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On Submission with Purple Ink Press Founding Editor Yael Valencia Aldana



Lifting Voices, Never Giving Up, and Following Your Dreams with Yael Valencia Aldana and Purple Ink Press




Purple Ink Press is a new and exciting publication on the scene. Today, we are speaking with Yael Valencia Aldana, founding editor and the dreamer who brought it to life. Yael is not only a Pushcart and Best of The Net nominated writer and poet, but she’s also the author of the chapbook Alien(s) (Bottlecap Press) and the forthcoming poetry collection Black Mestiza (University Press of Kentucky, 2025). She won the University Press of Kentucky New Poetry and Prose Series Prize 2023 in poetry. Purple Ink Press aims to publish unusual projects from in-between spaces. She lives and teaches creative writing in South Florida, where she lives with her son and too many pets. You can find her online at

Purple Ink Press

WOW: Welcome, Yael. It’s a pleasure to speak with you about Purple Ink Press, which is just taking off. Before we talk about the press, we’d love to get to know you a bit better. You are an active writer with publications and guest editor spots, and you teach creative writing. Tell us about what led you to become a writer.

Yael: My main inspirations are Margaret Atwood and Toni Morrison. I was astonished when I read Atwood’s Cat’s Eye and Morrison’s Beloved. After reading them, I wrote this and that privately for years simply for the joy of writing. Decades later, when I was pursuing a Master’s degree in Women and Gender studies, my professors consistently told me I wrote well and I should look into English and creative writing. I ignored them because my goal was to get a Ph.D. and become a professor. Then, I had a huge fight with the thesis advisor. She told me I was too creative for the Ph.D. track and should study creative writing. I didn’t take it well, but after sulking for a while, I applied to some MFA programs and landed at Florida International University.

WOW: Atwood and Morrison are two amazing and inspirational women writers. And a BIG yes to the joy of writing. Writing is such an up-and-down experience, which can be frustrating. What is your favorite moment as a writer, and what keeps you coming back to the page?

Yael: My favorite experience as a writer is surprising people. My favorite moment as a writer/poet was surprising my mentor, Richard Blanco. Richard is a very kind teacher who always gives generous feedback, but I never got his top praise. I was an OK poet in his classes but worked hard on my craft. I had a chapbook project I guilted him into helping me with. He did, although he was swamped. I expected his constructive criticism, but I was taken aback by how much he liked the manuscript. He said it startled him. He enjoyed some poems so much that he read them back to me. It was in that moment I gained confidence as a poet. I love bringing my family’s story to people with completely different experiences and connecting on a human level. Our stories may be different, but our humanity connects us.

WOW: “Our humanity connects us.” Love that. Having a mentor offer support and praise is so helpful in carrying a writer through those times when we feel stuck. Purple Ink Press is a brand-new publication. What made you want to start it?

Yael: My friend and fellow founding editor Erik Ebright inspired me. He is a part of the Narcotics Anonymous community, and I was struck by how much they supported each other. Years ago, I had an idea to create an accessible online writing course for everyone. As an ally of the NA community, I saw people who were willing to work on projects together. I thought we could publish a yearly anthology. We founded Purple Ink with this Recovery Anthology in mind. This project will take considerable planning and is a long-term goal. Meanwhile, we started with more traditional print projects.

Yael Valencia Aldana

“People are hungry to see the courage of vulnerability in others. The artists, the writers, and the poets are courageous and are on the front lines of authenticity. We give others the courage to create and be themselves.”

WOW: The NA community is impressive in how they come together to lift each other up, but they’re also amazing storytellers who share with honesty and vulnerability. The Purple Ink Press tagline is “Publishing work from places in-between.” Could you tell us more about it?

Yael: I love hybrid work. That is work that isn’t quite a poem, not fully prose, words with images, work that doesn’t fit into categories. I am a painter and visual artist. Art is its own type of language that I don’t think it is well understood. When you pair the right art with the right words, it sings and creates a magic third thing. Our books will prominently feature visual art paired with poetry and prose. Many people see these categories as separate: art, poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and hybrid. I see them as all part of a whole. We are looking to publish pieces and books that straddle categories.

