One of the things we hope to achieve is to highlight other literary magazines we enjoy reading. Beth Gordon, the co-editor of Gone Lawn Literary Journal was gracious to grant us an interview providing an inside look at their literary journal as it nears its ten year anniversary. (Transcript of Interview, below.).
Here is a link to our original interview with Owen Kaelan about Gone Lawn.
A. I’d like to preface all my answers by saying that I’ve been involved as a Poetry Editor for Gone Lawn for the past two years (April 2018), so I can only speak to those 2 years, not the entire 10 years that GL has existed.
Q. You’re about to celebrate your ten year anniversary of publishing Gone Lawn Literary Journal, what’s the secret to sustainability in this difficult endeavor?
A. For me it’s simple…I don’t find it a difficult endeavor. As an editor of an independent literary journal, I think it’s important to understand your own motivation. If it’s fame, glory or money…you might want to try something else. So I guess the first secret to sustainability is that you better love what you’re doing.
Q. What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned to make your journal a success over the last ten years?
A. I think it’s very important to understand what you want the journal to be. In the case of Gone Lawn, we try to publish work that is a bit on the odd side, work that often has some element of fantasy or the surreal, work that other journals might not even consider due to subject matter, length, style, etc. But also, we will not compromise quality of writing over subject matter. That said, one of the things I’ve admired about Owen and one of the reasons this journal continues to be relevant is that he is not afraid to take risks.
Q. What are some pitfalls I should be aware of as a fledgling editor of a literary magazine?
A. Never forget that there are human beings on the other side of those submissions. Treat them with respect, even if you are not publishing their work.
Q. What type of work do you like to publish?
A. Beyond what it says in our submission guidelines (odd babies), I personally am drawn to well-crafted work. By that I mean surprising, innovative and evocative use of language. But the emotion and subject matter of the work are also important. Something that surprises and moves me. That’s a hard balance. Most work leans one way or another.
Q. What are your backgrounds? What are you interests outside of Gone Lawn?
A. I’m a poet. I was published in Gone Lawn in 2017 and when Owen was looking for a new co-editor in 2018 I raised my hand. I’ve had two chapbooks of poetry published. I’m an Assistant Editor for Animal Heart Press and the Managing Editor of a new journal (about to publish Issue 2) called Feral: A Journal of Poetry and Art.
Q. At the risk of being too pollyanna, what are you most proud of about your magazine? and what has been the most rewarding?
A. I’ll defer to Owen on “what are you most proud of.” But for me what has been the most rewarding is learning from Owen. When I started, I had never edited a journal before. He’s been very patient and kind and now I feel like we make a great team.
Q. Conversely, what has been the most challenging (besides $$$, lol).
A. Time. Find the time to keep up with all the submissions is my biggest challenge.
Q. Most of the work you publish is both odd and familiar, how do you cultivate, encourage, and find work that is so perfectly seasoned?
Well to start with, we do not solicit any submissions (except for cover art occasionally), so all the fiction and poetry we publish comes from our ongoing open submissions. I suspect that after 10 years, the journal itself attracts a certain kind of writer.
Q. For instance, in your latest issue (Spring 2020, Issue 36), you published work like Sandra K Barnidge’s The Box, which could veer too far into the bizarre and yet doesn’t. It is somehow surreal, emotive, and grounded, all at the same time.
A. It’s also well-written. So…this is the type of piece that checks all the boxes for me.
Q. As editors, have your pallets been refined with time?
A. For me, coming in as a co-editor and knowing my job was to help Owen continue with his vision of Gone Lawn, I’ve learned to recognize the type of work that fits that vision.
Q. What is the reading process and what do you do if you disagree on a work?
A. We use Submittable. We both read the pieces and vote. Usually we agree – although our preferences are different for subject matter in writing (in the world outside of Gone Lawn), we have similar standards for quality of writing. When one of us reads a piece we really love, we will message the other person to hurry up and vote on that piece. When we disagree, we talk about it and by talk I mean we use FB messenger. In two years, I can only think of a couple of times when we strongly disagreed with each other. I think there is mutual respect and we listen to each other. If we are on the fence, we ask ourselves two questions – Is this a “Gone Lawn” piece and “will we regret it later if we let this piece go now?”
Q. How do you get the word out about Gone Lawn?
A. We use Facebook and Twitter primarily.
Q. Any advice for others pursuing “labor of love” creative endeavors?
A. Understand that it’s not going to get easier. What I mean by that is that it will always take more time than you expected, and the rewards will not be monetary. Some days it will feel more like “labor” than “love.” Focus on the love.