Candlesticks and Daggers Interview Series: Kelly Ann Jacobson

candlesticks-and-daggers-front-coverThis interview is the first in a series run by contributor Sati Benes Chock that will appear in connection with the brand new anthology Candlesticks and Daggers.

Kelly Ann Jacobson is the editor and publisher of the anthology, and so we shall kick off the series with getting to know her a little better.


Sati: Hi Kelly! Looking at your bio, I’m so impressed. You are a literature professor who also finds the time to write short stories, novels, and publish anthologies? How the heck do you find the time to do all of this? Do you sleep? Please tell us you don’t sleep.

Kelly: Thank you so much, Sati! I do sleep, but I don’t do a lot of other things…like clean my house ;). Or fold down the recycled cardboard boxes, which pile up on the Answers Ill Acceptcounter and drive my husband nuts.

Can you tell us a little about how you became a writer? How did you begin? Do you remember your first story?

I definitely remember my first story. I was in kindergarten, and I wrote a book about moving (we had just moved into a new house). My school published the book in their library book program, in which students chosen by their teachers could get their books bound and other students could check them out of the library like a real book. I’ve been writing ever since then.

What do you read for fun?

Ha! This falls under the category of “things I don’t do often.” I used to read constantly, and I still do, only now I read student papers and contributor stories. I teach five classes a quarter, and the school runs all year long. On some weekends, I read 300 pages of literary analysis essays!

When I do have a little time, I read pretty much any genre of fiction—for example, my favorite genre is probably classic literary fiction, but I also really enjoy young adult fantasy. A random selection of books I read this year that I loved: Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple, Atlas Shrugged by Ann Rynd, Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, and Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson.

Some writers have rituals that they feel helps them with the creative process. Do you employ any rituals, or do anything regularly that helps keep you on track with your writing?

These types of questions are hard for me to answer because I love writing and just do it naturally—it’s a part of my routine, like brushing my teeth. Give me a spare 30 minutes, and I will add a few paragraphs to whatever book I’m working on. I think that kind of process comes from just doing it for so long, and being the type of person who always has a million ideas they want to get down. The problem for me isn’t staying on track when I am writing or getting inspired, but rather just finding the time to sit down and put my thoughts to paper. I try to take at least half an hour a day to write, and little by little, my novels grow.

MagicalHow did you make the transition from writer to publisher? Do you find it hard to keep changing hats–from teacher to writer (and poet!) to editor to publisher?

Before I started doing my own projects, I volunteered as a Poetry Editor for Outside In Literary & Travel Magazine and interned at a small book press, so I was already very familiar with the role of an editor by the time I started publishing my own books. I didn’t really plan on making the anthologies a reoccurring project, but once I published one, I couldn’t seem to stop. I love giving other writers the opportunity to share their work, especially a new writer who has never been published before—every time I say “that’s it!” I get a nice email from a contributor about how much the book means to them, and bam, I’m back to sending out calls for submissions.

Speaking to the question about changing hats, I think this is something that I’ve “grown up with,” in a way. In college I had three jobs in addition to a full course load at GWU, and within a single day I might go to class, go to the financial aid office, go back to class, and end up at the cupcake shop handing delicious treats to kids all night. In the meantime, I would write on the bus or on napkins at work (which is how I completed the first draft of my first novel—one little scrap at a time). I got used to multitasking.

Now I wake up, write for half an hour, go to class, edit between classes, go back to class, and come home to grade papers. Every few months I finish a book and move on to the next one. The only one that’s hard for me to “slip into” is poetry—it’s a harder genre for me to write, and I need to be in the right headspace, which is probably why I write a lot less poems than anything else. The easiest genre for me to write is young adult fantasy or science fiction.

As a literature professor, what classics do you think short story writers can most benefit from reading?BookCoverImage

I try to give my students a little bit of everything, the same way I try to read a little bit of everything (except nonfiction—I just always think But it would have been better if they’d changed that to…).

