YPL: Can you tell us about your background, where you grew up, how you started writing, any special writers who influenced you, any particular experience that triggered your creative juices?
ASHLIE: I am from West Virginia. I grew up in a small town called Bradley. I was homeschooled after the sixth grade. I spent most of my teenage years reading and writing, and watching films. I did not go out much as a teen, so it gave me more time to be creative. In those years, I encountered some of my worst OCD and depression. However, I think if I would not have suffered the way I did, I would not have created the stories and poems I have over the years. I create characters who are like me, in fiction and poetry. I can use them to express what I cannot out-loud in my own reality.
Well in 2008 I discovered The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice. There was a book store at the local mall and I went there to order The Vampire Lestat. I remember reading and feeling so full of life, like I had found a meaning to myself that I hadn’t known before. It was through reading Lestat that I realized I could put all the emotions I was feeling into my own characters, and I could create any type of world I wanted to around them. I learned how to write with honesty and not be afraid to go too deep when expressing myself.
I still have the book. I have re-read it several times and am certain I will continue to -reread it throughout the years. I would say that The Vampire Lestat triggered my creative juices for sure.
YPL: How long have you been submitting your writing for publication and what got you started?
ASHLIE: I have been submitting four years now. Well, for years I have kept my writing in journals. I’ve written a lot of poems and short stories in these journals, and at some point I decided to go through them and chose the best poems/short stories I had written, type them up and send them out. It was scary sending out that first submission. I was prepared to be rejected, but the first time it happened I felt like my work might have not been as good as what I thought. The thing each writer must keep in mind is just because ten places decide against your work it does not mean you are a bad writer. It just means you have not found the right place for your work. Never doubt your work just because several places turn it down. It is all about finding that perfect home and that one editor who understands your message and wants to share it with the world.
YPL: When I see the brevity of your work, I’m reminded of Far Eastern poetry. Is this coincidence, or has there been a link between your work and say the poetry of Basho and Isha or maybe Li Po and Du Fu? Or am I grasping at straws here to make a link?
ASHLIE: Li Po, Isha, Du Fu and Basho are poets I have recently discovered. I can see where there are similarities in our writing styles, especially Li Po.
YPL: Do you do a lot of rewriting and polishing of your poetry before submitting it, or do you pretty much go with your first attempts? How would you describe your writing process? Do you write every day?
ASHLIE: If it is a short poem, I edit it once or twice and send it. If it is a longer poem, I edit it a couple times. Sometimes I’ll sleep on it and think of something to add or take out, or I’ll see an error I missed. I think for longer works, it’s good to sleep on it then look at it again the next day, that way your mind is fresh and you can focus better.
I would describe my writing process a bit obsessive at times. Once I get an idea in my head and start writing, I can’t stop. Sometimes I’ll go a long time before I get these good ideas, but once I do, I want to make sure I describe the visions inside my head as vividly as possible. I do not write every day, but if I do not write, I try to make an effort to edit older works or to read my previous work for inspiration.
YPL: In your bio you mention having an interest in photography. Do you think the brevity of your poetry exhibits a sort of snapshot approach to looking at a subject? Is there a connection between the two art forms?
ASHLIE: Definitely. When I write my visionary poetry, I imagine a single moment and add bizarre details to it. In a lot of my visionary poetry, I like to add a ghostly feel to it. So if I imagine a scene, such as a lake with a tree log floating it in, I would add something sinister to it, or something eerie, like a demon or angel. I could also capture this scene in photography if I had a model to pose as the supernatural creature. So there is definitely a connection between the two art forms. They can both influence each other. What I mean is I could write a poem inspired by photo and I could take a photo inspired by a poem.
YPL: What are your writing goals for 2017? How do you feel about chapbooks? Have you looked into getting a collection of your poetry published?
ASHLIE: My writing goal for 2017 is to finish editing one of my novellas. I have been working on editing it for a long time now, so it would be very rewarding to finally finish it and start sending it out. I have looked into getting a collection of my poetry published, yes. I would love to see that happen.
YPL: You have had a lot of really nice work published at a very young age. Do you have any advice as to how young writers can allocate time to work on their writing? Many in your age group are going to school, working, starting families, etc. Making time must be an issue.
