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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Where Will You Be? Five-Year Plans and Lit-Mag Uniqueness

The lit-mag discussion continues as our panel of editors take on more questions you've posed to us through Twitter. Keep the questions coming, and we'll be answering them periodically. For those who've already asked, we'll be posting more answers soon!

Photo by: susivinh

Shelly Holder (@writinflower01) asks:
Where do you see your magazine in five years? What makes your publication unique? Who is your ideal reader? 

Paper Darts, Holly Harrison     At the risk of laying out a five-year plan and then having to stuff our collective foot into our collective mouth, we’ll stay away from things we see and talk a bit about things we want. We want an office space. We want to have the capacity to publish more often—specifically in print. We want to be able to pay our contributors and, maybe someday, ourselves. Our publication is unique in its unapologetic marriage of literature with art and illustration. It’s by no means one of a kind—we have a list of predecessors and secret loves whose models we sought to build upon—but it’s rare enough. Illustration doesn’t sucker away the power of words. It showcases them better than any black and white block of text ever could, and it keeps print worthwhile. Our ideal reader is someone who knows little more than uniform pages of justified text. We want to introduce our brand of bright and bizarre and sexy lit on the web and on the page to anyone and everyone who has dwelled in black and white for too long.

Gulf Coast, Zachary Martin and Karyna McGlynn     Donald Barthelme co-founded Gulf Coast, and we’d like to think that his sensibilities continue to inform what we do and who we publish. This means we’re willing to publish something new, something that pushes at the boundaries of genre, but without ignoring strong realist fiction and formal poetry. We’re especially proud of the relationship Gulf Coast has with the fine arts community. Artwork is never an afterthought for us: each issue contains full-color features by two emerging artists, as well as essays on those artists. In the next few years, we hope to draw in a larger audience by significantly expanding our art and critical art writing sections. Our ideal reader is a Samoan pastry chef in his mid-twenties who listens to Daft Punk and likes to talk during Fellini films.

Paper Darts, Holly Harrison     “Artwork is never an afterthought for us.” This isn’t particularly articulate, but I’m responding to that with: <3.

The Stinging Fly, Declan Meade     Sneaky three-in-one. I hope the latest issue of the magazine will be in the hands of a reader who will be very excited about it. I'm not sure if The Stinging Fly is unique. Is that a realistic goal for a literary magazine? Perhaps starting out fifteen years ago I might have thought we were going to do something in Ireland that had never been done before. But then I discovered over time that most things we wanted to do had been done by someone else in the past. Rather than trying to attain uniqueness, I think it's more about trying to set and maintain high standards—and there are plenty of good magazines that you can seek to emulate. If The Stinging Fly is in any way unique, it is only due to the fact that it is a particular magazine with a particular ethos working in a particular place at a particular time. I would say our magazines probably have more things in common than things distinguishing us. An ideal reader is someone who is curious about what new writers have to say and is willing to engage with their work.

Indiana Review, Katie Moulton     In five years, we envision an option for online subscription, or at least a much-increased web presence (which we’re working on—check out our Indiana Review’s website, blog, Twitter, and Facebook!), which opens the door for expanded possibilities for literature and multimedia. What makes Indiana Review unique is our decision process: every piece accepted is voted in by committee after extended discussion. Our system of rotating editorship also allows more room for a wider range of aesthetics, while remaining committed to a tradition of excellence, no matter whether the talent is emerging or established. Based in Bloomington, Indiana, we are also a journal that extends beyond a paper-cluttered office; we’re embedded in our physical (and virtual) communities, sponsoring readings and contributing to other on-the-ground literary endeavors. Ideally, we hope that anyone who reads and finds Indiana Review in their hands will find some story, line, or image that moves them and sticks with them.

Paper Darts, Holly Harrison     Web presence is so crucial! Paper Darts’ print issues are too spread out for us to implement a subscription model in good conscience. Our audience, our “subscription base,” is on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Tumblr. We work hard to deliver more to them than an RSS-style feed of our own daily web content—we curate the best of art and lit on the internet to keep our followers engaged.

Gulf Coast, Zachary Martin and Karyna McGlynn     Ooh! Ooh! We want to plug our great online features, too. Our Editor’s blog continues to feature great think-pieces on literature, art, publishing, and the writing life, and starting this fall we’ll be featuring a new Online Exclusive every two weeks on our website: a story, poem, or essay available online at and nowhere else! We’re about to introduce digital subscriptions for Kindle, NOOK, iPad, etc., and so we’re trying to publicize that and, with any luck, find new readers.

Hayden’s Ferry Review, Sam Martone     Tough questions. We're in the process of transitioning to being entirely run by the students in the MFA program, so in five years, I see us well out of this transitional period and functioning like a well-oiled, student-run machine—though with a bit more heart than a machine would have. Like a robot with a soul, maybe. I see us continuing to publish the wide variety of exciting, talented voices we publish today, continuing to attract established writers we love, as well as discovering new writers. It's also tough to say what makes us unique, and, especially as this is a roundtable discussion with other magazines, I wouldn't try to say "here's what we do that no one else does." I will say that the fact that it's hard to answer this question is a good thing: it means we live in a world where there are countless amazing magazines doing amazing things and publishing amazing work. HFR strives to be unique in content, of course—as I said before, we want to put a wide variety of voices out there. That factors into our international section, which is something not a lot of other magazines have—an entire section dedicated to translations. One thing that makes us somewhat unique in a more behind-the-scenes way is that we try to keep our response time to submissions around 1–3 months, which is a lot shorter than many university journals, and it's definitely something we take pride in. As for our ideal reader, we want to be read by anyone searching for some of the most exciting, energetic work being written today.

Paper Darts, Holly Harrison     We’re always hankering for more translations! Mad props to HFR for dedicating a whole section to them.

Indiana Review, Katie Moulton     We love the others’ responses as to what makes then unique and wonderful, and would like to second all of it, and go ahead and make this one big, fat lovefest. Special props to Hayden’s Ferry for the 1- to 3-month response time! We wish we could turn every piece around that quickly, but as with every journal, we’re constrained by the huge volume of submissions (as well as shortages of time and money).

Check out past discussions for Tweeted Questions

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