An interview with Jina Ortiz, a graduate of the PMC’s MFA in Creative Writing program, by Tanya Whiton, Associate Director of the program, on the occasion of publishing All about Skin. Short Fiction by Women of Color.
What inspired you to do an anthology of short fiction by women of color?
My co-editor Rochelle Spencer and I wanted to do a NEW anthology of short fiction by women of color because we had not seen one in the academic market in over 20 years! We felt that we were providing an answer to a problem in the literary publishing industry. We also wanted to show a variety of styles from the realistic to the highly experimental and surreal. We thought that there are a great number of women writers writing in innovative ways, and about topics that pertain to women of color in particular.
What themes did you find recurring in the work of contributors?
The anthology is divided into three thematic sections. Well, I would define this loosely because there are too many to count, but we tried to organize so each section loosely represent the themes of coming of age, reinvention, and borderlands. In addition, the style of writing, and also the content impacts the order of the stories. All in all, extremely strong work—from the first story you read to the twentieth-seventh.
What surprised you about the process of putting the anthology together?
The process of putting the anthology together required, at times, a lot of patience. It was quite challenging to select only a certain number of stories; we had an overwhelming number of strong submissions. In addition, we received an enormous amount of encouragement and support, from our wonderful contributors, from individuals in the writing community, and from the University of Wisconsin Press.
How did your experience as a student (and now graduate!) of the Solstice MFA Program influence or impact your work on this project?
I believe that my experience at the Solstice MFA program has been the most valuable experience of my professional writing career. I feel great gratitude for all my mentors at Pine Manor College, Program Director Meg Kearney and Associate Director Tanya Whiton. I feel the constant love and support from my fellow MFA classmates, and alumni and future alumni. I have been truly blessed that I have a writing/MFA family that has supported my poems and fiction unconditionally and consistently throughout the years—it is quite humbling to receive so much love and care for one’s writing career.
About the editors:
Jina Ortiz is a writer and poet whose works have appeared in many publications, including the Afro-Hispanic Review, Solstice: A Magazine of Diverse Voices, and New Millennium Writings. She lives in Worcester, Massachusetts, where she is an adjunct professor of English at Quinsigamond Community College. She is a graduate of the Solstice MFA in Creative Writing Program.
Rochelle Spencer is a writer who has contributed to many publications, including Callaloo, African American Review, Poets & Writers, Publishers Weekly, and Mosaic. She is completing a doctorate focusing on Afro futurism and is on the Board of Directors for the Hurston-Wright Foundation.