Monday, July 8, 2013

Jessica Bell – Author Interview

You are gaining more readership and recognition with your poetry and fiction. Has this been fuelled by your other writing-related activities? I believe that all these writing-related activities mean that I need to be online quite a lot. As a result, I’ve become visible, to quite some extent, through social media. And to be honest, I couldn’t live without it. I’m quite isolated being an English writer in a non-English speaking country, and I need to promote my work to the English-speaking world.

The key to social networking, though, is to engage in conversations, interact with your audience. Saying, “buy my book, it’s great” all the time, isn’t going to sell it. But saying “hey, what do you think about blah blah blah?” and actually eliciting opinions from others, means you are saying something that people are interested in. And if they’re interested in what you’re saying online, then it’s likely they are going to investigate you further. It’s a long process, and hard work. But it certainly pays off.

How’s this for statistics? I’ve been blogging and engaging in social media, pretty much every single day, since March 2010. And only this year, three years later, have I started to see true results. It takes effort, persistence, stamina, but most of all love and passion. Because this ‘being visible’, (and let’s say it with a good old cliché, hey?) doesn’t happen overnight.

You founded and are co-editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal. What inspired you to create this new journal? What types of literature do you publish and how do people submit to you? In late 2011, Dawn Ius and I founded Vine Leaves Literary Journal to offer the vignette, a forgotten literary form, the exposure and credit it deserves. The vignette is a snapshot in words, and differs from flash fiction or a short story in that its aim doesn’t lie within the traditional realms of structure or plot, instead it focuses on one element, mood, character, setting or object. The journal, published quarterly online, is a lush synergy of atmospheric prose, poetry, photography and illustrations, put together with an eye for aesthetics as well as literary merit. The annual print anthology showcases the very best pieces that appeared in the journal.

Submission guidelines are on the website.

You organized a big writing conference in Greece last summer where Chuck Sambuchino from Writers Digest was the instructor. What made you decide to organize this event? I have long dreamed of running a writer’s retreat on Ithaca. I’ve spent a lot of time on this little Greek island since the age of two, because my step father and his family are from there (my parents also live there now). With the risk of sounding clichéd, (ha!) this place really is a little piece of heaven. It remains unspoiled by the modern world. Even in the height of summer you can find a secluded beach or a rustic corner to contemplate your thoughts. On Ithaca you’ll discover the island’s rich culture and the reason why it holds such a special place in the hearts of those who have visited its shores.

The Homeric Writers’ Retreat & Workshop invites participants to their very own private odyssey on the island of Ithaca—a retreat about riveting one’s writing through an immersive and intimate Homeric journey. Our instructors in 2014 are, Katharine Sands, a literary agent with the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency, and Beatriz Badikian-Gartler, a popular performer in the Chicago area who often lectures on women’s issues, art, and literature. In 2000 Badikian was selected as one of the One-Hundred Women Who Make a Difference in Chicago by Today’s Woman magazine.

To explore more of Ithaca online, please visit:

To learn more about the writing retreat, please visit:

How are you able to be so productive as a writer, a musician, editor, and conference organizer, as well as having a good social media platform, while working full-time? I’m not usually a person who utilizes lists and schedules. But I certainly have been forced to create them due to all of the projects I juggle. It’s difficult. There’s no denying that fact. But it’s also fun! I enjoy every minute of it.

Basically I do everything in scheduled, short bursts. I get up early to make sure I have one hour to write and one hour to do something else from my list (such as Vine Leaves or retreat organization). I pick and choose depending on priority. During my lunch break, I blog, and spend about half an hour to an hour (depends on how long I can take from work) on social media. After work, I walk the dog, make dinner, maybe go to yoga (I do neglect my laundry, though. Too often). Once that’s done, I’ll spend another hour or so doing something else from my list (if I’m up-to-date on all my tasks, I’ll try and do something creative like writing, or music again). Then I’ll relax in front of the TV, or do something else away from the computer before I go to bed. Then in bed, I’ll read a chapter or two of whatever book I’m reading. Sometimes that may even include critiquing a friend’s manuscript. Reading to me is relaxing and not a chore, so I really don’t feel like that is tackling any sort of task.

The most important thing? Recognizing when I’m too tired and need to take a few days off. If I don’t give myself decent breaks where I don’t do anything, then I very quickly burn out and fall behind.

What are you working on now? Right now I’m working on my 4th novel! Working title: White Lady. It’s set in Melbourne, Australia, and is about a young woman named Mia who is fighting fat with white ladies. (Yep, I’ll leave that to your own interpretation for now! Hint: don’t think literally.)

I’m also putting together an anthology of personal essays from Indie authors called Indiestructible: Inspiring Stories from the Publishing Jungle, which is slated for release September 16. A few contributing authors you may know are Melissa Foster, Susan Kaye Quinn, and Leigh Talbert Moore. This is the best of the indie tradition of experienced authors paying forward what they’ve learned, offering information to help others on their indie journey. All profits will be donated to BuildOn.

Note: This cyberpunk/dystopian short story is an experimental work of fiction written in verse. Page count: 30. Word count: 2000.

It’s illegal to wear clothes. In some streets, it’s also illegal to sing. Concetta, a famous Italian a capella singer from before “the change,” breaks these laws. As punishment, her vocal chords are brutally slashed, and her eardrums surgically perforated. Unable to cope living a life without song, she resolves to drown herself in the river, clothed in a dress stained with performance memories. But Concetta’s suicide attempt is deterred, when she is distracted by a busking harpist with gold eyes and teeth. Will he show her how to sing again, or will the LEO on the prowl for another offender to detain, arrest her before she has the chance?

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Genre – Cyberpunk / Dystopian / Short Story in Verse

Rating – PG13

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