Q1: When did you begin writing and first influences?
Jamy: When I was 9 years old, I wrote a scary story about a lonely boy obsessed with what lives in the dark corners of his cellar. It won a state writing contest and I traveled to a conference to read my story to a panel of judges. As a sad, troubled kid with little confidence, this kind of affirmation was like gold. I knew then that I would be a writer. I journaled, and wrote stories and poems throughout my teen years and then got serious when I took my first writing workshop as an undergraduate at George Mason University. My earliest influences include Willa Cather, Virginia Woolf, Margaret Atwood, Mark Twain, Raymond Carver, Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton. I could go on.
Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?
Jamy: I love everything by Elizabeth Strout, especially My Name is Lucy Barton. Everything by Marilyn Robinson, especially Housekeeping, which is my favorite novel, ever. I love Anne Enright’s work, especially The Gathering; Susan Griffin’s A Chorus of Stones; Anne Michael’s, Fugitive Pieces. Carmen Maria Machado’s In the Dream House. When I find a book that I love, I read it over and over and over. I live and breathe it. I have deep love and admiration for Sharon Olds, whose work I return to time and time again as a writer and as a reader. I have only been writing flash for the last couple of years, and every day I discover new, amazing flash writers that inspire me: Pat Foran, Tara Stillions Whitehead, Susan Treimart, Sabrina Hicks, Sara Hills, Audra Kerr Brown, Hannah Grieco, Jonathan Cardew, Cathy Ulrich. If you ask me this question tomorrow, I’ll have a totally new list. The flash world is rich with brilliant writers.
Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing? Have any travels away from home influenced your work?
Jamy: I moved every year or two while I was growing up, mostly throughout the southern United States. By the time I was a teen, I had lived in dozens of different states and towns. In my early twenties, I moved to Washington DC to go to college and stayed there until now.
I spent my twenties and thirties working in international development, which sent me traveling across northern and Eastern Europe, including into two war zones: Kosovo and Iraq. I went to Africa on a Fulbright grant and ended up staying for three years. My travel experiences have ranged from luxury vacations at the Four Seasons in Thailand to trekking by foot through rural villages in Mozambique, to riding camels in Petra, to dodging bombs in Iraq. Being a transient has definitely opened my heart and mind to unique and broad perspectives, which is crucial for writing. I feel that my travels have given me a good dose of courage as a writer and made me deeply empathetic. Being on the move for decades, however, made it difficult to get much writing done, so I wrote in short spurts over the years and didn’t publish very much. Now that I’m settled, I’m the most productive I’ve ever been and plan to keep it that way.
Q4: What do you consider the most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far?
Jamy: There are a few flash stories I’ve published recently that give voice to overlooked but important social issues. My story, “Kaysera Stops Pretty Places,” published in the amazing Flash Frog speaks to our refusal to see or address the alarmingly high number of missing and murdered indigenous women on reservations across the United States. My story, “Therapy,” published in mac(ro)mic explores the devastating impact childhood abuse can have on a developing brain, and how positive experiences can heal and minimize the detrimental scope of childhood abuse. My story “Learning to Fly,” published in Melissa Scholes Young’s anthology, Furious Gravity: DC Women Writers explores the delicate line between teen sexual desire and violence. Words and stories are powerful devices, and I’m most proud when I can captivate a reader with riveting or beautiful language and, at the same time, offer a provocative way to think about a challenging subject
Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Jamy: feel like I was born wanting to be a writer. Because of a difficult childhood, there are huge chunks of my memory that are just gone, years that are completely dark in my mind, but writing has been my torch: always there, always lighting the way.
Q6: Favorite activities to relax?
Jamy: I used to love hiking, but it’s too painful on my arthritic knees these days, so I mostly love to sit and watch the view behind my house. I live on the banks of Aquia Creek in Stafford, VA with a stunning view of the water as it curves around the southern slope of Government Island. Everything I write these days is written as I look out at this breathtaking view. We have a small boat we take up the creek to the mouth of the Potomac river and there is nothing more relaxing or inspiring than to make that trek near sunset, passing the Blue Herons perched on nearby fishing docks, nesting Osprey, flying hawks and eagles as they skirt the water’s edge.
Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?
Jamy: I have a flash story called “Morphine,” coming out soon in The Forge Literary Magazine, and my first creative nonfiction flash piece, “Shipwrecked,” will be published in JMWW in August. I’m nearly finished with a novel and a chapbook of flash stories.
Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem of yours or others?
Jamy: Every day, at least once, I think of this Kaveh Akbar line from Calling a Wolf a Wolf: “I’m becoming more a vessel of memories than a person it’s a myth/that love lives in the heart it lives in the throat we push it out when we speak when we gasp we take a little for ourselves”
Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?
Jamy: There are a handful of writers who have given my work generous time and attention: Alan Cheuse, Cheryl Strayed, Melissa Scholes Young are three of them. There are also a few magazine editors whose enthusiasm for my work has meant more than they probably know: James McAdams and Rachel Laverdiere of Barren Magazine, Eric Scot Tryon of Flash Frog, Nick Olson of mac(ro)mic, Susan Triemert of Pithead Chapel. Writing can be a lonely pursuit filled with daily doses of rejection; small gestures of genuine kindness is sometimes all I need to keep me going.