Florida Poet/Writer/Editor: A.J. Huffman

Interview With:

Bio:  A.J. Huffman:

A.J. Huffman is a poet and freelance writer in Daytona Beach, Florida.  She has previously published six collections of poetry all available on Amazon.comShe has also published her work in numerous national and international literary journals.  Most recently, she has accepted the position as editor for six online poetry journals for Kind of a Hurricane Press http://www.kindofahurricanepress.com/   Find more about A.J. Huffman, including additional information and links to her work at http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000191382454 and http://twitter.com/poetess222

Tell us about yourself-where you are from, education or lack of, family roots, some background.

I was born in West Middlesex, Pennsylvania.  I moved to Erie, Pennsylvania, to attend college at Penn State Behrend, where I studied Creative Writing and obtained my Bachelor’s Degree in the same.  I grew up in a large family.  I have three brothers and one sister.  I definitely get my independence and my determination from my mother and my father, both of whom have been successful in just about everything they ever tried, including their marriage.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
There wasn’t an epiphany moment for me when I said I wanted to be a writer.  I had always written, along with just about any other art endeavor I could find.  I liked to paint, draw, carve, sculpt, throw pots, anything I tried.  Becoming a writer was more of a conscious choice for me.  When I graduated, I was offered a full-ride practical art scholarship from a college in Iowa, and a partial writing scholarship from Penn State Behrend.  It was at that time I had to make my decision, and I decided writing was my future.  I took the partial writing scholarship and never looked back.

How long have you been writing?  Elaborate, not just yes, no.
Okay, this question is very dating, and does not have a simple answer.  I have been writing professionally for over 20 years.  I have been actually producing written words since I was in first grade, which is well over 20 years ago.  I wrote my very first short story (and I still remember the title:  Let’s All Live in a Yellow Submarine) in response to a three to five line assignment my first grade teacher gave us.  Mine was three pages.  I guess you could say that even from the very beginning, I was pushing writing boundaries.

Have you always wanted to be a published writer?  Elaborate, not just yes, no.

Absolutely.  In fact, it never occurred to me, even when I was young that I would not have a book published some day.  It wasn’t even a dream so much as a goal that I just knew I would eventually check off my to do list.  Even in college when my thesis advisor, upon reading the poetry collection I took an entire year to put together, informed me that it was, at best, average and nothing she would ever pick up and buy, did it occur to me that I might be wrong in my assumptions of publication.  As it turns out, thankfully, my advisor was the one who was wrong.
When do you write? When do you not?

For me, the more fitting question here is when do I not write.  I quite literally write all the time.  Even when I am not physically putting word to paper, I am thinking about potential poem or collection ideas.  I carry a journal and pen in my purse, I keep one in every room of the house, I even sleep with one under my pillow.  As for my most productive writing time, I would say that falls between midnight and 6 a.m.  I am an incurable insomniac and the quiet of the house at that hour really seems to trigger my imagination.

What resources online (include links and websites) help you most as a writer?  What resources who you suggest for beginning writers?  I consider this question important since all need new sources to help us find publishers, forums, etc.

The online resource I cannot live without is www.duotrope.com.  I think every writer with hopes of publishing should subscribe.  It used to be a free resource, but now charges a measly $5.00 a month.  And it is worth every penny.  They constantly update their current listings and add new ones daily.  There is a wonderful new feature, just added, that lists all the themes for listed journals and deadlines.  You can search and sort through the listings for genre, length of work, payment provided.  It really had taken a ton of research work off my shoulders, and puts innumerable publication possibilities at writers’ fingers. 

I also find this site incredibly useful as an editor for my online literary journals.  They have been extremely helpful in getting our small press off the ground and noticed by some amazing up and coming poets.  I highly recommend it.

Is being a writer/poet anything like you imagined it would be?  Elaborate, not just yes, no.

