [laughs]. So yeah, I never forgot that editor. I saw what that email said and it lit a fire under me—not to use such a cliche—like no, I don’t have to be Jhumpa Lahiri and I also don’t have to not be Jhumpa Lahiri. I’m just another writer who happens to also be South Asian who is trying to tell the stories that she thinks should be in the world, so that’s what I’ve tried to do.
BFR: Do you have any novels or works you’ve really enjoyed reading this year?
ANNA VANGALA JONES: Normally if you come to me any other year, I would have read so many novels, and so I’d feel confident telling you: of the many novels I read, here are my favorites. But it feels dishonest to phrase it that way because I just was not able, like many others, to read a ton of novels and finish them this year. It felt like the world was falling apart around us, which makes it pretty hard to concentrate. As I’ve said, I’m surrounded by my lovable, but very, very loud and needy small children at all times now, so it’s hard to just disappear into the world of a book which is my preferred way to read a novel, just to be fully immersed in it. And I don’t know if that’s the fault of the books I tried to read, but I couldn’t quite get there with most of the ones I started. What I can say is that two novels I did read and greatly enjoyed were Lakewood by Megan Giddings and Temporary by Hilary Leichter. I definitely recommend both of those, but I would have to honestly say that most of my reading this year was of short stories and poems.
BFR: Yeah, I really feel that. Poetry was such a solace this year.
ANNA VANGALA JONES: Yes, I’m so glad you said it that way. And I’ve never cried reading poetry as often as I have this year.
BFR: Where do you go to find your poetry?
ANNA VANGALA JONES: I have a lot of books, of course, but I’m pretty active on Twitter which we jokingly refer to as our little corner of “literary Twitter”. It’s really about who you follow and I follow a lot of poets and they’re not just sharing their own poems, they’re also sharing other people’s poetry nonstop throughout the day. In that way, I’ve come across newer living poets that I might not otherwise have been familiar with and I’ve also interestingly found out about people I only studied for prose in school and am now learning that they had written poetry too, thinking, “Wow. I enjoy their poetry even more than their prose.” I know we all fairly talk about everything that’s wrong with social media and Twitter, but in terms of poetry being a solace this year, I can’t say I read a ton of poems that I loved without also saying that many of those poems came from accounts I follow on Twitter.
Same with the short stories—this year I was reading ones from online journals as well as short story collections and anthologies I had around my house. I wasn’t so much reading them in an ordered or structured way. I was more picking out stories from them, the way I would read a story online, and reading them one at a time and not finishing the entire book all at once. I liked the Tiny Nightmares anthology that came out from Catapult. That book had a lot of very startling little reads that were satisfying this year.
BFR: I read in your interview with Tommy Dean that you explain your writing process “tends to be quick and precise.” As someone who writes a lot of micro and flash fiction, how would you define a good piece of flash fiction?
ANNA VANGALA JONES: That is a tough question and first of all I want to say I don’t consider myself or anyone else, even writers I look up to, as the arbiter of what makes good flash fiction. I can say what appeals to me most about flash fiction is that it’s amazing how we can imply an entire life or a world or a longer story in just a few pages, in a series of meaningful moments. I love that something that is so small at first glance is hiding so much beneath the surface. In a novel or longer short story, you have time to illustrate things with many scenes or to use a couple pages for description or thoughtful expansion on an idea, but in a micro or a flash piece, every single word counts. There’s just no room for excess.
In that sense, when I picture a flash fiction story done well, a story that’s getting so much across in this tiny space, I imagine a little snow globe or something that’s bursting with how much is going on inside it. There’s an entire community in there and all of that is getting conveyed through these beautiful and carefully chosen words. I think there’s a magic to that similar to poetry that lends itself to multiple readings, multiple interpretations. And I love the thought of a flash fiction story meaning one thing to you when you read it now in college and then meaning something entirely different to you when you read it decades from now in your 40s or 50s.
I think flash fiction is such an amazing art form that seems to be getting more respect now. But it’s kind of funny—I would have people reach out to me from the publishing industry to say that they loved a story of mine and would ask to read some of my work. They were so kind and generous, but an honest, common thing I kept being told was, “Well, it’s hard enough to get a short story collection published mainstream. It’s nearly impossible to do it when there’s flash fiction and micros in there instead of longer stories.” I always thought it was so interesting because, usually, I was getting reached out to over a flash fiction story in the first place, since that’s most of what I have published online.
I think we’ve come a long way and the form is getting more respect, but I don’t know if that translates yet to the publishing industry versus the online community and literary journals and small presses. I’m publishing with Thirty West and they’re a small press that started out with chapbooks, mostly of poetry. Then they started doing chapbooks of prose and then they’ve graduated now to, luckily for me, doing full length poetry books, novels, and short story collections. And so I’m thrilled to be working with them because they let me have a collection ranging from micro fiction, as short as 250 words, all the way to longer short stories that are about 5,000 words. I really appreciate that freedom.
BFR: Speaking of micro fiction, what’s your take on the “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” debate? Do you think it qualifies as a story?
ANNA VANGALA JONES: That’s so funny, I actually wrote a tweet making fun of it recently. I think I said, “for sale: book idea, never written” because there’s so much of that on Twitter. [Laughing] We’re always like, “I have a great idea for this book,” and everyone says, “We’re so excited! You should totally do it,” and then we don’t actually write it.
I don’t know that I have an opinion on this to be honest. And I’m sorry to disappoint you. I’m not trying to walk out of a question. I just, I don’t have an opinion. [Laughing] I don’t take that one line particularly seriously. But I also think it did a good job of what it was trying to do, which was showing us, “Hey, that’s a pretty sad, poignant, powerful thing and you only needed six words to do it.” So I believe in the sentiment behind it, certainly. [Laughing] I could never tell a story in six words. I’m wordy enough that I’m constantly shocked that I ended up writing micro and flash fiction.
BFR: [Laughing] Hemingway was ahead of our time, writing in tweet form. So, what’s been your favorite flash fiction this year?
ANNA VANGALA JONES: The rule I’m giving myself for answering this question is not just did I like a story, but did it stay with me. What are the stories that have been living in my head, the stories that have lingered in my memory in a year when it’s been impossible to remember or retain anything?
The stories that did that for me were “My Mother is a Plant” by Tara Campbell and that was online in Lost Balloon and “Wild Milk” by Sabrina Orah Mark, which is a story from her collection of the same name. I want to recommend pretty much all or at least many of Leonora Carrington’s stories. Both books, The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington and Wild Milk, are from The Dorothy Project. And anyone who’s interested in writing flash fiction or surrealism should definitely look into both of these women’s books.
Two other stories that I loved and kept thinking about are both by Ben Loory. The first is “God” and it appeared in BOMB this year and the other is “The Trespassing Forest” which was in a print journal, Cherry Tree. And then finally “Teacup Werewolf” by Jan Stinchcomb in Wigleaf. For anyone that does go and read those stories, I do worry that it makes it seem like I only like one kind of story or stories taking similar risks—it is true that I am very drawn to stories where the reality we recognize is distorted just beyond familiarity and takes us to a place where the surreal and the strange can illuminate truth better than reality is able to on its own. However, that is not to say that I don’t myself write and love reading stories that are based more firmly in reality.
This is veering away from flash fiction for a moment, but I’ve really been stunned by the work of Kali Fajardo-Anstine. A good example of short fiction that made me feel completely invested in its characters, their story, their concerns, their pain and made me wonder about them long after the story ended—without overtly surreal or magical elements involved—was “Remedies” by Kali Fajardo-Anstine, which is from her incredible collection, Sabrina & Corina. I recommend that book to everyone. I just appreciate that sense of the generations of women looking over the narrator’s shoulder, you can feel them in that story, and the cultural approaches to healing, both physically and spiritually. The way that she deftly and thoughtfully and subtly and almost playfully, at times, tackles these towering human questions of what we owe one another, what ties us all together, what tears us apart. It’s just beautiful to witness.
BFR: Thank you for all of those recommendations, I know I’ll definitely be checking some of them out. Where are your favorite places to read fiction online?
