IN OTHER WORDS #2 – Justin Lawrence Daugherty
This is the second installment of IN OTHER WORDS, a feature we’re running in 2014 in which we interview various editors on the art of editing.
This time, we’re talking to Justin Lawrence Daugherty, Managing Editor at Sundog Lit.
1/As Managing Editor and Founder of Sundog Lit (SDL), you’ve used your journal as an opportunity to surpass the standard process—scheduled issues and nothing else, etc. I was hoping you’d talk a bit about what makes SDL tick and how the way you edit speaks to your position in the literary community.
What I’m most interested in with lit mag editing or writing in general is being a part of community. I didn’t want SDL to exist in a vacuum, doing the scheduled issue releases as you mentioned and nothing else. We’ve tried lots of different things and our social media presence is pretty strong and I hope that all adds to the community. I wanted to do something to promote great writing. Not to just be another mag out there doing the same things.
I hope we publish works that’s edgy and fierce, that really does light new fires. I hope people like the promotion we do and how much we’re invested in this community. Even in editing, I try to maintain that consistent communal leaning: even when we decline work, I ask that we offer constructive insights as often as possible. It’s not possible with every submission, of course, but I want writers to feel like they’re being read by real people who are also writers. I think it’s easy, as an editor, to get lost in the administrative game of accept/decline without ever having relationships with the writers submitting their work. We can forget easily that submitting work is a vulnerable thing. It requires bloodletting. I hope that this approach, trying to be a part of community when editing rather than above it, works and is appreciated.
2/You recently published your first themed issue at SDL. How does your curatorial process for a themed issue differ for that of an unthemed issue.
We did! (We’ll be announcing another here soon.) I think what differed most about the Games issue was that Brian Oliu (the issue’s guest editor) and I approached submissions being already-excited about what was there. We were biased in favor of game fiction and poems and essays. We had fun with the curatorial process. We didn’t approach it as editing. Brian and I read all the submissions and there was a great rapport between us that added to the process. We were excited about the pieces coming in and had such a great response to the issue. It was a fun experience.
3/Name one or two exemplary pieces you’ve published that epitomize SDL’s aesthetic of “scorched-earth literature.”
Oooh, tough one. I think “Claudia and the Fish-Exhausted Monster” by Lindsay Herko and Jeffrey Allen’s poem “Lionskin” are both examples of the earth-scorching we want to publish, though it’s really hard to choose just two.
4/Tell me about Friday Rex. How did it start? Why the name? And how do you even go about amassing those lists? Is it a confluence of what you read or what all the editors are reading?
One of the reasons I started SDL was that I wanted to be able to promote more writing outside of the what we published. I wanted to take the #fridayreads Twitter hashtag and make it a weekly post, gathering up great words by authors around the internet. The name is a take on Friday recommendations (Friday rec’s), hence Rex. We wanted to make a little T. Rex mascot at first, but never did. Because I am on Twitter so much, I see a lot of the new work that comes weekly, though I also search and search for new issues of online journals as they appear. I try to find as much new stuff as I can and editors send me their picks all the time, too.
5/Is there an editor or publication that you know to regularly publish solid work, i.e., who do you return to again and again, as a reader?
I love everything Hobart puts out there. When they started putting out daily stuff, I was afraid. I wondered how they would be able to maintain quality work every day. But, they have. I go back to Hobart daily to see what they’re doing. The Collagist, of course, is always high-quality. Love Wigleaf and Whiskey Paper so much.
6/As a writer, you have two long-form projects going right now—a futuristic novel featuring a lizard boy, and a western. How does your writing aesthetic affect your curatorial interests? Is there ever overlap?
I guess there is an overlap in that as I’m writing, I think about whether I’d want to see this work as an editor. Would it excite me? Is it fresh and new and earth-scorching? And, as far as my writing aesthetic is an extension of what I want to read, that aesthetic applies heavily to what I want to publish. I want to publish things that I’d read elsewhere and go, Oh, wow, yes yes, this. THIS. In writing the lizard-boy or the western-ish thing, I want to write not just literary works, but things that will make people do the same. I want my writing to be exciting. If it’s not, who’s going to read it? I don’t know if I succeed, but that’s what I try for.
7/Which of SDL’s upcoming projects/issues are you most excited about?
I’m excited about the next book promotion project in March (which I can’t speak to quite yet). The next theme issue will be exciting, too. I want to keep doing new things and never get settled into just putting out issues. The issues are great and the reason we’re here, but I really want to keep doing new things.
8/Describe in three words what it’s like to work with you in an editorial capacity.
Justin Lawrence Daugherty is a migrant living currently in Atlanta, Georgia. He is the Managing/Founding Editor of Sundog Lit. He is at work on a novella about Aurelio the Lizard-Boy: Now the Destruction of Days.