I would have to say a resounding no to that question.  Growing up, I always assumed if you were talented you would be successful.  I guess I thought it would be easy.  Going to college, I learned more about the amount of work that went into producing high-quality writing, so I no longer thought it would be easy.  But I did by did continue to think that if I worked hard and had talent I would be successful.  Well, now I am what can definitely be considered a successful writer, and I still have to keep my day job.  So, no, it is nothing like I thought it would be.  I really, truly believed that at this point in my writing career, I would be able to focus only on my writing and that just is not the case.
Have you figured out a way of making money as a writer or poet?  Elaborate, not just yes, no.
Yes and no.  I get paid for my poetry now fairly regularly.  Unfortunately, that will not pay the bills.  I am writing my first fiction novel.  I am hoping that might up the monetary provisions of writing, but the reality of the situation in the writing world is that it is incredibly difficult to get to a point where you can rely on writing only.  And I am speaking here from both my personal experience, and that of my writer friends.  But I remain hopeful.  I am still a die-hard believer that work and talent will eventually equal monetary success and financial security.
What inspires you to write and do you remember the exact moment you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Again, there was never a time that I remember not considering myself a writer to some extent, so there was no “wanting to be” factor that played in.  As for what inspires me, well, again, a better question would be “What doesn’t inspire me?”  I am not exaggerating when I say I cannot think of one thing that I could not turn into some form of poem or short story.  I have written poems and fiction on everything from my own skinned knee to the most recent atrocity the media has deemed “newsworthy.”  The funny part is that my friends and family are constantly challenging that belief.  They’ll see something or hear something and say, oh look, you should write about that.  And I always do.  Most recently, a friend challenged me to write a poem about a single strand of cobweb that was strung from the ceiling girder of my gym to the treadmill.  I texted him the completed poem about 20 minutes after I got home from the gym.
Who are notable authors who have influence your writing?
This is a tough question for me, as there are so many.  I would have to say that Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton were major inspirations on my poetry growing up.  Stephen King is definitely one of my fiction gods.  Charles Bukowski has a wonderful no-nonsense storytelling quality to his poetry that I find incredible.  And most recently, I am enamored with the fiction of Laurell K. Hamilton.  She has the ability to completely draw me into her fantastical tales until I actually forget they are not real.  But that’s just the tip of the list.  I could go on and on, but I think this is an reasonable sampling of favorites.
Do you follow a strict writing schedule or just write when the spirit hits you?
I try to follow a strict writing schedule, I do.  Especially with my novel.  But the reality is, it never plays out as planned.  The closest I come to an actual schedule is to make sure I write something every day. That something could be anything, a poem, a paragraph of novel, a flash fiction piece, a partial poem idea.  But I do make sure I write every single day.
What stimulates or motivates you to write:  nature, human events, a little wine or vodka, or did I miss something?-this is a being honest with yourself question.  Where/how do you find the most inspiration?
Another tough one.  Growing up, human events, were definitely my main source of inspiration.  I mean, what woman isn’t motivated by her love-life (or lack thereof).  I was no exception.  As I am getting older, my focus seems to be changing on its own.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, I still write about my love life (or lack thereof), but I am finding that I am now more drawn to poetry of my surroundings.  And since I relocated to Florida several years back, I am specifically most inspired by the breathtaking natural scenery I am surrounded by every day.
What type of stories, poetry, and/or fiction do you like to read, imitate, or write?
Hands down, I prefer to read science fiction or horror.  No question.  I am the world’s biggest sucker (pun intended) for vampire and/or werewolf novels that ever lived.  I still believe Dracula was the single best piece of fiction ever written.
What I like to write most of all is poetry.  Definitely, I am a poet at heart.  It is the form that comes to me most often. 
To imitate?  I really try very hard not to imitate.  But if I was going to, I would absolutely want to imitate J.K. Rowling.  I think the phenomenon she has created with her words/stories is absolutely awe-inspiring.  She has single-handedly made reading cool to kids again.  And that is definitely something there is not enough of.
Editor note, J.K. Rowling's official website:  http://www.jkrowling.com/
Can you tell me what tools, resources, or how or your working to grow as an artist?  What tools, resources, or how or you working to grow as an artist?  Please list their names, websites and links.
I firmly believe that the only way to grow as an artist in any field, is to keep up with what is happening/developing in that field.  So in writing, that would be to read these online journals.  Some of them are doing some amazingly creative and different things.  Subscribe to one or two or four (whatever fits into your budget) of the print only journals.  You need to know the new styles and forms that are developing.  You need to know about the old ones that are coming back into fashion.  You need to see what the editors want in order to improve on what you are currently doing.  As for the websites, again, I would direct to www.duotrope.com, they are the most comprehensive collection of journals (both online and print only) that I have found.  Just go down their alphabetical list and read, even a small sampling from each one.  And when you find one that strikes you, read it from cover to cover.  The boundaries are disappearing.  New forms and styles are appearing daily.  A writer needs to keep up.
If you had to choose, what would you say are the two best poems, flash fiction, or short stories you have ever written to this date?  Would you like to share a link to those works-or send them the works themselves to my email?  Send personal photo if available.
I do not have a favorite piece.  I would say my best poem, is a piece called Counting Alligators in the Moonlight and it is coming out in the next issue of The Labletter.  Especially with my poetry, each piece holds something special, so singling out a favorite is impossible.  As for my short stories.  To this day, I remember my very first one, Let’s All Live In A Yellow Submarine, and I wish more than anything I still had a copy of it to share.  I remember it even had illustrations that I drew.  I was an over-achiever, even then.
Editor note:  I have received two additional wonderful poems from  A.J. Huffman I would like to share with all of you directly below:
The Reverberation of More than Tongues
By:  A.J. Huffman

I am a fan of ridiculous.
And the taste
of the syllables
as they drip from my lips.
There is a slightly misogynistic undertone.
And a hint of intangible usurpation
necessary to the process of digestion.
Of course, all of this is vulgarly destructive.
Yet pertinent.
To procure the mortar of mind.
Pure and simple.
It fills this space with its fledged inklings.
Tiny but resolute.
Listen to their bleating.
They are braving symbolic
As yet unimagined hands
attempt to trace
                                                       and forage
meaningful sap
from the mere shadow
of the echo I leave behind.
Three Steps Past
By:  A.J. Huffman

