Angela Jackson-Brown was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for her short story, “Something in the Wash.” Our department intern, Rhiannon Racy, interviewed her about the story, the relationship between her teaching and writing, and her advice to aspiring writers.
Tell me about “Something in the Wash” and how you found out about the nomination?
“Something in the Wash” originally began as a poem about a black woman whose husband has been unfaithful and impregnates a young woman. Ultimately the two women come together, and the wife takes in the woman and her child. Later I revised the poem into a short story. My creative thesis mentor, Crystal Wilkinson, first suggested that I send the story to the New Southerner’s fiction literary contest. In 2009, the story appeared in the New Southerner literary magazine as the winner of the Fiction Prize.
A year after winning the fiction prize, I received a phone call from the editor, Bobbi Buchanan, informing me that I had been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. At first I wasn’t too excited about it, but after people began congratulating me, I realized it was a huge honor that I should be taking more seriously. I realized that the nomination placed me in the same category as many of the writers who I admire, and receiving the nomination also acted as an affirmation of my work. I didn’t win; however, cliché sounding or not, I truly feel like the nomination was enough. Receiving it was definitely a validation. I, and other writers, spend so much time honing our craft that it feels so good when we do get that recognition.
How did you begin teaching and how does teaching shape your writing?
I started my academic career as a business major, but later I completed a Master’s of Arts degree in English from Auburn University. I taught for a while, but then I became burnt out with teaching so I worked in marketing and public relations for ten years. But I knew I loved creative writing so I went back to school for my MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University, graduating from there in the Fall of 2009. I consider myself a late bloomer as far as publishing goes. I’ve always been a storyteller and writer, but I’ve never pursued publishing except in the last few years.
Being a professor of English makes me focus on the things I am teaching my students. It allows me to be the physician and heal myself. Teaching students keeps me motivated because I have to practice what I preach to my students in my own writing.
If you could attribute your success to anyone, who would it be?
As a young girl, I read Maya Angelou’s book, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, and afterwards, I had a light bulb moment occur. I realized she was black like me. I remember being so excited about that fact, hardly able to wait to tell my teacher, Miss Brimmer, that I was going to be a writer like Maya Angelou. My excitement stemmed from the realization that if Maya Angelou could write stories about her life then I could, too.
The writers I came in contact with at Spalding University have also helped me to reach where I am now because we have continued, even after graduation, to be a united, supportive writing community. Something every writer needs in his or her life.
What are your future plans and do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
I am going to continue writing. I want to expand beyond fiction and poetry and adapt some of my writing into one act plays. I am also working on and off on a novel.
As far as advice, I would say, don’t write with the goal of getting published. If you’re writing solely for that purpose, then you are limiting yourself. If you write what you love, it will find its literary home someday. Just be patient.
Link to “Something in the Wash” in New Southerner: