The LJ Pod

Reeham Ahmed

E2: Reeham Ahmed

Reeham ‘Mia’ Ahmed is a 10-year-old writer published in Little Jefferson, Lucky Jefferson’s project spotlighting youth ages 9-13. Based in Gurugram, India, she is the author of ‘’Bobo and the Magic Cloak,” a short story about an impatient penguin who lived in a library, spending most of her days reading books. 

Ahmed is part of a young author program in Bangalore, which is what got her into writing. “I like how you can just be free,” she said. “There are no boundaries to writing.”

If Ahmed had a magic cloak, she would want it to take her to the Maldives – somewhere she’s been wanting to go for a long time. 

Ahmed is currently writing chapters for another story. “This girl – this famous person – is writing in her diary, and I’m taking chunks of what is really happening in my life but putting it in someone else’s shoes and changing it up a bit,” she said. She even has given herself a deadline for the end of May. 

She said she doesn’t think she can give advice to other writers – “It’s your free will and not really any boundary.”

When Ahmed grows up, there are three things she wants to be: A therapist, an author, and a youtuber. “I want to work altogether.”

With her books, she hopes to “make people feel happy and just help them out with their problems.” 

Keep an eye out for more work from Mia Ahmed!

This episode was produced by NaBeela Washington. It was edited by Paige Wynn. Joined by co-host Victoria Mione.

Guest Editor Interview

Editor Interview: Kyra Jee

What can readers expect from Sonder?

Whether fictional or nonfictional, many memories are really just stories about other people. The backpacker who stepped off the train two states early. The friends you knew before college. The visiting author who remembered to ask for your name.

To write is to let a memory exist in a new way, through filters like time, context, rhetoric. Sonder will be a collection of characters becoming, for a moment, real.

Why do you believe it’s essential to recognize the experiences of others beyond our own?

It can be easy to see others — strangers, friends, loves — like they’re not quite as real as ourselves: their concerns not as petrifying, their delights not as charming. But they are real. This person has dishes to wash and odd things they think are worth photographing.

Their body breathes and moves and sometimes cries. That vibrant, sometimes visceral, acknowledgment of another person’s humanness can remind us to be kind. To be patient or protective. To value someone else’s hurt and happiness as something that matters.

Describe what made a piece hard to pass up.

A messenger bag exiting the bus swivels back for their kid’s frog umbrella. Your friend finally catches the eye of their plus-one — winks. For Sonder, we’re looking for pieces that peek into vulnerability, curiosity, and humanity. Some wonderful submissions depict moments where the writer’s recognition of somebody’s personhood makes me, the reader, think about those in my own life.

Can you share more about your editing philosophy?

For anyone in the writing world to succeed, we need people to invest in each other’s successes. As an editor, I hope to encourage more joy and precision. 

In my experience, helpful feedback aims to inspire more exploring, not less; it makes you want to write. And revision is a very iterative process — reread, rewrite, and revise your own work!

Who’s a poet, essayist, artist, etc., that you can’t stop reading/following?

Sarah Kay! And Chen Chen! They put so much sound into each line. Their narrators are so personal, so forthright, so compelling. “The Minister of Loneliness” (Kay, 2022) is a warm, intricate, thoughtful poem to live inside. Poems like “Poem in Noisy Mouthfuls” and “I’m not religious but” (Chen Chen, 2017, 2015) are gorgeous reflections about both difficult and delicate things that make us us.

Share a fun fact about yourself.

I started playing D&D last year and love it! Designing characters — especially all the stuff a character has with them — reminds me that there are so many ways to be a storyteller, to worldbuild, to think of language and settings. The adjacent preoccupation, collecting dice, is just inevitable.

Kyra Jee hopes to bring vulnerability, joy, and the em dash to all writerly environments. Kyra has most recently served on the editorial boards of Lucky Jefferson, Sapere Aude, and Calliope Art & Literary Magazine.

The LJ Pod

Fareh Malik

E1: Fareh Malik

Malik has erupted forth into the field of written poetry like fresh-water does an estuary. Formerly a spoken word poet, he has been recognized by dozens of literary presses and has been included in several anthologies in a little over 6 months. He was also the first place recipient of the MH Canada 2020 Poetry Contest.

Fareh Malik didn’t always want to be a writer. In fact, in high school, his English teacher discouraged him from doing so. But Malik, whose parents immigrated from Pakistan, found poetry through music and is now a spoken word poet and author. 