My students really connected with “Silver Water” by Amy Bloom, and a few of them cried. Other stories we read and spend a lot of time on: “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” (focus on plot), “Cat in the Rain” (focus on finding subtle hints in stories), and “Astronomer’s Wife” (focus on language). We also spend a lot of time on poetry, and again, I try to give them a mix of modern and classic material.

Any advice for anyone considering self-publishing?

Self-publishing is hard. I go into every anthology expecting to lose money, and that has definitely happened before and probably will again. But I don’t publish the books to make money—I publish them because they make a lot of people, myself included, really happy.

If you want to self-publish, the important things to think about are 1) who is going to edit your book and 2) how are you going to market it? It’s so easy to self-publish these days, but it’s hard to promote the book once it’s out. Book stores generally won’t carry it, so you need to personally get the book into a reader’s hands by going to book fairs, speaking on panels, buying ads…anything you can do to sell the book.

I think people don’t realize that promoting a book takes completely different skills than being a writer. In fact, completely opposite skills, in a lot of ways. As fiction writers we like to hide in our rooms and live in our made-up worlds, but to promote, you need to get out and talk to a lot of strangers.

IMG_20160617_203851If you could tell beginning writers one thing about the publishing process, what would it be?

Get rejected a lot, as early as possible. That probably sounds like really depressing advice, but it worked for me! Rejection is just another part of the “writer life,” and you need to learn to brush it off quickly and get back to work if you hope to make it. Every editor has different tastes, different things they love and hate about a story—if yours doesn’t fit, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad story.

How did you get the idea for Candlesticks & Daggers?

This book actually started as an idea for a book launch party and worked backward to a book. After doing four other anthologies, each with its own book launch extravaganza, I realized it would be really cool to throw a mystery-themed launch. Mystery was a genre I hadn’t done yet, so I figured, why not! But I didn’t just want regular mystery stories—I wanted the weird, quirky stories, the ones that were completely unique and wouldn’t fit in other traditional venues. So I decided to collected mixed-genre mysteries.


I understand that this is your 5th anthology. What were the themes for the other anthologies? Are any of them related in any way?

Yes, I can’t believe it’s already the fifth! They are not really related in any way except that they’re all what I consider to be “new takes on old genres.” Love poems, but about inanimate objects. Science fiction, but only epistolary. Fairy tales, but written for adults.

Any future projects you want to tell us about?compressed

People have been asking me to make a romance anthology…I’m afraid of what might come into my inbox, but also a bit intrigued. Stay tuned!


Kelly Ann Jacobson is the author of many published books, including the novel Cairo in White and the poetry collection I Have Conversations with You in My Dreams, and she edits anthologies such as Dear Robot: An Anthology of Epistolary Science Fiction and Unrequited: An Anthology of Love Poems about Inanimate Objects. She works as a professor of English and creative writing instructor. Kelly also writes young adult fantasy novels such as The Sun Dragon Series under her pen name, Annabelle Jay.

On Place: Stacey Balkun

The Poetics of Place: On Writing Memory as Imagination

jackalopecover_1024x1024Place lives half in the imagination. We hold place in the palms of memory and expectation; it’s never quite how we remember it or what we wish it. We don’t see the place that’s physically before us but rather what we believe and feel, our experience with place tinted by our emotional memory.

As a child, I loved the Box Car Children. I lived them, playing in the woods behind my suburban home. I didn’t see that small stand of trees as merely a buffer between our housing development and the freeway; to me, it was an enchanted forest. My friend and I spent our afternoons building a tree house and splashing in the little stream, pretending to cool bottles of milk in its water or drawing maps of our kingdom on the backs of envelopes discarded by our parents.

Our relationship to place is informed by the narratives in our lives; as a child, those narratives for me were stories: The Boxcar Children, Beauty and the Beast, Nancy Drew. Like the characters of these tales, I craved some dramatic reason to be out there in the woods, alone or with a best friend. I wanted the responsibility with which the young protagonists of my books were so often saddled, though I can’t explain exactly what or why: to be brave in the face of danger? To care for a family or battle crime? All of these narratives had an allure, perhaps because they so contrasted with my small experience in a small neighborhood in a small town.

