Sick and Ugly- Q&A with Jenna Velez

by Vanessa Maki

Describe your writing style in one sentence.

Sick and ugly but learning to find beauty in the healing.

How long have you been writing?

Ever since I was little, I loved creative writing in school. English was always my favorite subject. I felt the bug creeping in of wanting to get my work into the world about a year ago. I only started submitting for publication in July thanks to you!

What has receiving support and being noticed been like for you?

A dream come true. I never ever imagined a stranger reading my work. I don’t want them to be a stranger I want to adopt them into my family, that’s how much it means. It makes everything worth it and I’m so grateful.

If you could collaborate with one writer on a project, who would it be ?

That’s a hard question, because I admire so many of my poetry friends and I adore their work and perspectives. But I’d have to say the lovely and talented Rebecca Kokitus. She’s one of my closest friends, and both of us being Pennsylvania poets I think we could brew up something special.

What type of music do you listen to when writing? Any particular artists?

Definitely moody acoustic vibes. A lot of Hozier, Keaton Henson, Fleetwood Mac, and Florence and the Machine. I feed off the sadness.

What do you want to see more of in literary spaces ?

I want to see more reckless inclusivity. Not for the sake of performative wokeness or demanding political work from marginalized folks. I just want to hear mundane, even boring things minorities don’t often have the privilege of writing due to demands of political labor. There’s a robbing of humanity that comes with demanding PoC and their bodies as beacons of social justice. Our existence isn’t a political prop, we’re complex and multi-faceted too. I don’t want the call for submissions from Latinx writers to be restricted to immigration or societal trauma. There is also value in poems about food, sex, dogs, etc. Let us create without boundaries in literary spaces. Let us take up space period.

Who or what inspires you?

Nature inspires me. Magic and the metaphysical inspire me. Music most definitely. And of course other writers. Reading other people’s work has been the greatest joy and fuel to be as confident and unapologetic as they are. There’s a bravery in that kind of vulnerability I’m forever chasing.

Do you have any tips for other emerging writers of color?

Trust your gut and find your people. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t collaborate with that person, don’t submit to that journal. Intuition is your strongest weapon. Also, there’s a growing and vibrant presence of lit mags, presses, and other writers of color that create spaces for us to just be. Find them and support them.

What’s next for Jenna Velez ?

More poems and essays to be birthed into the world. I hope to do more poetry readings and I’m currently compiling chapbook manuscripts. I think 2019 will be an exciting year for me.

Jenna Velez is an emerging queer Latinx poet from suburban Philadelphia. Her work has been featured or forthcoming in over a dozen literary journals. She is a columnist at Pussy Magic Press and contributing reader for Awkward Mermaid Lit Mag. Her work explores themes of trauma, identity, spirituality, and relationships that embody both the grotesque and the beautiful. She tweets @northernbruja and can be found at

  • Read "Every Martyr A Masochist" in the September Burning here.

  • Jenna recently shared a recipe for Mulled Wine over at Pussy Magic: Check it out here.

  • Read her poem "Five Month Anniversary" in Philosophical Idiot here.

Vanessa Maki is a writer (& other things), queer & full of black girl magic. She has work in various places like Entropy, Rising Phoenix Press, Sad Girl Review, Soft Cartel & forthcoming in Pussy Magic Press. She's founder/EIC of yell/shout/scream & rose quartz journal. She has also self-published a chapbook & micro chap. Follow her Twitter@theblackbuffy & visit her site.


© 2018 by Azia Archer

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