Malik has been doing spoken word poetry since 2012. His piece “After 9/11 the war spilled into our hometowns (…)” was featured in Lucky Jefferson’s Meliora issue, and nominated by LJ for Sundress Publications’ Best of the Net 2021, where Malik was a finalist. 

“My Islamophobic experiences could bring something new to the table,” he explained. “So I kind of did this run-on sentence prose poetry structure that shows a circular nature of hate. How does your hate fuel my hate? How does my hate fuel your hate?”

The poem was inspired by a tweet that intentionally misspelled Muslim as ‘mozlem.’

“It’s ‘Muslim’,” Malik said. “We live in a very privileged time where all the information in the world is at our fingertips. You have this information in front of you. You’re kind of choosing not to see it. It’s that idea of ‘I should know better but I don’t because I’m blinded by something’.”

There are a lot of things that Malik feels passionate about. “A lot of it [his work] deals with mental health, racialization, social justice, islamophobia – stuff like that.” But the common thread in his work, he said, is that he is “trying to create a situation [where] people who are traditionally valued as less than human and look at them as equal.” 

Malik doesn’t think that poetry always needs to be political. He said the fun of poetry is writing about what he wants to write about—such as a cup of coffee. But as a poet, he said, there is a responsibility is to have something meaningful to say.

For other writers, he advises them to be vulnerable. “Be genuine in the place of being fake and trying to fake it ‘til you make it. Just be raw,” he said. “You are your lived experiences. There’s power in that that is not just something to be traumatized by. There’s power in it so take that, use it to your advantage.”

Follow Malik on Instagram @farehmalikpoetry or Twitter @farehmalikpoet to keep up with all of his literary endeavors. 

This episode was produced by NaBeela Washington. It was edited by Paige Wynn. Joined by co-host Victoria Mione.

Chapbook Reviews

Crushed Marigold: A Sacred Experience

Some poets exist at the intersection between self and a kind of spiritual communion that is uncommon in our hyper-present society. In a time when we are taught to crave the attention of our phone screens, moments of quiet reflection become more and more of an avoided silence. We have built our days around anticipated communication while ignoring how we can connect with not only ourselves but with narratives that exist outside of time.

The collection of poems exhibited in Christiana Castillo’s Crushed Marigold exists outside of our hyper-present society. Castillo’s chapbook instills a sense of timelessness that allows the reader to engage in practices of active remembrance, dedicated to her lineage, culture, and identity: “Light the candles Mija, these prayers are our protection,/our birthright. Mija, this is for you./Mija, it’s the part of us that will always survive.” The language within these poems function as a prayer; the repetition of specific words and phrases become internalized chants as Castillo leads the reader through the chapbook.

As you read through the poetic landscape of Crush Marigolds, Castillo is ever-present with the reader as you begin to perform the ritual offering alongside her, engaging with Castillo’s spirit through a reimagined space within her identity. By reading these poems, Castillo engages the reader in the act of preservation, found through remembrance, through making a sacred space within our readership, to reflect on the power of words which connect our reality with something much deeper and more soulful: “I am not waiting for a white god to save me, / I am not waiting for a new shrine, / I survived. /Authenticity remembered more than / assimilation / … I survived.” 

Castillo is working in the practice of heritage, viewing the past through an active lens meant to be engaged with as a source of reflection and reassurance. Crush Marigolds reminds me that reading is an action. We are not only impacted by the narratives at hand but also the practice of reading words as a ritual, breaking down the barrier between content and medium to create a collection that intertwin both. Alongside Castillo’s poetry, the companion illustrations by Karla Rosas beautifully represent the themes explored throughout the chapbook, two artists sharing their reflections on communion and ritual in a genuinely symbiotic way. 

Poetry has been used to create a sacred experience for millenniums. Its unique intimacy surpasses social boundaries and allows unexpected connections to flourish. By creating an experience that is thematically and performatively sacred, Castillo creates space for narratives that push against the fast-paced anticipation of modern culture, engaging the reader in remembrance through action rather than passive consumption. Crushed Marigolds preserves the memory of a survivor, whose rituals and offerings have become the stories of legends. Castillo reminds us that those narratives are not gone nor forgotten but present in the moments between the anticipation for what is to come; the breath of the past, combined with the voice of the future to create some sacred. 

Crushed Marigolds was published in October 2020 by Flower Press in Detroit, Michigan.

Paige Hartenburg
Paige Hartenburg

Paige Hartenburg is an English literature student at Miami University. 

