Finding Stride in Writing to a Theme, Lover Collaborations, and “Poop Drafts” with Alexandra M. Lucas, the Original Hammie
by Rochelle Robinson
After HamLit editor Joe Donley suggested—and birthed—the HamLit Blog, I was delighted by how many spotlights we could cast: local book reviews; film, book, and art recs; local craft writing opportunities. The HL editing team set out to slowly expand our blog offerings and in that methodical process I realized what I wanted most: to create a no-pressure interview space for our Hammies (the most fun term ever—also all Joe!—coined to identify our ever-expanding community of contributing writers and editors.) With not even a sliver of question in my mind, I knew we had to reach out to Alexandra M. Lucas first.
As part of the no-pressure element, I sent a few questions to Alexandra and she responded with immediacy and warmth—her way, I have learned. Because the format is informal email correspondence, I had to go in and add a few reactions between questions. I laughed, I cried, I rejoiced reading Alexandra’s responses. Her process utilizing the themes floored me: Alexandra is the writer I imagined when dreaming this journal into reality. A person ready to challenge their creative garden, a human so fully alive in growth and ready to use a platform like HamLit to till, replant, and flourish.
So, hello, Alexandra,
RR: How did you originally hear about HamLit?
AML: I still remember the Village Books Fiction writing group meeting back in October 2019 when the facilitator, David Beaumier, first suggested we submit stories to HamLit, a new literary journal that aimed to feature local PNW writers. I had been attending the productive writing group for about a year at that point, so I was starting to get in good habits with writing and revising my personal work, and HamLit‘s first theme, “No Man’s Land,” immediately caught my attention.
[RR: It’s so wild to me that David is now an editor and facilitator for HamLit. It’s so beautiful how creative communities ebb and evolve over time.]
RR: You’ve been published in all five issues, the only author to do so (Congrats and Thank You!!) Thinking back, do you have a favorite theme?
AML: Thank YOU for taking a chance on my strange stories. HamLit‘s themes have all been compelling sources of inspiration, but I’d have to say my favorite theme so far was the 2021 Fall Issue’s “Golden Age.” HamLit does a good job of picking themes that writers can interpret in different ways, and something about “Golden Age” spun me toward the exhilarating feeling of “revelation.”
[RR: “Harmony” gave me vivid dreams for about two months. I would see myself laying on rocks, surrounded by an opal-blue light that was also a song, consumed by it. It’s a MUST read. Alexandra is also premier baker and chef. Follow her IG for foodie inspo: @glitzandgaia]
RR: Do you have a favorite story that you wrote?
AML: Around the time I was trying to come up with an idea for HamLit‘s theme of “Second Place,” I’d been having terrifying nightmares about living out other people’s deaths. Maybe I’d been watching too many Black Mirror episodes, maybe my subconscious was processing living through lockdown during a pandemic, or maybe my brain is just a cobweb-filled lava pit, but it got me thinking about a broken Faustian bargain.
Across different mythologies, demons love to twist seemingly straightforward pacts with humans into ironic torture, and I thought an interesting idea for a broken soul exchange for immortality would be someone having to die a different person’s death every day for all eternity. This prompted interesting discussions with my spouse, who has a neuroscience background, about consciousness and the concept of a soul, and he actually stepped up as my editor for the piece. It was our first writing-editing collaboration, and we’ve been working together on my short stories ever since.
[RR: Truthfully, reading this collaborative awakening made a few tears slip out. The moment that combines individual passion and collective creative passion is not to be missed. Uggg. SO good.]
RR: Have any of the other published stories stuck out to you in a particular way?
AML: There are so many talented writers featured in HamLit, so it’s difficult to choose. I’d like to highlight Molly Hite’s “Dickheads” in HamLit: Second Place. Right from the start, she transports the reader inside the troubled head of the POV character, and, even though she never conceals the likely fate of the character, their hopeless situation still breaks your heart. As the opioid epidemic continues, “Dickheads” remains very relevant.
