Read Anisha Johnson's winning entry here: Flapper Girl
AmeriCymru: Hi Anisha and many thanks for agreeing to this interview. When did you first decide to start writing?
Anisha: I've been writing for as long as I can remember! My mother taught me to read when I was three and put a pencil in my hand as soon as I could hold one, so I was always encouraged to read and write as much as I could.
I was homeschooled by my mother my whole life, so I had the chance to write not just essays but also creative writing pieces for school. However, I wouldn't say that writing really became one of my hobbies until freshman year of high school, when I started to write outside of school hours as well. I started writing poetry first, and I finally decided to tackle the challenge of writing a novel when I participated in National Novel Writing Month in 2015. After that I set myself the goal of writing a novel every year, and I've continued to write short stories and poetry since then.
AmeriCymru: What is your writing process? Do you rely largely on observation or are your stories pure products of the imagination?
Anisha: Both, actually, although I would say that the latter is usually more prevalent. I've been writing a lot of historical fiction lately, which has seemed to require more observation and research than imagination, but whenever I write fantasy, short stories, or poetry, I tend to write from my own imagination as much as I can. As fantasy is usually my genre of choice, I spend a lot of time with my eyes shut just thinking about various possibilities and ideas (this is usually what I'm doing when I'm caught daydreaming). I feel obligated to think of all my worlds and characters completely on my own, because it somehow seems like cheating to borrow from something that I saw in real life (that being said, if I'm really stuck and desperately need inspiration, I tend to get it from my writer friends. I’ll tell them about my ideas and ask them to pitch in and give ideas of their own, and sometimes by the end of these conversations the story has changed completely!).
My writing process is very haphazard. I hate writing outlines, so I usually just trust myself to remember all of my ideas, although sometimes if I have an idea for a particular line or scene I'll write it down in a document full of notes related to that particular writing project. For all of my novels, I basically just have these twenty-page long documents full of random ideas and pieces of dialogue, that I scroll through periodically to remind myself. It's complete chaos, but it's worked for me so far. And it's very gratifying to finish writing a novel and delete the last random idea from my notes, knowing that I have incorporated everything I wanted to into the book.
I also try to write for at least an hour a day (even if I'm writing trash! Writing stuff that I know I'll throw away later is better than writing nothing at all, and many of my best ideas have come from short stories or false starts that were eventually deleted). Discipline is a very important part of my writing process. Consequently, I don't usually write out-of-sequence; I like to write all of my scenes in the order that they're going to appear in the final version.
I guess you said say that my writing process consists of organized chaos…
AmeriCymru: In his adjudication Mike Jenkins says:- "...in the end I went for 'Flapper Girl' by Anisha Johnson, which really caught a moment in time very well." Did you have a particular effect on the reader in mind as you wrote this story?
Anisha: Sort of, but I didn't put as much thought into it as I'd like to pretend I did. I mainly just wanted readers to put down the story and immediately start wondering what would happen to the character next. I think that everybody has experienced difficult situations where telling the truth could lead to disaster, and struggled with the outcomes of such situations. It's easy to feel sympathy for people going through similar situations, and I had this in mind when I wrote this story. I wanted readers to feel pity for the character trying to make a difficult decision, but I also wanted them to feel proud of her, in a way, for finally choosing to take the hard-but-right path, in the same way that we all feel proud of ourselves when we do the right thing despite the hardship that sometimes entails. Other than that, I really just wanted readers to enjoy the story!
AmeriCymru: Have you published anything else? Where can readers go to find more of your work?
Anisha: Yes! One of my poems, ‘human’, was published as a winner in the California Coastal Art and Poetry Contest, an consequently published in an electronic issue of Chapman University’s TAB: A Journal of Poetry & Poetics. My poem ‘sometimes’ was published in the Live Poets Society of NJ’s anthology “My World” in summer of 2018. And my short story ‘The Fog’ was published as an Honorable Mention in Bluefire, the literary journal of the Leyla Beban Young Authors Foundation.
AmeriCymru: What's next for Anisha Johnson?
Anisha: I graduated from high school in June 2018, and am taking a gap year before attending Mount Holyoke College this fall to study computer science, film, and creative writing. I have several more writing projects in the works, ranging from novels to poems, and I hope to learn screenwriting in the near future as well.
AmeriCymru: Any final message for the readers and members of AmeriCymru?
Anisha: Thank you for reading my story and my interview — it means the world to authors like me who are just starting out in their careers! Writing really would mean nothing without people to read it. Every new audience that I write for helps me grow as an author, so thank you for being one of those audiences.