Author Spotlight: Anastasia Jill

Author Spotlight: Anastasia Jill

Anastasia’s piece, ‘Teeth in a Baggy’, can be found in Epoch Press’ Autumn issue, ‘Transitions’, which you can purchase here.

‘Transitions’ is such an evocative theme, what compelled you to submit for this issue? 

In the last year, I’ve experienced a lot of grief and loss and in turn, have had many transitions. After college, I became a full time caregiver for my mother who had congestive heart failure and my grandmother who had dementia. I lost my mom in December of 2020 and my grandmother in mid-May. Despite their illnesses, both passed quite suddenly and unexpectedly. Changes followed: grieving my only immediate family, leaving my childhood home, living alone with no steady career (after years of caregiving), and my own physical and mental health in a decline following the loss. Since December, my writing has reflected the process of my grief and, in turn, the transitions that follow. The poem I submitted for the ‘Transitions’ was written the day my grandmother’s ashes were picked up from the funeral home. I remember they returned her dentures in a plastic bag, and that image stuck with me for days. Grief brings transitions I never expected it to, and despite the pain and struggle, writing has given me an outlet to explore my feelings.

Do you have a routine for writing? If so, what is it and how has it evolved?

I write best at night, which messes up my sleep schedule varily. Over the years, I’ve become more comfortable in knowing what works best. I’ve been writing since I was young, but publishing professionally since I was a teenager, and my routine looks the same at the bare bones. I cannot write without music, and I am more productive at night. The actual practice itself tends to be more chaotic. I rarely make outlines or plan too far ahead; the notes I do make are as legible as a doctor’s cursive. My characters don’t listen to me and have minds of their own. Really, they’re taking me along for the ride. With poetry and creative non-fiction, I get experimental linguistically, but the process is fundamentally the same. No matter what I’m writing, I have a notebook to scribble any odd ideas or edits.  

What is most challenging and most rewarding about using real life in your poetry? 

 The most rewarding part of using my real life in my poetry is the lack of “try hard” energy that comes with it. In the past, it felt like I was throwing a thesaurus at the screen and hoping for the best, trying hard to write the things I was “supposed” to write. Despite my young age, I have a wealth of life experience to draw on, and turning to my real life has benefited me in more ways than one. The most challenging part is vulnerability. In real life, I put forth a “happy-go-lucky” personality, and oftentimes my writing voice betrays my forced cheer. I don’t like being so open with my feelings, but know it is a necessary part of growing and healing as a writer. 

What song is on repeat for you right now?

For Once in my Life by Stevie Wonder — it’s the featured track of my National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) playlist and I’ve been listening to it non-stop since November began. (Admittedly, I first heard it during a Shrek Halloween movie marathon. It’s the closing title song of the fourth movie. But I do enjoy older music — Lesley Gore and Petula Clark are my favourite artists — so a song like this was right up my alley).

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