1. Why did you start writing?
"In sixth grade, my friend promised me $20 if I would write a One Direction fan fiction for her. She said she wanted to read something someone else wrote for her, because it was too much effort for her to do herself. Of course, I’ll do most things for $20, so I made a Wattpad account that day and started writing. It was bad. Very bad. Werewolf AU bad. But I stuck with it, got a decent amount of grounding in the fan fiction scene, and then I grew up. Eventually. Abandoned the fan fiction thing for completely original work, and I haven’t stopped yet."
2. What is your method of writing? Notebooks, computer?
"I’m very much a computer person—I tried the notebook thing for a while before I realized I had more near-empty notebooks than thoughts in my head. Instead I have a Google Docs specifically for my writing that trails all the way back to 2015. I’ve also found that brain-mapping apps like MindNode and Trello really help me organize my chaos into something halfway coherent."
3. How do you know when a poem is done?
"The second my hands start lingering over the keys, I stop. It’s difficult for me to start writing a poem/story and then come back to actually finish it later. Unless it’s longer prose, I just write until my brain stops working. Then I’ll come back an hour or so later to see if I’m happy with it—maybe tweak a bit, play with the formatting—but about 95% of the finished product comes from that first sit-down. Otherwise, I tend to over-edit, and it’s not fun for anyone involved."
4. How did LITTLE ROOMS WITH BAD LIGHTING come about? When did you realize you had material for a poetry book?
"The title came far before the book. About eight months ago, I wanted to write an essay about how the pandemic affected my relationships with my family, but essays are not my thing by any means. Then I wrote one of the first pieces of the chap ('from Matt Hammond'), and after showing it to one of my friends, they recommended I turn it into a micro-chap for Ghost City. The concept morphed from how the pandemic affected my family, and became a sort of catalog of core memories from each place I’ve lived—some good, some bad, all necessary to shape me into who I am now."
5. You are the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Southchild Lit. Why did you decide to establish your own magazine?
"To be honest, the idea initially came to me spitefully after a very tough rejection from my university’s magazine. I’d been submitting (in hindsight, objectively bad) work to publications since 2019 and hadn’t gotten a single acceptance. Most of the form rejects were along the lines of, 'Oh, this just isn’t the right home for it.' I mean, it didn’t belong anywhere, but still. Ninety percent of those pieces have been dramatically reworked (and published!) since then.
I wanted to make a space with an emphasis on the work that’s been wandering around for a while looking for the 'right home.' And for a lot of people, I’m very proud to say that Southchild has been just that—the right home. I started working on the logistics of the magazine in August 2020, but I didn’t want to launch until I got my very first acceptance. In December, Ample Remains accepted one of my favorite pieces I’ve ever written, and Southchild launched later that week."
6. Where do you draw inspiration?
"I have a special section in the notes of my phone for little things I notice just in my everyday, even if it’s something like 'this dude’s mustache is longer on one side than the other.' I also work at a family law firm, so I spend a third of each day watching people tread the line between moral correctness and personal success. It’s definitely interesting to surround myself with people who, generally, are hated—I get to see both sides of the coin and draw from that to create complex, double- or triple-edged characters."
7. What do you hope people take away from your work?
"From LITTLE ROOMS specifically, and with a lot of my other work, I want people to walk away realizing that home—no matter what shape, size, or place—plays such an important role in shaping and forming you as a human being. The walls that surround you hold in so much that you don’t often get to take with you into the rest of your life. And while yes, a lot of negative memories and trauma start to surface, there are some positives that you can’t help but take into account."
8. What other project(s) do you hope to take on someday?
"Although it’s not at the forefront of my priorities right now, I’m (very slowly) working on a YA fantasy novel! Basic pitch: lesbian pirate captain is kidnapped by sirens, and her motley crew of adopted younger siblings band together to save her. It’s totally different from my usual online persona and writing, but I’m pulling from my Dungeons & Dragons comfort zone to make something that, if nothing else, I really enjoy.
Also! I’m collaborating with one of my non-writer friends on a short story right now that we’re both extremely excited about. I know it’s not a big project, but working together with someone on the same chaotically creative wavelength as me has been refreshing, enlightening, and just so much fun in general. I can’t wait for the world to read it (and for Sidd to get all the love and validation he deserves)."
9. What writing advice do you find totally useless?
"The worst advice I’ve ever received is that a main character needs to be 'relatable' for readers to enjoy them. I’ve always thought that the most interesting, the most dynamic characters come from divergence from the norm. Generally relatable characters have always come across as bland to me, because everyone is so different and so unique. Play with perspectives that don’t quite match your own. Make grey main characters! Unlikeable ones! Unique ones! As long as you’re not romanticizing or glorifying bad behavior, I think it’s okay for your readers to observe as an outsider, studying the character for all that they embody."
10. And finally, what do you enjoy doing that you don’t talk about enough. Tell me all about it!
"I’ve always loved classic literature and am actually majoring in it in college! Since my sophomore year of high school, I’ve been collecting dusty, old books. I go thrifting once every few months and run straight to the book section, snatching up every title I recognize. I have a personal collection of over three hundred now, from Oscar Wilde to Jane Austen to Dickens, Dostoyevsky, Nabokov, Kawabata, et cetera et cetera. My favorites are an old clothbound version of Macbeth printed in the early 50s, scrawled all over with notes, annotations, and alphanumeric phone numbers; my also-clothbound volumes of War and Peace, which I finally finished reading last summer; and my copy of George Orwell’s 1984 that was actually printed in 1984. That one in particular had a note written in it on the last page, in beautiful cursive, that simply stated 'Holy sh-t.' I love getting books secondhand especially for this reason—the more beat-up a book looks, the more it was probably loved by its previous owners."
Hear Magi read their poem "From Matt Hammond."