Q&A with Jia Tolentino

What better way to end our Carver Contest Q&A series than with last year’s first placer, Jia Tolentino. She had the great fortune of having her first ever published story also be a contest winner. She shares her reaction to winning, and tells us a bit about her other current writing endeavors.

Carve: Describe your reaction when you found out “The Odyssey” won top honors in the fall 2012 Carver contest.

Jia Tolentino: I was totally surprised! At that point, I had only been writing fiction “seriously” for a few months, and I’d only ever sent out “The Odyssey,” and only to a half-dozen contests. Actually, even though a year has passed and I’m playing a more directed long game with my writing, that’sstill true—I haven’t submitted any other stories anywhere. So I truly got lucky, and winning this contest was a lovely and encouraging introduction to the world of lit mags.

C: Has the contest affected your writing in any way, and if so, how? Did you get contacted by the agency?

JT: I did get contacted by the agency, and by several unaffiliated agents besides who had just happened to come across the story in Carve. Those occasions have been important ones in terms of having to articulate a plan for the book that I’m working on, which has evolved a lot over the last year, both plot-wise and formally—it’s now reading much more like a novel than a collection of stories. 

C: Can you give us an update on your writing since the contest? Any forthcoming publications/projects we should be on the lookout for?

JT: I’ve been writing pretty regularly forThe BillfoldThe Hairpin and a music website calledAll Things Go. I’ve been absolutely loving the freedom and space that the Michigan fiction program gives its writers, and I’m halfway through a first draft of a novel that I’ve been shopping around a bit, as well as laying groundwork for long-form nonfiction pieces that I plan to investigate and write this summer.

About the Author: Jia Tolentinois a writer in Michigan.

The 14th annual Raymond Carver Contest is now open until May 15th.