ANNA VANGALA JONES: For flash fiction online, I go to these journals for consistently good stories: Wigleaf, Jellyfish Review, Electric Literature’s The Commuter, Pidgeonholes, and Kenyon Review Online. Okay Donkey is a newer magazine but it has such wonderful flash fiction stories in it, usually with a touch of the strange and surreal. Split Lip Magazine and Hobart are fun places to find inventive flash. And Hobart’s new companion journal, HAD, is only a few months old, but I’ve read some of the best flash I have in a long time whenever I go to their site. There are more, of course, but those are all reliably excellent, and they’re publishing regularly, not going on hiatus.
BFR: Do you have any words of advice for writers who are submitting to the Sudden Fiction contest this year?
ANNA VANGALA JONES: I like to write about relationships and memory and nostalgia, and I think that those are pretty powerful themes to explore in flash fiction. I totally get it when people say they’re bored of relationship stories—though I can’t agree—but I imagine they’re usually talking about romantic relationships. I think when you’re trying to write flash fiction, it’s important to remind yourself how our entire lives are composed of relationships, small and large from the moment of birth, all the way to the moment of death. Of course the obvious, big ones are the romantic relationships, but there are so many more begging to be explored in these tiny stories.
There’s the parent and child, grandparent and grandchild, siblings, the acceptable and expected friendships that develop between peers, and then the more questionable and unexpected friendships that develop between unlikely candidates you wouldn’t expect to cross paths. Then there’s those miniscule connections that we form that we don’t even pay attention to—like when you’re at the store buying something from the cashier, or someone helping you pick out what you’re going to buy. Or like me, you may have been the one working in retail, interacting with so many customers, or a teacher with nearly a decade’s worth of students. And so I just think that there are so many more relationships to be explored than just the romantic ones. And they can still shape us in these tiny, long lasting ways we don’t even realize, and then, on the other hand, there are these connections we forge that we are very much aware of their importance in our lives.
Relationships are so layered, so complex and at their best they’re nuanced and meaningful. These can become obsessions, so intense for a time that they pull everything else around them into their orbit or eclipse everything else even just for a moment. Even though that obsession will certainly pass, it feels in the moment like it never will and obsessions, as we know, can both nourish and destroy you. So when people say, “Oh, I’m sick of reading about relationships,” I just have to laugh because to me they are this beautiful, confusing, terrifying constellation of points that add up to make a life.
I’ve not yet tired of mining that well in my fiction. Maybe check back with me in 10 years, but if I’m giving words of advice to people that are just starting out or are experimenting with flash fiction, it would be a reminder that relationships are not as simple as just, “Well, who are my exes? Who have I been in love with?” There are so many more connections throughout our lives that shape us and those obsessions that stem from them. If something is an obsession, you are going to be interested in it and have an easier time making your reader interested in it.
It’s just fascinating to me what memory does to protect us from ourselves: the doors that we did open and walk through, the doors that we passed by, the ones that we’ve now closed and are terrified of ever opening again. There’s just so much there to get material from.
BFR: Wow, okay. That was so beautifully put. Yeah, all we have in our existence as humans are connections and you deal mostly with person to person relationships, but even our relationship to our space and to the earth is so rich and complex.
ANNA VANGALA JONES: No, absolutely. I have stories in my collection where the protagonist mentions people they’re thinking about but they never once interact with them. I’m sure that’ll be slow fiction for some readers, but I have a story that’s really more about a place where she goes—back to her hometown along the Delaware River in New Jersey. The only interactions in the story are between her and these old buildings and the trees and the water. The other people live only in her mind and her memory. So I agree with you that place, if done well, is as integral to a story as the characters.
BFR: Female rage pervades much of your work. The choices female characters make to reclaim their agency, in stories like “Echo” and “How Then”, are often violent and self-destructive, but they’re made in an attempt to escape the physical and psychological violence that men inflict upon women. I’m curious about your thought process while writing these stories. Did you hope to achieve anything with these stories, consciously or even unconsciously?