RR: Has publication helped your own writing endeavors?
AML: It’s hard to articulate how grateful I am to HamLit for publishing my short stories. Before I first submitted to HamLit, I had struggled to find a home for my odd pieces, and I also had become slightly afraid of writing due to, I think, fear of failure. HamLit‘s themes help me focus my writing and give me goals to drive toward, which have informed my writing processes for both personal and professional work.
Thanks to HamLit, I can easily link potential employers to my pieces online as published writing samples, and one of my stories, “In the Deep,” won the 2022 Dark Sire Creative Award for Psychological Realism and was only eligible for consideration because HamLit published it. Publication in HamLit has helped me build up my writing portfolio, streamlined my job application process, increased my appeal to employers, increased my confidence as a writer, and connected me with a warm, welcoming community of talented local writers.
[RR: Yes, it seems so many writing competitions are requiring previous publication, even for specific entries. And that is completely what HamLit is for. We aim to be an author’s springboard.]
RR: What’s on the horizon for you, upcoming projects, publications, NaNoWriMo, etc.?
AML: Thanks for asking! An action RPG I’ve been a narrative designer on at Stoic Studio for the past 1.5 years, Towerborne, is set to launch in early 2024, and a poem I wrote, “Mineral,” was recently published in Wingless Dreamer: The Power of Hope.
Starting on September 11, I will take part in two months of virtual career development programming for mid-career game developers as an IGDA Foundation Next Gen Leader grantee. I’m excited to connect with other video game developers who are 5-8 years into their careers, build a rapport with a mentor, and acquire new skills. Also, I’m revising a fantasy New Adult novel, tinkering with some ideas for new interactive novels to create in Twine, and of course keeping an eye out for HamLit‘s next theme.
[RR: Okay, gamming Hammies: Towerborn 2024! Get ready! …For those who missed the announcement: HamLit’s Winter Solstice theme is Without Pause. Submissions are open now through Nov 15. Watch IG for inspo posts, etc: @hamlitjournal]
RR: If you could offer one piece of advice to writers seeking publication for the first time, what would you share?
AML: If fear of failure is holding you back, my advice is to just let that first draft happen. My spouse and I candidly refer to the first draft as the “poop draft” — I know it sounds silly, but that’s what ultimately got me over my perfectionism paralysis. If you just accept that the first draft of anything you make is going to be meh, you have nothing to lose. The bulk of the work is editing, and you can’t edit unless you have something to edit. Embrace the poop draft, get something down on paper, and then make it the best it can be. [!!!!!]
RR: Any final thoughts?
AML: Thanks again for this opportunity to chat about how meaningful HamLit has been and continues to be in my life, and thank you for all the work you [all] do that goes into bringing each HamLit issue into the world.
At the end of her email, Alexandra signed her name prefaced by “Amitiés,” which I promptly looked up, courtesy of the Cambridge Dictionary:
French: regards [noun plural] greetings; good wishes
I particularly loved this take:
amitiés = (amitié = friendship) yours, best wishes, regards
And though I have only met Alexandra in person twice—a minimal reality that is still wild to me—I feel like her sign off encapsulates what I have slowly learned about this talented, gracious, and tenacious creator over the last nearly four years. So intentional, so delighted by language in all forms. This is how Alexandra continues to push against all the seasons of a writerly life, for herself as a writer and for HamLit.
The HL editors cannot express enough how honored we have been, and will continue to be, in partnering with and publishing Alexandra M. Lucas. We greatly hope she is nowhere near her dénouement with us. As for the rest, it looks like Alexandra is embarking on the sun, the moon, and the stars… possibly in many galaxies. We feel her growth in our roots. How can collaborating get better than this?
Including “Soldiers Like Us”, Alexandra’s work has been featured in all five HamLit season/solstice issues: “The Other Side” in Winter Issue: No Man’s Land, “With You” in Summer Issue: Second Place, “In the Deep” in Spring Issue: Alter Ego, and “Harmony” in Fall Issue: Golden Age.