Read Good: Literary site breaks out of the norm
For this week’s Read Good, I interviewed creative writing senior Gene Morgan and the creator of www.bearparade.com, an online literary magazine featuring works by Tao Lin, Michael Earl Craig, Ellen Kennedy, Matthew Roher, Noah Cicero, Ofelia Hunt and Maize Louise Montgomery.† Morgan’s bear parade is a prime example of the underground literary communities that are forming online among young writers. The stories and collections published on bear parade are astutely written, bite-sized and available to read for anyone with an Internet connection.
How did you first get involved with an online community of writers?
I’m not really sure. I think I just started commenting on other blogs and talking to other writers who were doing the same thing I was doing, but in different parts of the country. It wasn’t some sort of pre-meditated ‘I want to get involved with an online community of writers’ objective. I just sought out writers I liked and talked to them.
Why did you choose to start bear parade?
Tao Lin had a lot of poems he was working on at the time. I told him I liked his work, and I think he asked me to start something, or we talked about starting something, or we complained about every other site and wished there was something else. I’m not exactly sure. The next day I developed an entire site and sent him a link. The idea was that instead of a collection of cherry-picked individual pieces, which is largely the extent of online literary content now, bear parade would publish small bodies of work by individual writers and develop single-site designs for the work to exist permanently, for everyone, for free. Tao made me pay him $50 for the collection of nine poems, and I published it a week or so later. I did it because I couldn’t find anything like it on the Internet and was bored wasting time on vanity projects of my own.
What attracted you to the writers that you publish on bear parade?
Noah Cicero had a good explanation on his blog a few days ago. He basically said that the writers that we publish don’t think of themselves as writers. They are just people who do things like other people and feel the need to write down those things in a very simple and succinct manner. If you are in junior high, you can read bear parade and feel the way the authors feel without thinking that they are above you or better people or something. And if you have your MFA in poetry, you can also feel these same things.
What ideas or themes relate the stories/collections on bear parade?
Alienation, awkwardness, doubt and sadness based in some sort of content and sad reality.
Can you speak about the importance bear parade places on free publishing?
Some people would pay for what we publish, but most would not. The problem is that talented writers, in general, no longer can eat in a free-market, capitalistic society, because too few people care about books and writing. If you are Michael Chabon, you do fine writing and selling books and can eat well. If you are Matthew Rohrer, you teach to support yourself. If you are Noah Cicero, you wash dishes at a Texas Roadhouse so you can eat. All of these writers are relevant and deserve to be read, but only one has the weight of a huge publishing house behind him. It is important to keep the cost to read those writers who have much less money behind their work as cheap as possible, so as many people as possible can read their work. The Internet is very good for that.
How do you feel about publishing in general? Which trends do you like or find annoying?
I’m not really into paper publishing. There is enough work on the Internet to keep me busy and interested. I buy books to support writers and places I like, and that’s about all I have time to keep up with. I do get disappointed when I look at poetry journals with a very small budget that continue to print on paper. They make no money and reach very few people. I think this feeling of disappointment could maybe be applied to literary publishing, as a whole.
How do you see bear parade fitting into the realm of publishing?
Bear parade will probably never even be acknowledged by mainstream or book culture, so I don’t think it is possible to fit into any realm of publishing. We are just at the beginning of something that will continue to grow and is already beyond us. All publishers will someday take electronic publishing, and they will figure out how to make a huge amount of money off of it. It took them a while to transform Johannes Gutenberg’s ideas into the incredible global force of Harry Potter, and it will take them a while to evolve electronic publishing into the same.
Are there any up-and-coming stories or poems you will be publishing soon?
We are publishing a book by Daniel Spinks in the next month or so. I am very excited about it. I just found out he is at the University of Houston, too, which is a good thing. I very rarely get to meet the people I work with in person.
Which online literary magazines would you suggest for a novice? Which are your favorite?
I like elimae.com a lot. They are pretty consistent and very well established. The editor is nice, too, which I like. I’m still a fan of mcsweeneys.net, even if it sometimes feels rehashed. Keeping something like that going every day is very hard, and I appreciate it. 3ammagazine.com surprises me sometimes. Juked.com is OK. There are a lot of places online, but the best ones are usually the blogs of individual people, which are too numerous for me to list. My advice is to find a writer you like and Google their name. You’ll find a lot of nice places that way.