ANNA VANGALA JONES: I love this question about female rage. You said, what do you hope to achieve and, being totally honest, I’m just not a writer who approaches stories with a message I’m trying to get across or any of that. Even things that I’m proud of, like our conversation about representation, that’s more a byproduct of wanting these stories told themselves, not so much, “I’m setting out to have this change or this impact.” Just to get that out of the way. And I think you’re right. I mean, there’s no way around it—in the stories you referenced, female rage is pulsing at the very heart of them.
I don’t think of them as revenge fantasies so much as a look at how complex and difficult a happy ending achieved through violence must be. And it’s also questioning, well, what should these characters be doing instead? There is no magical outside savior they can conjure to rescue them. The aggressors will likely just continue inflicting violence until they tire of it or are no longer able to do it. I think sometimes rage manifests in other ways and that can be powerful and meaningful, too. But however temporary or misguided these girls’ actions may seem in the moment, violence was the best way that they knew how, at that point, to become the actor in the story and no longer the acted upon. Self destructive or not.
When I write these stories, I don’t want to say something so overstated as, “I don’t tell the stories, the stories tell themselves.” I think that’s a little much to go that far. But there’s a grain of truth in that. I don’t have outlines. I don’t have plans. I don’t have a moral or a message at the outset. When I start writing a story, I sit down when it’s flowing out and I hurry to get as much down of it as I can—the ideal is when I get at least the skeleton of something: a beginning is there, an ending is there, and sometimes the middle is what’s missing.
So in those stories, the violent ending was just what those characters were heading toward. That’s what they came to the decision of doing based on what knowledge they had at hand as well as what in their past has built up to this moment. In the case of Parvati in “How Then,” I think there’s a lot of naivety involved and this innocent belief that she can save her sister from future pain by making her undesirable or unappealing, so she thinks this is the way to do it. Whereas in “Echo,” it’s much more clearly an effort at freedom and making sure that this can’t happen to another woman again.
I don’t think that would be the case for all characters, and I certainly have stories where there are women filled with the rage that at this point in history feels almost like our birthright because of how much has not changed, but they don’t act on it. And I don’t think that those characters, who it would never even occur to them to pursue violence in their situation, I don’t think they’re wrong either. I don’t think the stories seek to instruct a reader on whether it’s right or wrong to act or not act, but more simply to force them to confront this daily, unsolved horror pervading literally every society and community on Earth. We don’t have an idyllic place that is free of domestic violence or sexual harassment or assault, perpetrated against us both by people we know and people we don’t. That place doesn’t yet exist. And so while you will have women for whom violence can never be the answer, you will also have those for whom no other solution feels possible. And so this is their story. Of course none of these problems are restricted to just women, they span the entire human spectrum, but that’s who is facing it in these stories.
I love the horror genre, personally, but I think that there’s so much horror just in telling the realistic stories of women moving through life, and that’s infuriating and depressing, in equal measure. So I think it is common that we try to approach these topics through the lens of genre, not to make it more palatable, but to make more possible than is actually available to women in real life. We’ve got witches, the mystical, fantasy, speculative; all of these genres let us approach this one pervasive thing in our culture that we’re not able to easily solve in realistic fiction. So yes, I was fascinated by this question because it’s not something I did on purpose, but it is something I think about constantly.
BFR: Just the fact that they exist in the story that way was very powerful, even though it was dark and horrible, because I often don’t see female rage being presented as it is.
ANNA VANGALA JONES: Yeah, I know what you mean, without an effort to contextualize it because I don’t think the stories were seeking to say, “Oh, but it’s okay because A, B and C,” or, “But it’s wrong, don’t try this at home, kids.” Sometimes that rage needs to just be presented, like you said, as is.
Because until we are somehow able to give future generations a society where we don’t have to spend so much time and anxiety learning from a young age how dangerous your ponytail can be if you’re walking alone, or how to hold your keys, or how you can’t even trust the person sitting across from you in class when you’re out at a party, etc.—it’s silly to be surprised by the simmering anger under the fear.
Submit your under-1000-word story to the Berkeley Fiction Review for our annual 2021 Sudden Fiction contest! First, second, and third place finalists are published in the journal and receive prize money up to $150. Honorable mentions are published alongside the placed winners in the journal. There is a submission fee of $5. To find out more about our annual 2021 Sudden Fiction Contest, head over here.