We are looking for raw, vulnerable work that surprises us. Our culture continually sidesteps authenticity and vulnerability for quips and trends. People are hungry to see the courage of vulnerability in others. The artists, the writers, and the poets are courageous and are on the front lines of authenticity. We give others the courage to create and be themselves. It’s like a chain that passes from one person to the next.

WOW: Authenticity absolutely creates a connection for a reader to a piece of writing or art. Even when writing takes place in fictitious worlds, readers tend to be more willing to take that journey when the characters feel genuine and honest at their core. BIPOC and Queer voices are your focus. Could you share about creating a platform to showcase these voices? Do you accept other voices as well?

Yael: We encourage everyone to submit. But we especially encourage BIPOC, Queer, and under-represented people. As an editor at other publications, I saw a lot of CALLS for BIPOC and Queer voices, but not of lot of work was accepted. A big issue is that editors seek similar work that doesn’t veer out of their narrow tastes. We love work that challenges us. Sometimes, when I talk with my senior editor, Madison Whatley, a piece will challenge us, and we can see it’s good. It might make us uncomfortable, and we feel we have to publish it to get that voice out there in the world.

WOW: Two of the most incredible experiences that come from experiencing other voices are finding a connection and learning about different human experiences. You have two calls for anthologies—can you tell us first about the Bimbo Feminist Anthology?

Yael: Editors on the team inspired both of these calls. Senior editor Madison Whatley inspired the Bimbo Feminist Anthology. We went to graduate school together, and she developed this Feminist Bimbo stance in her poetry. It was such a unique in-your-face identity. I loved it. I approached Madison about an anthology as soon as the press was going. With the Barbie movie being such a huge hit, it seemed to be the right time for Bimbo Feminism. We say Bimbo people hear Barbie. Barbie has done so much work for us in terms of smashing through gender norms.

The concept of bimbos, himbos, and thembos expands the idea of equality and feminism. People have been so excited about this anthology. People on social media have grabbed the bo’s and announced themselves as thembos, himbos, or Bimbos. We love getting responses like this: “Dear Bimbo Anthology, I am a fellow Bimbo, Thembo, Himbo.” Some of our favorite Bimbos, Thembos, and Himbos are Anna Nicole Smith, Rupaul, and Prince. You can find details about The Bimbo Feminist Anthology here:

Bimbo Feminist Anthology

Our original deadline was in May, but we moved it to March 15th. We are about two-thirds full, and the way it is going, we might have to close earlier if we reach our page count. The good news is that we are planning to do a second Bimbo anthology, and if the interest is there, we might mighty do one yearly.

WOW: 50 Years of Hip Hop is the second call. It brings back memories of my Digital Underground, Tribe Called Quest, BBD, and, of course, Janet Jackson Rhythm Nation (my favorite) tapes and seeing Salt N Peppa live as my first No Grownups concerts when I was in middle school. Those artists are still inspiring and groundbreaking. Who were some of your favorite Hip Hop artists as a kid and now?

Yael:  Some of my favorite old skool artists are Queen Latifah, LL Cool J, and Missy Elliott. A current artist I love is Lil Nas X.

The Hip Hop Anthology was inspired by this as Hip Hop’s 50th year and our founding editor, Erik Ebright. Erik is a musician. He’s the kind of person that speaks in rhyme. I wanted to do something to celebrate this milestone as I didn’t see much acknowledgment in the literary community. Hip Hop has been so influential and important culturally. I asked Erik to edit this anthology because Hip Hop and music are part of his DNA. We ask that submissions are influenced by Hip Hop in some way. We are also accepting lyrics, original songs, and reprints for this. The details for Hip Hop are here:

50 Years of Hip Hop Anthology

WOW: These sound so exciting and different from so many of the calls out there right now. Once these anthologies wrap up, what is your vision for Purple Ink Press?

