Interview with Imani Campbell by Kate Wilson

1.) You are the Editor-in-Chief of Royal Rose Magazine. Tell us a little bit about what inspired you to start a magazine.

Honestly, Royal Rose started off as a brand to just help people feel better about themselves. I was talking about the idea with one of my friends about how we could have merch and create a twitter where we just help people through hard times. It wasn’t until I started getting more familiar with the writing community when I noticed a lack of representation for people like me (black, non-binary, and lesbian). So, I took the original idea of creating a safe space to uplift others and decided to go the literary route, also. I also wanted a magazine that wasn’t intimidating to submit to. That if you made a mistake or typo, or your emails aren’t as formal, it’s okay. We just want your work. We don’t expect perfection or anything close to it.

2.) Much of your work is confessional in nature, writing about trauma through beautiful metaphors and images. What have you found to be the most rewarding part of this kind of processing?

I’ve always used writing as a coping mechanism. My motto is: If I can write about it, I can get through it. I’m also someone that writes in the moment. Most of my pieces were written with tears running down my face and anger still cursing through my veins. I want readers to feel the same emotions I was feeling when I wrote the piece or what I was going through with that situation. When my book was released, the most common review was that “I felt like I was there with you,” and that’s exactly what I wanted to hear.

3.) You often write about love, showing both the beautiful and messy parts about sharing yourself with others. Why do you think vulnerability about love is important?

I’m such a hopeless romantic, it’s sickening, lol. Love is everywhere around us and it’s hard to write about anything else. You can’t experience a healthy connection, platonic or romantic without opening yourself up. It’s a scary feeling, but most of the time it can be rewarding.

4. ) Who are the artists that have transformed how you create?

Surprisingly, musicians inspire me more than poets do. I grew up writing raps before I wrote poems, so I hundred percent thought I was going to grow up and be a rapper, lol. While I was editing the pieces for my book, I mainly listened to Kehlani, Demi Lovato, Khalid, and Bryson Tiller. I think what they talk about in their music reflects what I talk about in my poems. On the writer side, Sarah Kay has definitely been a huge influence. I love her softness and femininity but also the bravery and rawness she gives off in her pieces. She has perfected the balance in her writing, and I aspire to be like her when I grow up.

5.) What difficulties have you found in creating and maintaining a space such as Royal Rose Magazine?

There’s just not enough time and money for me to really build Royal Rose like I want to. My ideas for the magazine go beyond just putting out amazing issues like we do, but I want it to truly be a community, or a kingdom to better put it, lol. Maintaining the space is easy because the mission at Royal Rose is one that is important to me, so it is never too challenging to keep up with that. Besides being the EIC, I work 40+ hours a week, I’m a youth leader at church, I have a somewhat active social life, a dog that demands a lot of attention, and I still have to find time for me and my writing.  Thankfully, I have an amazing team that not only do their assigned jobs well, but have no problem helping me out when I need it. Being an editor is challenging, but besides needing more than 24 hours a day, I have no complaints.

6.) Your first book Feel. Forgive. Forget. debuted in May of 2018. What was your experience like in both writing and editing your own work?

A challenge! My first book ever was a full-length and it was incredibly hard. However, I grew so much during that time and I would do it all over if I could. As a writer, when you’re putting out a collection, you want only your best pieces to be shown, so it really made me sit back and question my craft (in a good way) and get better at writing. It was a lot of late nights of doubting myself and my talent, but I was surrounded by people who saw my potential more than I did. I was lucky enough to not have to edit my book. My good and incredibly talent friend, Taylor (who we interviewed for Issue One) edited my book for me. I picked her because she knows me as a person and a writer, and with my first book I wanted personal feedback. I didn’t want someone that didn’t know me to tell me how to make my book better. I wanted someone who saw my potential and knew me as a writer to sit me down and be like “Hey, I know you can do better than this because I’ve seen it” and that’s why I chose her.

7.) Your work also appeared in Rhythm & Bones’ YANYR. How did you go about writing about such difficult topics?

Part of it was that I felt safe submitting to the anthology. I knew even if my piece wasn’t accepted, it was in good hands. I also use writing as an outlet and the piece I submitted was one of the first times I wrote about my abuse. I kept it hidden and pushed away for so long that I never even allowed myself to write about. Once I got it on paper, the pieces about it wouldn’t stop and I’m like “Okay, this can help someone in some way” which is what I use my writing for. I write about my experiences because I don’t want anyone to think they are alone in their struggle.

8.) Royal Rose is dedicated to promoting and uplifting voices of underrepresented communities, who are so often overlooked in writing and publishing. Aside from creating more spaces for these groups in publishing, what changes would you like to see within the literary community?

Besides creating more spaces, I believe allies need to move out of the way and allow underrepresented writers to do the talking. No one can talk better about a black person’s culture, struggles, and mindset better than a black person. No one can talk about lesbians better than a lesbian. It’s great that allies are speaking up for us, but they also need to promote underrepresented communities on the large platforms that they already have. Also, don’t make minority groups come to you, look for them. It’s easier to find us than you really think.

9.) What identities would you say are most important to your art? Which do you hope to explore more in the future?

Probably being a lesbian. I love talking about being in love with women. I would love to explore my blackness more in my writing and my gender [non-binary] and find a way to incorporate all three of those identities in my writing.

10.) What projects are in the works for you? What can we expect from you next?

Well, I am working on book two and it’s all about love, of course. I do have a title for it, but I’m not going to share it, yet. I will tell you that it is separated in three parts focusing on platonic love, romantic love, and self-love. I am very excited to finish it and have the world read it. Besides that, I also would like to get back into submitting. I went this entire year without submitting to anything because I was focused on Royal Rose, so hopefully you see some of my work next year in some of your favorite magazines and journals.

Imani Campbell is the EIC and founder of Royal Rose Magazine. They are a non-binary (they/them) lesbian poet that have a love of helping people. In May of 2018, Imani released their first full-length poetry collection, “Feel. Forgive. Forget.” that you can find here. Their work has been included in Rhythm & Bones YANYR anthology and Rose Quartz Magazine. When they aren’t writing or editing, you can find them binge-watching Impractical Jokers! You can find them here on twitterinstagram, and tumblr.

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