Five Questions for Summer 2017 Writer-In-Residence Miah Jeffra

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Miah Jeffra will join Hub City as Writer-In-Residence this summer. Miah is a writer of both nonfiction and fiction and their residency will run from June to August.

What excites you most about Spartanburg and the Writers House program?

First, and immediately, the south. I have lived in Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland (yes, Maryland is the south, too!) and most identify the south with ‘home’. So, it feels like a homecoming, after living in California for several years. What excites me most, however, is working alongside this amazing community organization. I am so impressed by the ambition and success of the Hub City Writers Project, overall—it maintains at its core that the literary arts are a community effort. I’m excited to be a part of that.

We’re a very place-centered organization. Can you speak to how the idea of place intersects with your writing?

Place is tantamount in my writing. Each of my long-form manuscripts emphasize place as a character, and environment as a contributor to human interaction. For example, my novel, Highlandtown, concerns racism and displacement in a low-income neighborhood in Baltimore. The city itself, quite literally, has a narrative voice in the novel. My book of short stories,* The Violence Almanac*, examines how physical geography—this time set in seismic California—informs the psyche of the body politic, that there might be a connection between natural laws and social violences. Our environments so often construct our behaviors more than we, perhaps, like to admit.

Every Writer-in-Residence has to give back to our community while in Spartanburg. You’ve worked with a number of journals and non profits in San Francisco. Tell us a little about those organizations.

I’m the editor for Foglifter Press, a non-profit literary collaborative that focuses on queer and marginalized voices and perspectives. The press is really interested in considerations that normally are not privileged due to the typical forces you can imagine: influences of the patriarchy, of normative cultures, how they extend into the industries and art of publishing, in many cases unbeknownst to us. We’re humbly pulling the margins into the center of the conversation, as much as we can, and fostering a community of writers while doing so. Shameless plug:

I also serve as Artistic Director of ShadowLab, a network of artists dedicated to social justice. We devise and implement creative actions into our communities that address current social issues, ranging from displacement to puppy mills to body image.

If we have the privilege of reflecting on our community, and its challenges, then that means we also have the responsibility to contribute to our community to mitigate those challenges. Community engagement is a duty.

Tell us a little bit about your writing and what you’ll be working on while you’re in Spartanburg?

I will be completing the last two stories for The Violence Almanac, and then embarking on a brand new project called The Summer of the Locusts, a mem-fiction that explores the friendship between two pre-pubescent boys growing up in a trailer park in the south, navigating poverty, domestic violence and uncertain futures.

Other than writing, what do you like to do for fun? Where might we see you on a Saturday afternoon this summer?

Well, I am hoping my Saturdays are mostly spent writing during the residency. However, I’m bringing my yoga mat and my hiking shoes, in the hopes of using both. Any suggestions? I’m also bringing my ukulele, but that might not excite anyone after they hear me play.