Meet the WotF Winners: Anaea Lay

This week, our interviews of 2013 Writers of the Future winners brings us to Wisconsin’s 1st quarter winner, Anaea Lay.

Stuart: Welcome, Anaea, and congratulations! Tell me something about you that those who know you might fiImagend surprising.

Anaea: My favorite color until I was eleven was pink. I have a visceral aversion to pink now, but it has more to do with getting burned out on the color because everything was pink for the first eleven years of my life than my distaste for “girly” things.

Stuart: Ha ha! I used to be that way about watermelon! What got you into writing?

Anaea: I was born. A few years later I’d developed enough fine motor skills to hold a pencil and manipulate it over a sheet of paper. There was no looking back from there.

Stuart: Lest anyone suspect you’re kidding, I can remember “writing a letter” by copying my mother’s hand movements and being very disappointed that she couldn’t read it. In what ways have you evolved creatively?

Anaea: From where I started? Developing literacy skills was a big step – the squiggles I started with were really raw, intense expressions of my inner life, but they were too opaque to make good literature.

Stuart: Caligraphic expressionism. I don’t know; that could be a thing.

Anaea: Lately I’ve been branching out by experimenting with characters who are actually more or less happy. Strangely, I’m less comfortable with the idea of my family reading the stories about happy people than my usual stuff which I didn’t expect.

Stuart: What? No “man’s inhumanity to man?” I’ll tell you a secret, most people I know like happy endings. Conflict, yes, but hopeful–you know? Are you a pantser or plotter?

Anaea: Pantser all the way. Half the fun of writing is trying to figure out how to resolve things when I’m done screwing them up for my characters.

Stuart: Yeah, I’m struggling to balance that discovery mode with productivity. I think that’s something we’ll be discussing in April. Tell me about your association with the podcast?

Anaea: I’m the Podcast Editor for Strange Horizons, which means I carry out my precepts of benevolent dictatorship by ruling over all things podcast with an iron fist. They publish three or four fiction stories a month and I read and produce podcasts for each of those. The week the fiction department takes off gets a podcast for all the poetry Strange Horizons publishes. We have a staff of two fabulous readers, and as of January of this year we’re hiring external voices for the poetry readings, too. It’s pretty nifty, and if you think you’re not interested in poetry, it’s a really great way to find out you’re wrong.

Stuart: Too late, I’ve already discovered Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy”. Hard not to love work that impressive. Where’s your writer’s cave ?

Anaea: I write pretty much whenever the mood strikes me unless there’s something else I have to be doing. Most of the time that means I’m either in my office at home, which takes multi-purpose to a whole new level (it’s also the guest bedroom, and my recording studio, and my indoor garden, and the cat’s third favorite lounging spot, and my third library annex and…) or at Jade Mountain, which is a Taiwanese tea shop here in Madison that stays in business by feeding my aggressive tapioca addiction with the best bubble tea I’ve ever had anywhere – and I’ve had a lot of bubble tea.

Stuart: (“Bubble tea” for those who don’t know, is that milky, colorful drink sold in a thousands variations in many Tai restaurants and food courts, usually in a clear plastic cup with a large straw and tapioca balls at the bottom). Do you have any unusual talents or hobbies, Anaea?

Anaea: My friends accuse me of collecting jobs as a hobby – and I do have a tendency to accumulate jobs without really meaning to – but I think that’s probably a symptom of a psychological condition more than a hobby.

Stuart: I don’t know, that could be a valuable form of research.

Anaea: Does writing irreverent business plans count as a hobby?

Stuart: Umm…I’m going to say, Yes? 😉 Moving on…If you had a superpower, what would it be?

Anaea: Telekinesis.

Stuart: In Larry Niven’s, Flatlanders, the main character has a telekinetic “imaginary arm” he uses to perform the “floating cigarette trick” and pick up girls. I wish I had though of that when I was singe–and lived in a universe where such things are possible. When you were a kid, what was your favorite toy?

Anaea: My Dad’s computer. I learned to touch type when I was eight and there was no looking back.

Stuart: Early adopter, eh? I actually learned to type just to avoid being kicked out of typing class–where all the school’s computers were, and where I spent my days programming games. If, like Doctor Who, you adopted a unique wardrobe tag (scarves, fezzes, bow-ties), what would it be?

Anaea: I already have one – cargo pants. Generally men’s cargo pants, with pockets big enough for my phone, wallet, and a mass market paperback. They’re getting hard to find, though, so I may have to learn to sew so I can start making them for myself. Given the effect I have on sewing machines when I get near them (they seize up in fear and stop functioning) this may not end well.

Stuart: Aren’t those retro sheik yet? May something in a military flight suit? Well thanks Anaea. It’s been a pleasure, and I can’t wait to see your wardrobe in person at the workshop in LA.


Anaea Lay lives in Madison, Wisconsin where she writes, cooks, plays board games, spoils her cat, runs the Strange Horizons podcast, and plots to take over the world. More at