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Chatting with J.M. Eno

J.M. explains why most of his stories end up in outer space, switching gears to poetry, getting into the creative headspace, finding the perfect title, and the stubbornness of English bulldogs

Chatting with J.M. Eno

J.M. Eno's work has appeared or is forthcoming in House of Zolo's Journal of Speculative Literature, Cobalt, and Zooscape Zine. He can be found among the trees with his family and a recalcitrant English bulldog, on Twitter at @jmenowrites, or at

J.M. is the author of “Conservation of Angular Momentum from Radon Issue 6.

Q: Your “Conservation of Angular Momentum” was your first published poem. What made you switch gears into poetry?

I’ve dabbled in poetry throughout my time writing, but it’s only recently been that I have been comfortable with the prospect of sharing my work with a broader audience. I like to write short stories, too, but I find that some ideas seem to be more “poem-shaped”—that is, they are much more effectively expressed in the form of a poem. Plus, poetry allows you to luxuriate in the process of carefully choosing each word, its place in the work, and the overall shape of the piece. Sometimes tiny changes can make a huge difference to the reading of the poem. That attitude can sometimes be counterproductive in a longer work, but I find it is very satisfying in the short form.

Q: Your first published story came into the world in 2022. Do you consider yourself a new writer, or one who simply recently picked up the pen again?

A little bit of both. I’ve always had the urge to write, and I wrote stories as early as age six. But it wasn’t until 2020, when I was cooped up inside a small apartment during the COVID shutdowns, that I picked up the pen again and decided to write seriously, including for publication. My primary goal is always to enjoy the process, so I try to allow myself space to be productive and space to be fallow.

Q: How do you typically go about getting into a creative headspace?

I wish I knew! I have noticed two things that are helpful to get into a creative mindset. The first is boredom. It is increasingly rare for me to be bored because of all of life’s usual obligations, but also because, like everyone with a smartphone, I have Internet connectivity in my pocket at all times. But recently I’ve begun to look at boredom as a resource, because it is in boredom that ideas can really gestate. So this generally translates into trying to set aside quiet, distraction-free writing time whenever possible (which is more rare than I’d like) and then trying my best to stay off the internet during that time (which I fail at more than I’d like to admit).

The second thing, and this is crucial, is reading as much as possible. There’s something in my mind that lights up when I read a great story or poem—something that says, “I want to write like that!” And the more I read, the more I find my thoughts express themselves in neat sentences, which makes translating them to the page easier.

Q: Why do you think most of your stories, as you describe, “end up in outer space”?

Ha! This comment came from my wife originally. I was describing an idea for yet another science fiction story, and she asked why my stories always end up in outer space. Upon reflection, I think the comment works both literally and figuratively. I certainly have an interest in space exploration and science fiction stories (just Google the number of stars in a galaxy, and the number galaxies in the visible universe, and tell me we aren’t destined to explore that). But it’s not limited to literal outer space: I am also attracted to stories that have a strangeness to them, whether speculative or literary.

Q: What value has being an SFWA member brought to your career?

Truthfully, I haven’t taken advantage of my SFWA membership as much as I should, though I do try to vote in the Nebula awards for works that I thought were particularly excellent. I think the greatest value to me so far has been the feeling of belonging to a group that is supporting writers of science fiction and fantasy. I like knowing that I am, in a small way, supporting their work of advocating for writers and promoting the publication of speculative fiction.

Q: Do you struggle with creating titles for your creative creations? Do you have a process for finding your work’s perfect title?

Mercifully, I do not struggle with titles—I just struggle with the work itself! I think finding a great title means dispensing with the notion that there is one perfect title waiting to be plucked out of the ether. But for me, the right title for a work is one that touches on the core theme of a piece and is descriptive enough that it is memorable to the reader.

Q: From what point do you prefer to begin working on your speculative works? Do you first imagine the idea your story will be based around? Or do you search for an emotional through-line first and build from that?

For most of my speculative works, I start with an idea and work backwards into the characters that might inhabit the world and then on to their motivations and emotions. I do think you usually need both the idea and the emotion for an effective speculative piece, though there are lots of ways to achieve this. I have pages of notes with ideas that I was never able to find an emotional through-line for, and so they sit, waiting. Perhaps they will be waiting for a very long time.

Q: Just how stubborn is your French Bulldog?

Teddy is an English Bulldog! I read this question to him, and he is terribly offended. (You know the feelings of the English about the French.)

[Editor’s note: We sincerely apologize to Teddy.]

But how stubborn is he? When he has decided that he is done walking (which happens several times each walk), he will simply stop, dig his feet in, and refuse to proceed. Have you ever tried to pull a 65-pound dog with a low center of gravity around the streets of New York City while strangers laughed at you? But then, that is how one gets tough enough to submit creative writing to literary journals!

Q: Do you enjoy living in New York, the space many regard as the centerpiece of the writing and publishing industry?

I lived in New York City for thirteen amazing years, but my family and I moved a few months ago to the suburbs of New Jersey. (I may still need to update my socials.) I am proud to say that I took advantage of some of the literary events in the city by attending readings and exhibits, as well as browsing many of the city’s bookstores. And I definitely took advantage of the food scene: everything from fine dining to local holes in the wall and food carts. I still love the city and am there regularly for work and to visit friends, but I’m also quite happy to have a yard!

Q: Which do you feel is more fun to play with—a dog or a toddler?

This is a tough one! I love playing with a dog because it’s physical and primal. It also gives you a chance to see how remarkably intelligent dogs are. I want to take a moment to express my astonishment and gratitude at the fact that we can engage in play with animals of different species. The drive for play is so fundamental that it even crosses species. We take it for granted, but how cool is that?

Playing with a toddler, on the other hand, is all about rediscovering the magic in the world. They will bend the rules of physics and causality without a second thought to best suit the play. I am so impressed by my daughter’s creativity and curiosity, and I try to bring that same sense of wonder into my writing.

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