There was one farm left in the town at that time. It had a stable and a farm stand. Its property included a much larger woods full of horse trails that led right up to the dumpsters behind the ShopRite Center. Within a few years, some of that land would become a new strip mall with a mattress store and a Starbucks. Soon the county would try to buy the family-owned farm to make condos, but when they wouldn’t sell, somehow passed a law declaring the acreage “open land,” removing the family and chickens and horses and effectively creating an empty, rundown lot with a huge, smelly puddle full of geese.

Place is a mirror. Unlike the murky goose pond, we can look at it to see ourselves reflected back. In poetry, a writer can capture both reflection and reality. Where upon first glance we may only notice a concrete sound barrier or a dead end, our characters can see magic and possibility. The white pines may be as lonely as our speaker, waiting as she is for that last school bell signifying the return of a friend.

To tell these stories and delve into these memories within my poetry, I turned to domestic fabulism, that space between the magical real and most familiar. I created a best friend named Apple-Child, a girl born from a tree. With her, my speaker roams the woods of my childhood, growing into adolescence as suburbia creeps into the shrinking acres of trees. In these poems, imagery and story are manipulated, allowing for a more complete and nuanced study of place. The reader realizes, without being told outright, that the wildness of this place exists merely in the characters’ heads; that in reality, these woods are anything but dangerous.

The introduction of a fantastical element like Apple-Child allows the poems to move beyond nostalgia, memory, and mere description of place. We can give ourselves permission to write how we remember it or what we wish it, letting the familiar world slip into the imagined and allowing ourselves to see the magic that so enveloped us in the first place.


balkun-stacey-kault-photo2-colorStacey Balkun is the author of Jackalope-Girl Learns to Speak (dancing girl 2016) & Lost City Museum (ELJ 2016). She has been named a Finalist for the 2016 Faulkner Words of Wisdom Poetry Contest, the 2016 Two Sylvias Poetry Chapbook Prize, the 2016 Event Horizon Science Poetry Competition and the Center for Women Writer’s 2016 Rita Dove Award. Her work has appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Gargoyle, Muzzle, and Bayou, among others, and she holds an MFA from Fresno State. A 2015 Hambidge Fellow, Stacey served as Artist-in-Residence at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2013. She is the Chapbook Series Editor at Sundress Publications and teaches poetry online at The Poetry Barn. Visit her at


Unrequited Book Launch!!

IMG_20160617_191446What an amazing launch party! We packed Upshur Street Books, and all eleven readers (plus me reading Melanie Bikowski’s poem since she couldn’t be there) did such an amazing job!!! See below for more pics from the launch and the list of readers.

Neelam Patel
Julia Rocchi
Kate Horowitz
Pam Winters
Sarah Lilius
Gregory Luce
Sass Brown
Ed Perlman
Melanie Bikowski
Jacqueline Jules
Danielle Evennou
Terrence Sykes



Review of Unrequited by Alex Carrigan

Better CoverIt is common for a child to place importance towards a toy or a blanket or some other inanimate object. It is one of the first signs that a person is forming attachments and developing relationships with objects and people beyond themselves. A new poetry anthology, Unrequited: An Anthology of Love Poems About Inanimate Objects, collects the best objectophilia love poems from poets all across the country and shows the type of objects these writers feel attached to. With poems ranging from subjects like butter dishes to garden gnomes to the Empire State Building, the anthology examines how these poets are able to show a sense of life and romance towards objects and places that one might not normally associate with such feelings.

For an open call anthology such as this, it is interesting to look at the breakdown of sections and subjects submitted. The sections of the collection range from various household objects like furniture, kitchenware, clothing, etc., to more grand objects such as nature and cities. The anthology is great for showing a variety of subjects, as there are very few instances of multiple poems about the same subject, allowing the reader to see a more eclectic spread of poetry.

