One of the things we hope to achieve is to highlight other literary magazines we enjoy reading. In the first of this series, Owen Kaelan, the co-editor of Gone Lawn Literary Journal was gracious to grant us an interview providing an inside look out their literary journal as it nears its ten year anniversary. (Transcript of Interview, below.)
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. Ten years is a long time! Obviously, persistence is the key, here, and faithful adherence to your aesthetics and vision. If your vision sways, you cannot build an enduring core of supporters and fans. The core base is a driving force in getting the word out about your magazine. One key to Gone Lawn might be that I am always open to the crazy stuff. I love the odd animal, I like to say, and while we publish quality literature, I am always looking to make room in one issue and another for that truly oddball piece, even if it requires hours and hours of special coding.
Q. What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned to make your journal a success over the last ten years?
A. Don’t be lazy. I, personally, can be easily tired or discouraged, and if I give into that and allow the product permission to be lesser in quality, readers will notice, and we will lose our credibility.
Q. What are some pitfalls I should be aware of as a fledgling editor of a literary magazine?
A. This depends. I have gotten into trouble whenever I agree to a reader’s request for a critique for their rejected piece. I find it never goes well, whether I decide to offer specifics or I go for the vague, philosophical advice which the reader probably already has in his or her head. So I’ve learned never to critique.
Q. What type of work do you like to publish?
A. I like to publish well-written material that makes me feel and think things that are new and fun.
Q. What are your backgrounds? What are you interests outside of Gone Lawn?
A. Obviously writing, but I also went to art school, where I studied painting and ceramic sculpture. I’ve always seen a connection between artistic media, because the teachings of one can sometimes bleed into another. I’m also interested in folklore and myth, so pieces that explore that territory always warm my heart.
Q. At the risk of being too pollyanna, what are you most proud of about your magazine? and what has been the most rewarding? Conversely, what has been the most challenging (besides $$$, of course).
A. I think I’m proud of the fact, if I may repeat part of a previous response, that I have never veered from my basic aesthetic desires in publishing. I like to publish what other people are afraid to publish, including long works. Also, we’re both proud that we publish such a great number of women, rather consistently, in our issues, though this outcome has never been through conscious effort
Q. Any future plans, promotions, changes you’d like to share at this time?
A. We have no future plans for Gone Lawn other than continuing what we’re doing.
“If your vision sways, you cannot build an enduring core of supporters and fans” – Owen Kaelan
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? For instance, in your latest issue (Spring 2020, Issue 36), you published work like Sandra K Barnidge’s The Box, which seems like it may veer too far into the bizarre and yet doesn’t. It is somehow surreal, emotive, and grounded, all at the same time. As editors, have your pallets been refined with time? What is the reading process and what do you do if you disagree on a work?
A. Quality is important… This was difficult to achieve in the beginning, but as time went on I was happy to see more refined material coming in. (Not that I don’t love the early issues!) As for the reading process, specifically with pieces we’re on the fence on, it generally involves the repeated question, “Will I feel sorry if I reject this piece?” As for works that Beth and I disagree on, we will typically reject the piece. It’s important to both of us that we are as proud as possible of the work we publish and feel confident in putting it out. Sometimes, of course, one of us can convince the other, and this of course requires multiple readings.
Q. How has the work you have sought and published changed from 2010 to the present?
A. I think that the work has become increasingly refined and clever, over time.
Q. How do you get the word out about Gone Lawn? Any advice for others pursuing “labor of love” creative endeavors?
A. Now that NewPages won’t advertise Gone Lawn (unless we pay them), we do it strictly on “call for submissions” pages on Facebook, and otherwise rely on our readers sharing certain pieces that they love, on Twitter and Facebook.
Editors Note – Thanks again to Owen for the interview and to Beth/Owen of Gone Lawn Literary Journal. Go check out their journal, it has ten years’ worth of exciting material.