Interview with Vanessa Maki by Kate Wilson

Vanessa Maki is a writer and artist who dabbles in many literary genres/art forms. She’s from a small city on Vancouver Island that she finds irrelevant. She highly enjoys creating experiment work in writing or art. The topics she often explores are blkness, mental health issues, relationships, queer identity, TV/film, music, political topics and so on. She’s the former EIC of rose quartz magazine (formerly rose quartz journal, which was founded in May 2018), a literary/arts magazine for queer women/womxn. Vanessa is also a columnist for Pussy Magic. 

Twitter: @theblackbuffy

  1. What images do you find yourself most drawn to in your creative works? Why do you think these images resonate with you? 

A lot of “dark” imagery is what I’m mostly drawn to such as: blood (especially drops of it), teeth and plenty of other things that can be considered “dark” or otherwise.   What I know is that the reason I’m drawn to these images is related to my mental health + my love for horror.

2. You have written several columns and reviews about and around music. What role does music play in your life? In your writing?

It plays a HUGE role in my life / writing since music is something that helps me create, helps me think & even make decisions for myself.

3. You write a column with Pussy Magic entitled “Get Spooked” that discusses horror as a genre in movies and television. What do you think makes horror interesting and enticing? Why are you attracted to the genre?

Horror is most certainly not a genre for everyone (especially not those who are squeamish) but it’s one of the most thrilling to me. Practically anything can happen in a horror movie & so many other elements can blend in with one. Plus now Jordan Peele is out here writing/directing for the genre & has black folks at the forefront.

The genre has gripped me for so long that there’s multiple reasons why I’m so attracted to it. I do enjoy how there’s often little messages within horror movies, you just have to look (especially when marginalized characters are out there kicking ass.)

4. You served as the editor in chief of Rose Quartz Magazine (formerly Rose Quartz Journal.) What did you learn as your time as an editor? How has your editorial experience impacted your writing?

I learned that running a space / being an editor is HARD. There’s much to consider in terms of how a space moves forward, who to publish, what type of content to publish, what the space is meant to be etc. My editorial experience has honestly helped me see what works + doesn’t work for me in my own work.

5. You often play with form, combining written work with visual medias. Why are you attracted to mixed media work? What do you think these forms convey that words alone cannot?

Experimenting. That’s one of the main reasons mixed media is so attractive to me. The playing around with form & allowing yourself to just do whatever seems right in the moment. People get fixated on rules but I like to break rules.

Those forms can bring words to life a bit more, at least in my opinion. Sometimes we need images to help explain something a bit more or to add another layer to it.

6. What role does identity play in your writing? How do you explore race, gender, and sexuality through art?

Identity plays a massive role in my writing. Without understanding my own identity then my writing wouldn’t be the way it is. Writing is a way of expression for me & each piece of writing brings forth something specific for me. Whether it’s writing about blkness + the way the world wants to consume that, how being queer is still seen as dirty & how everything intersects.

7. Your forthcoming book the chosen one (Animal Heart Press 2020) references Buffy the Vampire Slayer. What role has Buffy played in your life and writing? What about Buffy’s character and story resonate with you?

Buffy is an amazing character & the show indefinitely helped shape horror (especially horror TV) but it also had a lot of feminist messages. While Buffy may not be a woman of color, she’s still a character that’s so powerful / real for me. In “the chosen one” I play around with how Buffy is a slayer & liken it to being a black woman in the world. How there’s a pressure to be so much / to save people but who will save you?

Her character in season 6 has to be the one that hits me really hard. Her vulnerability, being brought back from the dead, her mental state throughout the season , her wanting to feel alive/feel in general and just everything. All of that is me (minus the being brought back from the dead) and how my mental health is.

8. Two of your other collections, social media isn’t what killed me and press ctrl-alt-delete make use of social media and computers. Why do you find these topics important to discuss? What interests you about the Internet and online interactions?

I find there’s so many similarities in us and technology. That’s what interests me in the most and what I find to be important to recognize. As we evolve in the ways we function – so does social media. It’s all connected since without us there wouldn’t be any technology or social media.

9. Aside from writing poetry and creating visual art, you’ve written both fiction and creative non-fiction. How do you find these forms to be similar to and different from poetry? What have you learned from writing in these forms?

It’s all expressive and can be personal for folks. With poetry there’s a lot less rules (unless a person is very strict in following form) so it’s easier to play around than it is with other forms of writing.

What I’ve learned is that every form requires something different in terms of energy. Writing a poem isn’t the same as writing for example 4,000 words of fiction.

10. What is next for you? What projects are you cultivating?

Well aside from “sweet like limes” (Bone & Ink Press 2020) and “the chosen one” (Animal Heart Press” coming out next year – the rest of what’s next is either ideas, things/opportunities awaiting response and so on.

I do have a horror novel that I’m wanting to get back to eventually. There are some other projects such as chapbook(s) and maybe working towards a collection of sorts. Let’s just say that I do have much to figure out for myself creatively.





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