Lit Mag Advice: Some Big Questions
Last week, I wrote about tips I'd learned at AWP on starting a lit mag. I distilled what I considered universal knowledge from the panelists in the sessions I'd attended. Today, I'm going to talk about some of the binary choices they made, and some decisions that were not unanimous.
AWP: Starting a Lit Mag
I received some fantastic advice from the AWP panels I attended on starting a literary magazine, which inspired me to found Hapax. Because panel talks lend well to sharing experiences, the lit mag founders that spoke at the panel had some contradictory opinions. But there were some common threads:
The bottom line is to deliver a great experience to everyone: the submitter, the reader, the sponsor, the partners. If you can do that, you can stand out and get to a critical growth point in order to become the lit mag of your dreams.
AWP: Asian-American Writers
After the Oscar fiasco this year, Asian-Americans from all walks of life and ethnicities gathered to discuss their outrage and sadness that pop culture couldn't do better. The years since the success of Amy Tan's Joy-Luck Club--and the reception to that novel--have seen an increase in the usage of Asian-Americans in writing, art, and film. Even if Joy-Luck Club has flaws, it--like the visibility of Kristi Yamaguchi that Nicole Chung wrote about so wonderfully--offered the first 'real' media attention and acknowledgement that many Asian-Americans, even adopted ones like Chung and myself, craved.
Growing up, I had similar feelings to Chung's about whiteness and my lack thereof. I saw it as a physical flaw that I wasn't white. My home city and schools had almost no ethnic variance; there was one 'black girl' in my entire first grade cohort, and a few Hispanic children. When Pocahontas came out in my elementary school years, the children in my school found an obvious parallel: the woman whom I resembled the most. Unsurprisingly, when a local Native American shopkeeper came to present to my second-grade class, I fell into a love of crystals, leather pouches, and dream-catchers that expressed a longing more rooted in fantasy than fact.
Michelle Kwan was one of the first Asian girls that I encountered around which there was a positive feeling, and whom I could look at and acknowledge a heritage I barely understood. I still feel like an impostor in Asian and Asian-American circles, which is why it was hard for me to even go to the Asian-American panels at AWP.
But, I did go.
I went because inclusion isn't about the exclusion of people. Sure, there will always be some side-eye from people who don't think that you belong. But, it's good to see people from other backgrounds at these events, because the point is not only to create a safe space to discuss issues and trends, but also to try to communicate those with a larger audience. I came away from the panels with new groups to support, new markets to submit to, and new ideas for my own writing. Since I intend to keep writing and being more open about race, I feel inspired knowing that my experiences aren't mine alone, in a universal sense.