What is also quite interesting is how each section of the anthology carries similar tones in how the poets addressed their objects. The section “Food” has many poems about various fruits and vegetables, and some, such as “Peach” by Judy Swann and “Italian Passion, Darling Tomatoes” by Cathy Bryant, focus more on the touch and taste to an almost erotic degree. The section “Drugs and Drinks” leans for more controlling and dependent kind of relationships. As Ann Kestner bluntly states at the start of her poem “Coffee Mate,” “Coffee//is the longest//committed relationship//I have ever had,” which hints at the mindset of the poet, but also creates a mood that the reader might empathize with easily.

When given a subject like objectophilia, it would be easy to lean towards phallic or more blatantly sexual objects for one’s subject matter. There are some pieces that play with that, such as Amy MacLennan’s “A Large Jar of Kosher Dills Left on My Front Porch,” but the poets in this anthology don’t think of love or inanimate objects in quite as sexual terms. For a lot of these poets, they choose to recount a love that’s warm and comforting. “Ode to Amanda’s Red Couch” by Melanie Bikowski details how comfortable she felt on a couch belonging to someone else, with lines like “molding me into a temper-pedic bliss” exposing feelings of contentment that one might not think when looking at a couch.

When the subjects move to grander subjects like nature, the poems also become a lot more abstract, but still remain effective in detailing the kinds of relationships that the poet has with the object. Jacquelyn Bengfort manages to tell a destructive, but innocent, love story in two lines with her piece “Fire Triangle,” while Bethanie Humphreys’ “Earthbound Hymn” closes the anthology by bringing dozens of interrelated objects to paint a picture of the Earth as an object. It is a surreal piece that ties together the various styles of poems featured in the anthology, but also creates a new object to love and adore.

Unrequited is a unique and intriguing collection of poetry that takes what could be a subject derided with lowbrow humor or sexual references and creates something passionate and comforting. It assembles a series of poets with unique points of view and an eye for drawing the romantic out of objects one might not consider romantic. The assembled poems cover a wide range of relationships, and every reader is sure to find a piece they relate to, whether it be a poem about a computer, a candelabra, or even tampons. Unrequited is an anthology for the sentimental and the romantic, but with a unique spin sure to become something the reader will also fall in love with.


mm93kg-e1425851784944Alex Carrigan graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2014 with a degree in print/online journalism and a minor in world cinema. He is currently a managing editorial and PR intern for the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop, as well as Staff Film Reviewer for Quail Bell Magazine. He has written articles for The Commonwealth Times and has had reviews featured in Luna Luna Magazine. He is also a former deputy editor-in-chief for VCU’s Poictesme Literary Journal. He has had fiction, poetry, and nonfiction work published in Poictesme, Amendment Literary Journal, Quail Bell Magazine, Rebels: Comic Anthology at VCU, Realms YA Literary Magazine, and Life in 10 Minutes. He currently resides in Charlottesville, VA.

Unrequited is out!!

Better CoverThe Unrequited anthology is OUT TODAY on Amazon! It will be available for Prime shipping once the processing time goes through (probably about 2 days), but in the meantime, add it to your cart :). It’s also available via the createspace eStore.

I am SO PROUD of this beautiful book, which is filled with 76 amazing love poems by such talented poets. Putting it together was such an honor!

The Unrequited launch will take place on Friday, June 17 at 7:00 PM! Check out the facebook event page here.

Here’s what people have said about Unrequited:

This anthology is itself an inanimate object springing to life through poems that titillate and caress. –Karen Paul Holmes, author of Untying the Knot

If you think love poems are trite, filled with clichés or have nothing new to say, then you haven’t been reading the right odes about the exquisite pain of heartbreak. –Jen Karetnick, author of American Sentencing

The theme of this collection has been a long time coming. Kelly Jacobson has brought together a myriad of poems which speak to the comfort and possession that bring the human spirit both pleasure and perplexity. –wren thompson-wynn, poet

The forbidden and funny reside next to lawn gnomes and lightning, as these poets gather to give tribute to the ordinary and extraordinary objects of their affection. This love may not be returned, but it is certainly rewarded. –Mandy L. Rose, poet