Yael: We have a poetry anthology called Chameleon Chimera, an Anthology of Florida Poets, coming up. It is an anthology of over 100 Florida poets and was curated by Lenny DellaRocca for the online literary journal South Florida Poetry Journal. It is an incredible collection with poets like Maureen Seaton, Denise Duhamel, Jessica Q. Stark, and Geoffrey Philp. I can’t believe we were able to secure this fantastic project. We also have two more anthologies planned. One is based on a particular writer, and the other will focus on female, femme-identifying, and nonbinary experiences in the Americas.

We are also sponsoring some local events in April, poetry month.

WOW: The poetry anthology, future calls, and the events in April are exciting ways to lift up the literary community. All social media and website info is below, and people can keep an eye on those for more information. As a new publication, what were some of the biggest challenges you faced starting Purple Ink Press?

Yael: Our two main challenges are good problems to have. With Chameleon Chimera, we secured an amazing project with a lot of moving parts, and The Bimbo Feminist Anthology caught on fire. Both of those projects require a lot of organization. Thankfully, one of our interns is a spreadsheet guru to keep us in check.

I still can’t believe we landed Chameleon Chimera. It’s such a stellar project. I keep pinching myself.

WOW: Thank goodness for organized people to support good problems. What advice would you offer to others considering starting a press or journal?

Yael: Firstly, I would say do your homework. I was lucky enough to have experience at several journals and presses, which gave me the insider track on how to run and organize an independent press. Secondly, have a strong sense of purpose. There are so many presses out there. Why does another one need to exist? Thirdly, I would say don’t do this alone. It’s a lot of work for a team, not one person. And finally, be flexible and ready to learn. Anything could happen at any moment, both good and bad; be ready.

Yael Valencia Aldana

“Don’t give up. The fiftieth idea might be the one that works.”


WOW: Great advice, thank you. Speaking of not doing it alone, how did the staff get together?

Yael: Purple Ink Press was born organically. Initially, it was my idea. I first talked with Erik about starting the press. He has a lot of web and programming experience and is an artist. I thought he was going to say no. But he said yes and put in a ton of work to get it started. He also picked the name. When I approached Madison to edit Bimbo, I thought she would say no. But she jumped on board and enthusiastically took on a larger role than we planned. Everyone I asked to become involved said yes. And we quickly gained four interns. While we’re independent, we are looking into creating an official internship program with a local college. I am grateful for everyone who works on this press. We are all volunteers. I have had so many ideas over the years that I failed. It is exciting to have the right idea at the right time. Don’t give up. The fiftieth idea might be the one that works.

WOW: Those are such important lessons in both not giving up and asking, even if you think the person might say no. They could totally say yes. Now that you have this platform, if you could have any writer (living or dead) in Purple Ink Press, who would it be and why?

Yael: I can’t believe I am going to say this, but one of my dreams has already happened. We are publishing three of my mentors in the Chameleon Chimera: Julie Marie Wade, Denise Duhamel, and Richard Blanco. This was beyond my expectations. To extend the fantasy, I would love it if one of them would bring their next project to us. Beyond that, I want to partner with one person in this country, Oprah. Someway, somehow, I want to spin into Oprah’s orbit. She has the resources and an eye toward the community to make a meaningful positive impact in whatever she does. When Oprah herself takes my call to develop a project, I will be where I want to be.

WOW: The fact that your mentors wanted to work with you shows that inspiration and respect are mutual. Beyond our collective call for Oprah to find you, how else can people support, get involved with, and find Purple Ink Press?

Yael: We are a nonprofit, so people can donate on our website,, or buy something in our writer-themed fundraising shop.

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Purple Ink Press

Many thanks to Purple Ink Press’s founding editor, Yael Valencia Aldana. It’s been inspiring learning about this uplifting and supportive press. Writers, if you’d like to submit to one of Purple Ink Press’s anthologies, remember their deadline is March 2024 (or until filled). Visit this page for further information:



Christy O'Callaghan

Christy O ’Callaghan is a writer and developmental editor in Upstate, NY. For two decades, she was a community organizer and educator. Christy loves strange stories, plants, and lore. Her work has appeared in The Los Angeles Review, Great Weather for Media, Trolley Journal, Under the Gumtree, Chestnut Review, and more.


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