Gibberish Guest Editor Interview

Editor Interview: Ailun Shi

Can you share an experience when your culture was lost in translation? How did that shape your worldview? And what are you hoping this stirs up in writers?

In elementary school, my teachers would put on Chinese New Year celebrations and activities. Every year, my teachers taught us how to say gong hei fat choy and a myriad of some other words. But those other words were Mandarin, while gong hei fat choy was Cantonese. As a Mandarin speaker, for a while, I was confused by the existence of seemingly commonplace words that didn’t exist in my vocabulary—but that was because my teachers either didn’t know or didn’t explain that “Chinese” isn’t just one language.

Cultural ignorance has improved since my elementary school years; most of the people I talk to who aren’t from my culture are aware that Chinese and many other Asian languages have tones, that Mandarin and Cantonese are only the two most common languages spoken in China of hundreds. I’ve also encountered countless people who ask me, on their own accord, how my name is actually pronounced in Mandarin, something that no one would’ve asked (and that I would never have even offered up) as a kid. But there’s still a lot of headway to be made, especially for more niche languages and cultures. I hope writers are encouraged to dig into their past, be proud of the languages and cultures they came from, and share those bits of history with us.

What do you hope writers get out of submitting to Gibberish? 

I hope they’re able to take a look back and really dive into the cultures and experiences that they came from and maybe even get more comfortable with expressing those identities. It took many formative years for me to get comfortable with sharing who I am and where I came from, and today, there are still pieces of my identity that I’m more hesitant about sharing. I’m sure it’s the same for a lot of people. I hope we can all get just a little closer to being comfortable with who we are with Gibberish.

Describe your editing philosophy. What makes a piece hard to pass up?

With Gibberish—honestly, anything that makes me travel back, be at home, and feel nostalgic. I don’t need to be from the culture in the piece or speak the language that’s referenced, maybe I’ve never even heard of the culture or the language! But the feelings associated with the roots we come from are universal.

Who’s a poet, essayist, artist, etc. that you can’t stop reading/following?

I read “Sex Tape, B-side” from Iva Ticic on Tint Journal a few months ago. That turned into my favorite poem. And then an artist (well, singer) that I’ve been listening to since before she even released her first EP is Sara Kays.

Why is destigmatizing foreign words, ethnic names, and ‘otherness’ important?

It’s so easy to resort to labels and categories. When we destigmatize and normalize foreign words and ethnic names, it’s harder to resort to labeling those things as “other” and for people to discriminate against that “otherness.”

Share a fun fact about yourself.

I’ve been learning to ballroom dance! Favorite dances are waltz and samba.

Ailun, pronounced like Allen, is a lover of books, calligraphy, and writing.⁣⁣ She has worked with Empire & Great Jones Little Press, Helen: a literary magazine, and Beard Full of Butterflies. Learn more about here:

Pushcart Prize

Pushcart Prize Nominations 2021

Lucky Jefferson is excited to announce its 2021 Pushcart Prize nominees:⁣


Raphael Jenkins

Invocations in Eb7#9”⁣ — Riff

Raphael prefers to go by Ralph, as he feels it suits him better. He, like Issa Rae, is rooting for everybody Black. His work has been featured on his mama’s fridge, his close friends’ inboxes, Hobart, HASH and, 3 Elements Review. Forthcoming in Frontier Poetry and Flypaper Lit.

Fun Fact: “Locomotion” by John Coltrane inspires Jenkins’s work.

Nnadi Samuel

A Boy ago”⁣ — Awake, Issue 4

Nnadi Samuel (he/him/his) is a black writer and graduate of English & literature from the University of Benin. His works have been previously published/forthcoming in Fantasy Magazine, Uncanny Magazine, Star*Line Fiction Poetry & elsewhere. He is the author of “Reopening of Wounds”. He tweets @Samuelsamba10.

Fun Fact: Samuel’s favorite sci-fi movie is Interstellar

Cristina Legarda
Aioli” — Cookout

Cristina Legarda was born in the Philippines and spent her early childhood there before moving to Bethesda, Maryland. She is now a practicing physician in Boston. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in America magazine, Diaspora Baby Blues, Dappled Things, Plainsongs, and FOLIO.

Fun Fact: A food that inspires Legarda’s work is Green mangoes with bagoong

Ayobami Adesina

21 /with loneliness”⁣ — 365 Collection

Ayobami Adesina is a closing student of social work at the University of Ilorin, Nigeria. He resides in an isolated apartment where he laughs all day at memes on Twitter via @aiadesina.