ASHLIE: Yes, making time to write can be hard. I work, and sometimes when I get home I am too stressed or exhausted to focus on writing. My advice would be to not overthink your lack of time to write. It will stress you out even more and cloud up your mind. I usually never plan when I am going to write. Some days I’ll just sit in front of the computer, and a story will come to me. I think it’s good to let the writing come to you when it’s ready. Even if time is an issue, you do not have to finish a story/poem all at once. You can continue the next day. So that’s my advice, do not over-think and stress yourself out if you do not have time to write every day. Once the creative juices come to you, you will find a way to make time.
YPL: When it comes to your writing, how do you measure success? Are there pieces that are favorites of yours that remain unpublished because the right editor hasn’t claimed them? If work of yours gets rejected, do you do some polishing on it before sending it out again or stick with the original?
ASHLIE: I measure success by how I affect my readers. When I see comments on my stories where the reader understood the message and was touched, or just entertained by my work, I feel really happy. I want my stories to make you feel something. Even if my message, for example if to make someone feel a sense of sorrow, if they get another message from the one I intended, I feel like I achieved what I was trying to do, and that is to make my readers feel something.
Well, I just wrote a story that I have been sending to a lot of places. So far, it has been rejected. I do not blame my work so much like I used to. I used to blame it on my work, but after four years of submitting, I have learned that it’s just about finding the right home for your work. Even if an editor enjoyed the work they rejected, sometimes it’s just not the right type of story for their magazine. It is all about finding the right place. I have sent out stories I really believed in for almost six months before an editor finally accepted them. If you believe in the work you are sending, it will eventually get accepted. I truly believe that. It just takes patience and determination to find the proper place for it.
Yes, I sometimes go back and polish a frequently rejected piece, just to see if something does not make sense or if the story/poem seems incomplete.
YPL: Where do you see yourself as far as writing five, ten, or twenty years from now? Is there a book in the works? You have a love of short poetry and fiction, but do you think you might write a novel or novella at some point?
ASHLIE: Well, ten years from now I hope I will have my novellas out. I have several novellas I have written over the years. I am currently working on editing one now. Once I finish editing it, I plan to send it out to a lot of places. I would also like to have a collection of my flash stories published.
YPL: You said once that anxiety can be a major influence on writing. Can you explain that idea to us?
ASHLIE: Anxiety is something you cannot see; you feel it inside of you. In order to get it out, you need a way to express it. I do that through writing. What I am too ashamed to explain about my anxiety disorder, I express through writing. I do not have to come out and say, “I am miserable. I had a terrible anxiety attack today.” I can go write a story about a man who plays violin and has one eye. Through that concept, I can explain a secret misery. I use my imagination and anxiety to create my work. My story “The Violin He Played Downstairs” was the concept I was referring to. It is about a man who used his eye as a rosin for his violin bow, and how his friend was always worried about him due to the grief he suffered. I used that concept to express not only my anxiety, but depression. The using of his eye for the rosin was kind of like an allegory for desperation and extreme grief.
YPL: Much of your writing seems to explore the darker regions of human experience. Do you think this is a positive way of dealing with troubling issues and tends to allow the writer a sort of catharsis where at the end of the story, the writer and (the reader) can feel relieved that they can now return to a better place?
ASHLIE: I think it is definitely a positive way of dealing with troubling issues. When I was reading “The Vampire Lestat” by Anne Rice, I felt a sense of sorrow, anger and longing from Lestat. During those times, my anxiety and depression were extremely severe, so when I was reading and felt the same feelings coming from Lestat, I felt like I had someone to relate to. That really made me feel relieved because back then, I was only thirteen and thought I something was terribly wrong with me.
YPL: Do dreams ever inspire stories or poems?
ASHLIE: Yes! I once had a dream about a coffin that was floating down a river. There were these tall creatures in white capes standing on the river bank watching as the coffin flowed passed them, which I found very eerie, yet fascinating. I woke up and rushed to write a poem inspired by it. Sometimes I’ll have very emotional dreams and they help me describe my feelings better when I write.
To learn more about the writing of Ashlie Allen, go to her website: