Outside of selecting writings for Torch's weekly "Friday Feature," Louisiana native Jae Nichelle is an author and accolade-worthy poet whose writings spark conversations about community, queer identity, and embodying Southern roots.
Submitting to Torch can be daunting, but Jae has some advice for you from both a writer's and editor's perspective. Get to know about her books, what she's reading, and tips for Torch Features with our Q&A.
Can you describe your poetry books God Themselves and The Porch (As Sanctuary)?
Of course! God Themselves is my debut full-length poetry collection that was published in March. It’s full of queer, Black, southern girl vibes and a lot of self exploration and deconstructing the narratives I grew up accepting as the truth. Publishing it felt so surreal (and terrifying), but I love it so much. And I am obsessed with the cover art by the artist Izz Akkosia.
The Porch (As Sanctuary) is my chapbook published by YesYes Books in 2019 after I was a finalist for their chapbook prize. Looking back on it, it feels a little more like a personal and family history than God Themselves, and is firmly rooted in Louisiana specifically—and the relevant porches I’ve found myself on.
What are you personally reading right now/ What is your favorite book?
I pretty much have three or more books on my bedside table that I’ve just finished, am working through, or am planning to start at any given time. At the moment, those books include:
Threesome in the Last Toyota Celica & other circus tricks by m. mick powell. (Finished it. Obsessed with it.)
We Deserve Monuments by Jas Hammonds. (Finished it. Definitely cried.)
Undrowned by Alexis Pauline Gumbs. (Very excited to start this one.)
As for favorites, that list is very long. But my favorite book of all time is Their Eyes Were Watching God.
What hobby or fun things have you been doing lately?
Every so often I get an idea for an embroidery project, and I always have so much fun completing those. So many things I do involve various screens, so it’s a nice break.
What advice would you give writers submitting to Torch?
Other than what are you waiting for? I would say definitely go through our features and get a sense of the types of work we’ve published already. Send us something you’re in love with. Something you put love into. Personally, I like to see work from Black women writers that draws me in from the very first sentence or line. I want to be captivated from the beginning to the end. And when a piece of writing pushes boundaries in terms of genre or form or subject? Ooh. It’s a yes from me.
I also suggest reading our submission guidelines before you submit. There’s nothing too wild in there, but make sure you know the guidelines for your genre so you can format the submission accordingly. And lastly, don’t be afraid to submit again once you hear back from us. Revise that piece and try again or send something new! We want to see it.
What is one of your favorite literary platforms or organizations?
Other than Torch, obviously… I really appreciate the work of Hurston/Wright Foundation and I really enjoyed the Summer workshop I was part of this past July.
What styles of writing do you prefer?
I like to think I have a pretty wide taste. I’ve personally mostly published poetry, so many people don’t know that I also write and am immersed in the worlds of fiction, nonfiction, and screenwriting. I just love stories. As I mentioned before, I do like writing that feels surprising and innovative in some way. I also like rhythm. Across any genre, I love when a piece of writing moves me to snap my fingers.
Torch Literary Arts is a 501(c)3 nonprofit established to publish and promote creative writing by Black women. We publish contemporary writing by experienced and emerging writers alike. TORCH has featured work by Colleen J. McElroy, Tayari Jones, Sharon Bridgforth, Crystal Wilkinson, Patricia Smith, Natasha Trethewey, Elizabeth Alexander, and others. Programs include the Wildfire Reading Series, writing workshops, and retreats.