Christina Dixie

Keep the Porch Light On”  — Awake, Issue 4

 Christina Dixie is a dreamer, a writer, who is always in awe with a pink sky. She was a contributor for Sonku Collective, Gumbo and Soul, (Digital) Eve Poetry literary magazines–each published her poetry. She has a BA degree in English with a minor in Humanities from UCF.

Fun Fact: When asked why she felt representation in sci-fi movies matters Dixie shared, “Representation in Sci-Fi movies matter. More representation give acknowledgments to our community–giving us the opportunity to not experience erasure.”

Lynette Ng

what to do with all the strawberries” — 365 Collection

Lynette Ng is a union shop steward at her workplace. She enjoys picket lines, public libraries, and hearty plates of pasta. She has no interest in the low-carb lifestyle. Originally from Malaysia, Lynette now lives near Boston, Massachusetts, and will continue staying there if the powers-that-be bring back rent control.

We are honored to have such moving writing included in our publication and champion new and emerging voices across a spectrum of communities. Enjoy each author’s work and help us celebrate them and spread the good news!⁣

Best of The Net

Best of The Net Nominations

Lucky Jefferson is excited to announce its 2021 Best of the Net nominees:⁣


Fareh Malik

After 9/11 the War Spilled Into Our Hometowns & Made Us Grow up Too Fast & My Homie’s Sister Don’t Wear Her Hijab No More”⁣

Lissa Batista

A Backyard Brazilian Birthday Party”⁣

A’Ja Lyons
Magical Kitchens

Timi Sanni

the first rule of survival”⁣

Jorrell Watkins

Lose Control”    ⁣

Jacob Aupperlee

Sighing Places”    ⁣

We are honored to have such terrific work included in our publication. Enjoy each author’s work and help us celebrate them and spread the good news!⁣


Lucky Jefferson Announces Contest Winner

Lucky Jefferson is excited to announce the winner of our First Ever Logo Contest, Shashi Arnold!

Contests are our way of giving back to creative and literary communities near and far. We believe that writers and artists should be celebrated and honored beyond publication.

Our logo contest was created to highlight the work of artists around the world and amplify support of local creative economies.

Shashi is a seventeen-year-old aspiring illustrator. She is the art editor of Silver Chips print at Montgomery Blair High School and is currently interning as an illustrator with Lucky Jefferson. She loves exploring new mediums and creating illustrations that bring written stories to life.

Shashi’s Logo

Runner-up winner: Evan D. Williams

Williams’ artwork has appeared in numerous journals and in books published by Praxis, Formist, and the Yale University Press. He has also produced three artist’s books accessioned into libraries in New York and Oxford. He is prepping a photo show in Pittsburgh, YOU ARE NOW ENTERING A NO FOMO ZONE.

Evan’s Logo

We’re grateful to all of our participants and look forward to what next year’s contest will bring.

Stay tuned for upcoming opportunities here.

Pushcart Prize

Pushcart Prize Nominations

Lucky Jefferson is excited to announce its 2020 PUSHCART PRIZE nominees:⁣


C. L. Butler, “Progeny”⁣
April Hernandez, “Dementia”⁣
Bryanne Lane, “lebret, sask”⁣
Eliana Franklin, “The Earth Called Back”⁣
Raine Higa, “Learning and Losing Halmoni”    ⁣


Dane Farris, “The Cows”⁣

We are honored to have such terrific work included in our publication.

Enjoy each author’s work and help us spread the good news!⁣


We Stand With Our Community.

We Stand With Our Black Community, Now & Forever.

Lucky Jefferson (LJ) stands for and with the Black community.

It should be no secret that we take acts of brutality against our community very seriously and to heart. Since our founding, we have dedicated our work to consistently publishing writers of color and increasing the presence of Black authors and professionals in the literary and publishing community. Being also founded by women of color, the issues that affect one impacts us dually and personally; we are committed to upholding the work required to one day see unequivocal equality for all.

We stand with the people risking their lives to vocalize our pain; who stand unflinchingly on the front lines; who see and hear us. We stand with you! 

Black lives will matter today and forever, as all lives should.

We appreciate the support of our LJ family and your patience as we purposely shift publication timelines to let the voices of our people and greater community ring. We hope that during this troubling period you join us as an ally and not only listen, but find ways to support your community so that we might see better days and true justice.


NaBeela Washington, Founder, Editor-in-Chief
Lucky Jefferson

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