Stars!  String tendrils.  Twisting, my eyes
answer their fall.  Awkward is the angle
of ascension’s glaze.  Sticky as any figure
of night, a dance begins.  Timing tilts.  Shifts backwards
over rainbows.  Glowing nowhere has become
the latest fashion in this festival of festering
fortunes.  I pick two at random.
They will breed something . . . horrifying, I suppose,
is the best guess I can muster.  Sew the label tight.
I cannot shine in Hell unsigned.
What is your opinion on self-publishing as opposed to traditional publishing?  Please list for our readers the publisher(s), POD (print on demand) or self publishing you use or have used.  If use have used traditional publishers who are they?  Give us a sense of your personal experience and attitudes toward them.  Please understand there is a difference between POD publisher who request money to publish you i.e. universe, etc and those like Lulu.com and CreateSpace.com where you publish yourself and edit yourself.  How do you feel about traditional publishers?
This is a complicated question, so please remember this is just my opinion.  As an editor of numerous journals over the years, I have worked with just about every kind of publishing company known to man.  I would say, if you have the experience and diligence to do the work yourself, the self-publishing companies are definitely cost effective.  And they do produce amazing work.  But, and this is a big but, you are opening yourself up to an incredible amount of work, and the possibility of mistakes and technical issues that tend to compound.  Obviously a full-service publisher can offer services that make publishing incredibly easy, but they tend to be expensive.  So there are pros and cons to both. 
As for writers, obviously, we all want to work with publishers who do everything for us and even pay us for our work.  This is not as easy as one would like to believe (myself included).  I would always encourage writers to send their work to publishers, especially small press publishers.  They are incredible to work with and can really help promote your work.  However, I am also a realist, and again, if you are willing to do the work yourself, sites like lulu.com and createspace.com have given writers of all kinds the opportunity to get our work out there in ways that were never possible before.  Again, my only caution is self-publishing requires self-editing, so just remember, once it is out there with your name on it, it is out there with your name on it.  You will be associated with that work forever.  So exercise extreme diligence, but yes, I do encourage self-publishing to a certain extent, especially for poets.  It is such an under-appreciated (by mainstream publishers) genre.
Do you have any parting words for our readers; any words of wisdom to share?
My words of wisdom, for whatever they are worth, is to not let anyone tell you not to write.  Most importantly, you have to remember that an editor is just another person with another opinion.  What he or she may tell you is awful, the next one might think is brilliant.  Too often, I have seen writers crumble or obsess over editor comments.  You have to be tough, you have to be able to mentally (never out loud) tell that editor to stuff it, and move on to the next one.  This is a very difficult and subjective industry to be a part of.  You have to develop a tough skin, immediately.
Are you trying anything new: video's on line, MP3 audio files, any
particular writing forums that attract you?   Please list their names, websites and links.
(If you have any helpful, interesting sites, forums, where to find new publishers, etc. for writers-be sure to include the name and websites-I think this type of sharing helps us all)
It just so happens, that I have had the pleasure of meeting an incredibly talented poet (Pulitzer Prize Nominated), who created a new style of poetry called Hinge Theory.  His name Heller Levinson, you can find his work all over the web.  Most importantly, in my opinion on my websites, www.pyrokinection.com and www.jellyfishwhispers.com but also on tons of other sites like http://fowlpox.tk/ (where he has a downloadable chapbook).  I am absolutely obsessed with Hinge Theory and would highly recommend anyone who is interested in this newly-developing style to check out his extensive explanation thereof in his book Smelling Mary, available from Howling Dog Press.  His work is experimental in nature, far more so than mine, but Hinge Theory in general is quite adaptive.  I have had no trouble working it into my own personal style of poetry.  Anyone looking to try something new, should definitely check it out.
By what methods or sources are you trying to market your works with?  Do you find marketing your works for exposure easy or difficult?  Please list their names, websites and links.
Marketing is incredibly difficult, and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.  I will say, that the new forms of social media have made it somewhat easier.  At least in producing sales revenue, i.e. getting people knowledge of your work, and generating interest in you as a writer.  Face book, Twitter, LinkedIn, all of these are integral parts of marketing in the 21st century.  As for getting academic exposure and reviews, well, that you still have to do that the hard way.  Sending out manuscripts, asking for reviews, praying they come back good.  Unfortunately, there is still no substitute for hard work.
Where can we find your works?  Feel free to show links or websites.
As my current publication resume is 26-pages long, the easiest way to find my work is just to Google me.  A.J. Huffman and the word poetry will bring a substantial list of sites I am published on.  For more specific details, friend me on Facebook under my full name, Amy Huffman, or on twitter @poetess222.  I try to post every poem and the journal name or link that publishes my work.

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